Strength training in endurance sports.

Posted: December 17, 2010 in Training

I went to the bookstore today to glance over Tim Ferriss’s new book, 4 Hour Body which came out this week. The whole idea of the book is to make your body perform superhuman things with little training time. The only part I was interested in was the ultra endurance section.

From what I read the philosophy that Tim suggested for newbies to the endurance world is follow the crossfit training ideas developed by Brian Mackenzie. After listening to a interview and reading a interview of Brian, from what I understood is that he first got the motivation to run endurance events as an unorthodox “heavy” runner when Chris Solinsky broke the American 10k record weighing in at 160. This made him believe that ultra runners are capable of having strength and extra muscle and compete in endurance events.

My opinion is a little mixed on this issue because I haven’t read all the science behind the effects of strength training in preparation for endurance events. I believe it is possible to complete endurance events with little training, but I think it is extremely hard to be competitive. You can’t ignore the fact that every elite athlete in the ultra community does long high mileage runs in their training totalling anywhere from 120-200 mpw. Hell even Solinsky does 100 mpw. The only thing that changes among them really is diet and sometimes altitude.

I would take this strength approach to ultra running if your goal is simply to complete the distance with little effort possible. However if your goal is to complete the distance quickly then I believe you need less body weight. Being stronger you are less likely to have injuries, but that’s the price you pay for slower speed at endurance events.

Looking at Brian’s ultra distance times from a compared to other ultra runners, they are not that impressive. However what is impressive is his and the fact that someone as muscular can go that far. Again I believe this approach is good as long as you don’t want to be competitive in the 50k plus range. Also it is good if you want to stay overall strong and occasionally run an ultra a year.

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