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A Paradigm Shift In Off-Season Running | Boddicker Performance

Filed under: Program Design, Running, strength training

A Paradigm Shift In Off-Season Running

by on Feb 20th, 2009

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Take a look at the average endurance athlete’s off-season training program, and you’ll likely see a “more is better” approach with high volumes of long aerobic work, a few threshold runs, and perhaps you’ll also see some haphazardly performed “form running drills” and strides peppered in at random. What you likely won’t see is a balanced strength program that focuses on improving multiple strength qualities and correcting structural and movement flaws.

I’m here to ask the question—are endurance athletes too volume focused in the off-season? The more and more I ponder this question, I think that the answer may be “Absolutely.” I think that especially in younger athletes, we are much too volume dominant. Now before you go and saying I am putting too much emphasis on the benefits of strength training, here is what I’m thinking:

  • The frequency of overuse injury in endurance athletes is sky high.
  • Aerobic training leads to a significant elevation of stress hormones, which potentially will lead to adrenal fatigue, worsens the delicate balance of testosterone to cortisol, and causes immune dysfunction, it also interferes with the mTOR pathway.
  • Aerobic training interferes with gains in power and perhaps even maximal strength—speed anyone?
  • Circa-maximal loading has been shown to improve running economy in well trained athletes.
  • By reducing running volume, less time is spent reinforcing poor movement quality, making it easier to correct the inefficiencies thus avoiding the common problem of “laying fitness on top of inefficiency.” (Refer to first bullet)
  • While on a more anecdotal level, it is quite common for the best performers in the world to take a significant amount of time off following their seasons without much detriment to their performance.

Now if we were to take some time away from trying to jump up the volume right away and spend that time correcting imbalances and getting stronger and more explosive I would argue that runners would be much better off in the long run (pun fully intended). Basically, runners would have a capacity to train at higher levels while staving off injury via new found improvements in strength, movement quality (running economy), and their ability to use the stretch-shortening cycle to their advantage. Furthermore, runners would be more capable of staving off upper respiratory infections or other little “annoying” illnesses that cause you to take down time as our immune system and adrenal glands would be far healthier. Body composition would improve, too. As there would be less confusion of stressors, strength and power gains would come more quickly, which could be maintained when the volume starts to climb as the season approaches.

Bad idea?

Carson Boddicker

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