On planning (and adjusting) training schedules using Training Monotony and TRIMP

The 21 day cycle has worked okay for me so far, though the runs have been short due to a rash on my right arm that required I go to Urgent Care for a prescription (the rash is doing better, though the RX as it does has messed with my body a bit), as well as a dinner for my dad’s birthday, and a car issue I had to sort out before smog check ahead of registration renewal.

Basically, life intervened, and I had to patch a reduced schedule this week with work break runs. I’ve back-loaded my strength workouts to Friday and Saturday, and then my 3 day cycle should presumably go back to normal by Monday (which incidentally is the next scheduled quality-run day).


I ended that 21 day cycle post mentioning Training Monotony, and that’s the subject I’ve been focused on the last week or so (when I’ve had time to sit down and review my records and plans).

Training Monotony is a metric devised long ago by Carl Foster that measures how variable your workouts are during a training week or similar period of time. The concept is that the more day to day consistent your workout volume is, the higher your monotony.

High Training Monotony can be a problem in one of two ways. 1) Either you’re doing a lot of hard workouts with insufficient easy days or rest, which is an overtraining or burnout risk. 2) Or you’re doing a lot of easier workouts without a mix of more challenging workouts, which in turn will stagnate or decrease your fitness.

Though poo-poohed by some writers (and I’d imagine given their plan layout that the Hansons have a problem with the monotony concept as well), Training Monotony is worth exploring because honestly most coaches and training plans do shove a lot of volume down your throat that for many will just run you into the ground (and possibly injure you) more than prepare you for your training goals. Elite athletes and teams get around this by being 99th percentile strong and resilient, and/or through covert systematic doping. For most of us, the relentlessly high training volumes most top coaches swear by are largely unsustainable long-term.

Conversely, you can get into a pattern of easily do-able workouts, and eventually stagnate as your body grows accustomed to and ceases to progress within those training habits.

I could provide some basic examples, but Jonathan Savage aka Fellrnr has done a great job of providing some himself, as well as providing a separate illustration of what it measures and is designed to deter.

Basically, the Training Monotony number is the volume of your week’s training divided by the standard deviation of all the days collected in the data sample (standard deviation is a pain to calculate so I just have Excel do it).

You can measure your volume by mileage or rate of perceived exertion. But because Runalyze provides it to me for every kind of fitness activity I do, I’ve been using TRIMP, short for Training Impulse, a measurement of your effort based on the percentage of your max heart rate, and on the number of minutes doing the activity.

For example, a 1 mile easy run for me is worth about 15 TRIMP. A walk during a work break is about 6 TRIMP. A full strength workout is about 10-12 TRIMP, depending on what I’m doing. A 45 minute spin bike session is about 30 TRIMP. In planning a week’s workouts and measuring likely training monotony, I’ve been plugging in TRIMP approximates for the expected activities. If adjusting the schedule in midweek I use the actual TRIMP from completed days.

You want the Training Monotony ratio not to be any higher than 1.50, e.g. your volume divided by the standard deviation needs to be 1.50 or lower. If your volume doesn’t deviate much day over day, you’re going to have an unacceptably higher number like 3.00 or more. If these are all hard workouts, you’re not recovering between them and you’re going to burn out, if not stagnate and see diminished progress. If these are all easy workouts, your fitness is going to stagnate, and certainly won’t improve much. (You would combine monotony with total volume to get a better idea of which side you’re on: For example, if you’re running 1 mile a day, 7 miles a week, you’re probably on the stagnate/unimproved end, and if you’re running 10 miles a day, 70 miles a week, you’re probably on the stagnate/burnout end)

Going a bit over 1.50 isn’t a killer (consensus is it’s above 2.00 that you’ve got a clear problem), but eking over 1.50 is like drinking alcohol when you’ve got health problems: If you can’t outright avoid it, don’t make a habit out of it, and definitely avoid doing it on consecutive weeks.

Conversely, you usually don’t want it to be too low, below 1.00. This can happen if, say, you have multiple long workouts in a week, or too many rest or easy days. Either you’re losing opportunities to improve fitness on the rest days, or the workouts are too long and the training week is not as productive as reducing the daily workout volume and training more often.

Exceptions are understandable and okay for unusual situations, if you just ran a half marathon and took lots of days off to recover afterward, or if you had to take unplanned off days, etc. But as a practice during serious training you want to keep monotony between 1.00 and 1.50.

