Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Training Philosophies - Competing Ideas About Intensity and Volume - Part II

Most people have heard the story of three blind men and an elephant. Each of the blind men touches the elephant once. One touches the elephant's trunk, one touches his leg, and the touches his tusk. When they are each asked to describe the elephant, each man give such a radically different description that they are all convince that the other two are completely wrong.

While Dr. Romanov was visiting I was able to discuss differing training philosophies with him. Out of those discussions, I realized something that I had only sensed intuitively before. The problem with most training methods is that they work very well for some runners and fail miserably with others. Like the blind men describing the elephant, most training methods are missing the bigger picture.

It is very common hear a coach say something to the effect of, "My training method is the best, but there are a few people who are different and need to train differently". The reality is that their method is only a good method for a specific population of runners, and they need training methods that serve all runners.

In my original post, Training Philosophies - Competing Ideas About Intensity and Volume, I compared the more traditional high volume training to CrossFit Endurance. The problem with this comparison is that each method is designed to work well for a different group of runners. Also, of course comparing a traditional program to the CrossFit Endurance program is a little like comparing apples and oranges, because CrossFit Endurance is a much more comprehensive program. However, basically it is a comparison between a high volume - low intensity method and a low volume - high intensity method.

There are many runners who do not thrive on high volume training, however these people can train with very little volume and still compete quite well. When these people try to use traditional high volume training they end up chronically over-trained and injured. This is the population that is going be drawn to and thrive in a CrossFit Endurance type program. However, CrossFit Endurance will probably not produce the best results in runners who can handle and indeed need high volume training.

The more traditional training methods, that use high volume, may serve a larger portion of the running population, but these methods have left a trail of destruction behind them as some runners and coaches have tried to apply these training techniques to people who cannot handle them, only to end up with an athlete who is constantly over-trained and injured. Unfortunately, my experiences lead me to believe that is extremely common.

The bottom line is fit the training method to the runner, not the runner to the training method. I believe that this is something most coaches say, but don't usually do.

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