Thursday, October 11, 2012


I received quite a few questions re my last blog on getting fat. Fitness coach Celine, highlighted some important points that need to be addressed. She quite rightly noted that I don't only do 72 minutes of HIIT.....I also run a lot. I assumed that everyone new this but perhaps not. The point I was making was that HIIT's will get you lean if that is your goal but one must not negate ones overall fitness and this is where aerobic training comes in. She had a beautiful metaphor for this; 'Fitness is a Tapestry', there are many different parts that make up a picture of total fitness, they all combine and if you only do one type then your overall fitness will be limited. Ultra runners never used to do strength or speed work whereas now they know that it is important for their continued health and performance.....just as if you only do HIIT's then you ain't going to be able to run very far because you have no specificity of training on trails, hills and mountains.....and over many hours.
        I am fully aware of the Tim Ferriss/Crossfit Endurance ideas and have done them myself. As a reminder the theory is that by combining various speed and strength workouts, HIITS and other such exercises then the need for very long runs is fact Crossfit Endurance recommends running for no more than 90 minutes when training for an ultra. Although Tim, who I believe has a lot of excellent well researched techniques has not to date run an ultra, many others have. I too have incorporated some of his ideas but when the time comes to train for a long race you just feel that you have to put the hours in. The thought of starting a 10 hour plus race with just a few 90 minute training runs under your belt scares the hell out of me. This does not mean it can't be done, it just 'feels' odd.
      So combining different protocols is the key. Continuous aerobic exercise brings its own health benefits such as a strong heart, clear arteries and efficient respiratory system. And more especially it strengthens the immune system by preventing cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, osteoporosis and so on. Aerobic exercise also burns fat (otherwise I couldn't run for 10 hours plus) its just that the sort of running I do is more stressful than the norm hence the increased cortisol production that I spoke of last time.
     I hope that has cleared up any inconsistencies. Fitness and health is a varied and detailed science but it is also basic common sense. Years ago before I knew all the stuff I know now I used to advise many of our clients about weight loss. It was:-

         'Run for a minimum of one hour 3 times a week, don't smoke, cut down on the alchohol and carbs and drink at least 2 litres of water a day. Read the fat content on food labels and stay below the recommended daily levels for a man or woman'.

And that was it, the success rate was close to 80% and once adopted, our clients would stay that way for years and in most cases a lifetime.....and I can back this up with facts and figures. These days we can be much more targeted and efficient in our advice but the basic advice I gave still holds true today. If you do it, it works. The food industry is always trying to find sneaky ways to trick us, such as saying 'low fat, low sugar'.....and not mentioning the lashings of the horrendous 'high fructrose corn syrup' which must be the No1 cause of obesity in the world today. One has to always be vigilant. My other moan ,whilst I'm at it, is the salad trick. If you make a salad or order one in a restaurant, watch the dressing, as some of these can have 20% of your total daily fat intake! There are many similar examples, fat is important in a diet but its the amount and the type that matter.
          I have recently been conducting a more detailed analysis of my training methods. Paddy my coach and I, have been doing some intense Crossfit and then I have gone out and done my usual runs. Its interesting because I have been running with an aching body, which is a very similar feeling to Back to Back ultra training, ie you run for say 3 plus hours on Saturday and then do the same on Sunday. I am guessing but it seems obvious to me that this is how Crossfit Endurance works for ultra runners, the body is stressed with intense workouts thereby simulating a long run and then the next day you feel just the same as if you had run but the difference is that you have lessened the risk of injury whilst maintaining the same intensity. I must stress this is my theory not Paddy's. Crossfit seems to divide the fitness community into two camps, the believers and non believers, it has quite a polarising effect. I believe that every training protocol has its place as long as it is taught sensibly by proffessional coaches. At the end of the day Crossfit is just another dynamic way of combining exercises, its not rocket science.
         My race in 6 weeks time is a hilly trail run but not mountains, so that's a relief (no pun intended) but as with all trail races it has  its own unique difficulties in that about a third of the race is run on I may need to put some practice in cos running on beaches though very beautiful is also very tiring. Studies have shown that it is 50% harder than running on a road plus there are other issues due to the heel strike sinking in lower than the foot as it lands, variable landing and inclines on the shore, these and other issues can lead to all sorts of strains in the joints and muscles which disturbs your natural biomechanics.
      Anyway I'm now off to do a 10k hilly recovery run.......which some ultra runners call 'junk' miles in that they think such a short distance is a complete waste of time......unfortunately they have made the mistake of confusing me with someone who gives a damn :-)



  1. .....and the moral of the story is that we are all so bio-mechanically/bio-chemically different, so what works for one individual may not necessary work for another, regarding both exercise and nutrition.