As the Simplifaster link above would indicate, worrying about Monotony can be seen as much ado about nothing, that it’s an older traditional metric first used with racing horses, and that advances in training have theoretically rendered the concern obsolete.

However, looking back at my prior years’ training (and without getting into a granular breakdown and collection of graph images), I can see that times my training was productive often had more of a 1.30-1.40 monotony, and that training that didn’t pan out often cruised around 1.60-1.80, often exceeding 2.00. I see some loosely correlative evidence in my own training that worrying about it, at least in my case, can have some merit.

Someday I’ll probably write a granular breakdown post with all those old tables, graphs and images. It’s just not going to be now. However, I’ll show a sample of what I do now to plan training and keep Monotony at a proper level. This is using the Electric Blues “Daniels Tables” Excel spreadsheet, which has a section to enter in training volume, and shows percentage breakdowns by workout type.

A sample week of training using TRIMP values, entered in the Electric Blues spreadsheet, with Training Monotony measured in the bottom right.

I’ve been entering in TRIMP values for planned workouts in a given week, and also entered in an equation in the bottom right corner to quickly measure the Monotony for that week. I can immediately see if the Monotony goes under 1.00 or over 1.50 after making a speculative entry.

While a side topic, I do try to maintain 80/20 training principles, so you’ll notice the easier Recovery & Aerobic training is around low 80’s%. Harder training at this point is any intense running (not just zone 3 and above… harder zone 2 counts right now as I work back into regular running shape), and any strength training (the 10’s in the sample are strength workouts). ‘Aerobic Zone’ I use for easier zone 1-2 runs and cross training like the spin bike, elliptical or ARC Trainer. Warmup/Recovery I mostly use for walking, which does count and registers TRIMP scores that are part of my volume.

Back to the main point… I’ll not only plan weeks ahead but put the current week’s completed volume in and compare it with my remaining schedule to make sure the Monotony stays on track, or if I need to make an adjustment. The sample above is the current week and I’ve had to make several adjustments to the remaining schedule, since as mentioned earlier this has been an unusual week with multiple distractions. Friday was supposed to be heavier, and the strength workout that day was originally scheduled for Wednesday. As I rearrange the schedule, I make other adjustments to re-balance the monotony.

One thing quickly noticed in doing this is that, the longer the long workout is, the lower the training monotony goes (since a harder long workout increases the standard deviation). While helpful, its usefulness is obviously limited by how long and intense of a workout you can do there. For example, it doesn’t do good to plan 150 TRIMP worth of training if doing 80 is currently a herculean task. Fortunately, I just did about 200 TRIMP in a 2 hour 45 minute hour workout (a 45 minute run and 2 hours on the spin bike), so in this case I know the 105 TRIMP long workout in the sample above is well within reach (which for me is either about 7 easy running miles or 5ish tempo or interval miles).

I also notice that if you add any volume to longer (but not the longest) training days, it reduces the increase in Training Monotony over if you put it in an empty or lighter day.

It also creates a monotony problem if you have to shorten that long workout, since the deviation can decrease and the monotony could surge to a bad level. This can be averted by just cancelling the workout, though of course long workouts are important.

If measuring by TRIMP, a long workout being cut short because it’s TOO hard could actually even things out, if the end result is an average heart rate so high the shortened workout produces the same TRIMP (maybe if pressed for time you can turn a long run into a shorter tempo or interval run that results in the same TRIMP).

All of this is infancy-stage experimentation and research for me right now, and the goal is to create sustainable consistent 21 day cycles, not to mention training weeks, that are better repeatable than some of the training approaches and plans I’ve previously struggled with.

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The Working Class 21 Day Training Cycle

After a few weeks of training daily, lots of strength training, lots of 45-60 minute cross training sessions, several short treadmill runs and work break runs… I’m feeling pretty worn out, clearly needing a break from what I’ve been doing, but obviously not wanting to take a full training break after having just come back from a long training break following Vancouver 2022.

Motivated by Kevin Beck’s 21 day cyclic training approach, though obviously not wanting to mirror high volume that I’m obviously not running nor in the condition to run… I decided to borrow from both him and Budd Coates to create my own 21 day cycle.

The Working Class Runner 21 Day Training Cycle

In Running On Air, Coates built training schedules using a 3 day alternating easy-medium-hard workout pattern. Similar to this, I patterned this 21 day schedule around big workouts every 3 days, the surrounding days easy, and a relatively easy strength workout coupled with easy training on days after the toughest, longest workouts.

Long Run: However long your longest workout needs to be, that’s the long run. I’d like to get this to a minimum of 2 hours. But it can be 60 or 90 minutes if that’s longer than my midweeks.

Notice that there’s only long runs every three weeks, and on that week they happen on back to back weekends within six days of each other. Then there’s not another long run for 15 days.

This patterning combines a bunching of long workouts with an extended break from long runs for a couple weeks while focusing on more medium-long workouts and strength training.

60-90min workout: These can be regular 60+ minute runs, or quality workouts like intervals or tempo work, or any mix of the above. But they need to be runs and they need to be 60-90 minutes, the sweet spot for aerobic endurance fitness growth.

Initially, they should just be regular easy runs, and if you can’t go 60 minutes then go however reasonably long you can at first, until 60 becomes do-able.

easy: These are either very short runs, no more than 30 minutes, or can be easy aerobic cross training for 45 minutes or more.

If an easy day falls on the weekend, you can go long on cross training, 2+ hours. On weekdays, keep it to 60 minutes.

But even on weekends, easy runs cannot go longer than 30 minutes. This is meant to be an active break, and the runs are best done as recovery runs, perhaps light work on technique or hills.

strength + easy: Here in addition to easy runs or cross training, you do strength training, no more than 20-30 minutes. I have two designated 20 minute workouts I can rotate between.

On the 2nd week, with three strength workouts, I actually would split into three separate 15 minute workouts, to make sure I do every exercise once per week. But it’s no problem to just rotate through two separate workouts and have them flip flop in order every 3 weeks.

I would keep weekday cross training to 45 minutes rather than 60 minutes, to keep the workout at about an hour. On weekends (or any day with more free time) it’s okay to cross train a full 60 minutes if desired.

Again, keep any running to 30 minutes or less, and that remains true with the strength workout. This will make these training days a bit longer than the other easy days.

When races and life intervene: If on a given day or weekend you have a race and it doesn’t line up perfectly with planned workouts, go ahead and turn the 2 days before and after the race into easy days. Don’t strength train within 3 days before the race, but feel free to strength train the day after the race or beyond if you’re up to it.

If an event in your life comes up and it interferes with a workout, it’s no problem to skip it. If you want to try and do a workout off-schedule the day after (leaving only one easy day before the next workout or long run), keep it to 60 minutes max.

The next easy day, you are allowed to skip the run or cross training if desired. If the next big workout is a long run, you can also skip strength training and just make the next one. If it’s not, it’s optional whether or not to make up the strength training displaced by your postponed workout. However, if possible, you are also allowed to switch your strength training to the day of the event postponing your workout.

If you need to take multiple days off in a row: Just do it, and don’t worry about it for now. If it creates a problem, it would have created a problem on any training schedule. Usually, though, a couple or few missed days shouldn’t derail you badly. Just get back to the schedule when you can.


So this 21 day cycle is the training template I’ve settled on going forward. Barring any random lumps in my schedule, I can follow this cycle without an issue through summer into fall racing season.

During summer, I’ll cross train on the easy days to avoid running in the heat, and then as the weather cools I’ll switch to shorter 2 mile runs up and down a nearby hilly trail during lunch. On weekend easy days I have a 2.2 mile circuit near home I can run for that, or I could just do a 2 miler on the treadmill, or cross train. However, the plan is to cease cross training once it cools off, until after Vancouver Round 4.

I have races planned for the fall, and that puts some lumps in the schedule. But the cycle should get me race ready, and it won’t be a big deal to put it aside for a few weeks to focus on frequent races. In fact, that will be right around time to transition from indoor treadmill/cross training to running outdoors regularly once again. So once the races are done, I’ll just begin doing runs outside.

Right now, the workout runs will all start at around 45-60 moderate minutes on the treadmill as that’s where I’m at right now with run fitness (the long runs will basically be like the other workouts). Once I get the workout runs to 60 minutes I’ll begin stretching out the weekend long runs beyond that, another mile or two every time out, until it gets to about 12 miles.

I’ll stick with that through racing season, then stretch it out once I’m training outdoors again and get it to 20 miles during training for Vancouver Round 4.

Also after race season, the 60 minute treadmill runs will become 90 minute outdoor workouts: The easy 8 milers I used to run in Summerlin, some interval sessions, some 8 milers with fast finishes or tempo segments. These will all be done outdoors (barring extreme weather or similar circumstances, in which case I’ll do 60 minutes on the treadmill if I must).


The goal with this was to refine everything I’ve been working on into a sustainable routine of training, demanding enough to build my fitness but not so demanding it burns me out.

Along with this cycle, I’ve also been focusing on adjustments for training monotony, but that’s another post for down the road….

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My streamlined, sustainable approach to weekly training

After weeks of tinkering with my training routines, my diet, adjustments to supplement intake… I have finally settled on a sustainable routine that has me feeling good.

I ramped up strength training this summer, wanting to seriously build strength while still endurance training regularly. Vancouver basically marked the start of my race-training offseason. With no plans to race before the fall, I can focus on base fitness as well as building strength. Plus I have space to take rest days where needed.

At the same time, I gained some weight, and hit a high water mark of 187 pounds. I’m not one to fuss much about my weight, but that probably needed to come down. I’m also about 10-15 pounds heavier for Vancouver 2022 than I was for past marathons, and that might have had some impact on my training not to mention the ill-fated race itself.

So I quickly ramped up to 3-5 progressive strength workouts per week, along with some running and cross training. But I also quickly grew tired, and needed to take a lot of rest days. It wasn’t that I was sore so much as I was all-around tired, meaning I was adrenally and hormonally tapped. How much I slept or didn’t sleep didn’t seem to matter much either, though it’s worth noting my sleep was just okay during all this.

So I tinkered with spacing blocks of workouts apart while remaining consistently active. I started with a block of 4 days of strength training in a row with no running, the 4th of which overlapped with a run, then three days of running with no strength training, before repeating the cycle.

But that too wore me out quickly. Just 2-3 strength workouts left me tapped out and sore, and once it was time to start the running portion I found myself very tired, plus it took several days off from strength training to feel suitably good to train again. This clearly wasn’t going to work long term.

Around the start of July, I started using the elliptical a bunch, figuring if I’m not going to run much, at least I can work on my aerobic fitness with a close-approximate activity. I quickly got comfortable again with 45 minute sessions, plus to mix in some running I would warm up with my old Life Time Fitness warmup, 10 minutes of slow then progressively faster running. Runalyze indicated these warmups were good for my VO2max fitness, and they felt fairly comfortable.

On strength training days I just did a work break run, then started swolework with no warmup. All of this together worked well.


It was around this time that I decided on several training changes in light of all this.

First, along with Garmin, Stryd and Runalyze, I’ve always kept a current Google Docs workbook tracking all of my training, dating back to my first serious run training in 2016. I’ve never deleted any of these records, and I’ve avoided any major changes to how I track data.

I tracked miles running and walking. I tracked any cross training by hours trained or fractions of hours trained. Then I calculated from this data an approximate fitness effect in combination with the mileage that I called “chops” (based on musician nomenclature to describe relative skill). Aside from minor adjustments to the calculations based on experience, I didn’t really mess with how this was calculated.

But over time I considered a major adjustment that I finally made last weekend. Instead of counting cross training by hours trained, I switched to counting the calories burned per Garmin. I divided these by 130 (average calories I burn per mile) for an equivalent “mileage” I add to my actual running mileage. The Weekly Mileage Equivalent (WME) is a function calculating this from each day as well as a rolling average of WME from the last 7 days. This I found best illustrates the compounding fitness effect of prior training). The EM is Equivalent Mileage, totaling the mileage plus all other recorded cross training to spit out a mileage number.

I went back to September 2019, when I first switched my old Fitbit out for my first Garmin watch. This data was all imported easily to Runalyze. I pulled that data from Runalyze and entered the calorie burn data for all the non-run workouts, including my walks. Much like how I calculated walk data the old way, I had the EM function divide walking calories by 10. Walking, while having a non-zero impact on aerobic fitness, is a mostly passive activity and does far less for fitness.

You’ll notice I even count the strength training, which in my experience does have a non-zero benefit on my running. Building strength prevents form breakdowns that slow you down later in a race or run. There’s also a slight aerobic and anaerobic benefit with many exercises. I don’t take long rest breaks while strength training. I rarely burn more than 150-180 calories in a 20 minute workout, more like 100-120. So calculating in a 130 cal/mile training benefit from these sessions isn’t unreasonable.

This basically changed my approach to workout programming. Visually I could now see a more objectively clear effect of any activity on my training volume and approximate fitness. I can also calculate Runalyze Marathon Shape based on the EM rather than my raw mileage as Runalyze does. This gives me a better idea of overall endurance fitness when I decide to cross train instead of running.

In turn, I decided to focus on cross training to build aerobic fitness and burn calories. The warm up runs not only allowed for more calorie burn on cross training (in line with a more zone 2 heart rate on these workouts, strengthening the aerobic training benefit), but were an easy and sustainable way to ensure I maintaining running fitness at varying paces before re-building aerobic fitness with the longer cross training sessions.

I don’t do the warmup runs every day, and I still do some full runs on the treadmill and outside. But most of my aerobic training is on a spin bike or elliptical. Currnetly I’m leaning on the spin bike now because I decided to go badge-chasing on Garmin again for biking badges.

I also realize that my strength workouts became very demanding. Instead of doing one full tiring workout every day or few days, I decided for now to do one single 4-set exercise every single day, rotating weekly through seven critical exercises:

Monday: Overhead Squat, 4x 8-12 reps
Tuesday: Decline DB Bench Press, 4x 8-12 reps
Wednesday: Lat Pulldown, 4x 8-12 reps
Thursday: Seated Cable Row, 4x 8-12 reps
Friday: Hanging Leg Raises, 4x 8-12 reps
Saturday: Incline DB Bench Press, 4x 8-12 reps
Sunday: DB Hammer Curls, 4x 8-12 reps

I would start the workout with today’s exercise, and it usually takes about 4-6 minutes to do the whole block. Then (perhaps after a 10 minute treadmill warmup) I do the cross training, about 45-50 minutes most days. That’s the workout. With post-run stretching, it takes a little over an hour.

I started this approach on Monday after work and have comfortably stuck to it through today, where I switched up today and did it this morning instead of after work. I’m not exhausted at work as I’d been after past morning workouts.

This plus a streamlined diet plan (2400-2600 calories, high protein) has me feeling more comfortable with training and better energized during the day than I’ve been in a while. I’ve slept fairly well, and even if my energy’s low on a given evening I can still get on a spin bike and give 45 minutes, no problem. I’ve finally landed on a sustainable training approach, and can finally (2 months after Vancouver) feel like I can get back to training like I want to.

I’ll stick with this through summer and see where it gets me by the fall.

The Working Class Strength Training Progression

I have fined tuned a strength training approach that I plan to follow going forward, and can be useful to many others. This is a gradual, sustainable approach to making consistent strength gains in the gym, without spending an excessive amount of time or effort in workouts.

This can be followed by people wanting to develop full-body strength, who aren’t lifting enough to have maxed out the cable machines at the gym (e.g. most people). If you’re strong enough that the available weight on these machines isn’t heavy enough to challenge you, then you’ll want to do a different workout, or do this progression with different, suitable exercises of your choice.

Each of these workouts are 20 minute strength workouts. No matter what, stop at 20:00. If you don’t have one, I recommend getting and using a fitness watch like a Garmin that will allow you to track sets/reps/weight. But it’s OK to use a phone or stopwatch or watch the clock if that’s what you got.

There are two rotating workouts, 4 base exercises each, with core/ab work to finish as time permits. They can be done once a week each, or almost daily if you can handle that (though I do recommend taking a rest day at least once a week).

Workout A: Pull Workout

  • Cable Lat Pulldown (either reverse grip or wide grip)
  • Seated Cable Row (any angle/grip desired)
  • Cable Face Pulls (rope or dual handles)
  • Dumbbell Hammer Curls
  • finish with Hanging Leg Raises, or sit-ups.

Workout B: Push Workout

  • Decline or Flat Dumbbell Bench Press
  • Incline Dumbbell Bench Press (30° incline)
  • Overhead Squats (Smith Machine or barbell)
  • Cable Close Grip Tricep Press-Down (with two-hand grip of your choice)
  • finish with Hanging Leg Raises, or sit-ups

When starting this progression, decide on a do-able but reasonably demanding weight for each weighted exercise (the raises/sit-ups are done with no weight). You want 4 sets of 8-12 reps to be do-able, not a question. Tip for starters: Whatever your known max is for each exercise, divide it in half. Err towards making it a bit too easy.

(If the Hanging Leg Raises are too hard, or there’s no Captain’s Chair or pull-up bar available to you for them, I list sit-ups as an alternative. If you have the equipment but it’s too hard, you can start with Hanging Knee Raises)

Start at that weight with 4 sets of 8 reps for each exercise, or with core exercises do just 8 reps with no extra weight. Take 30 seconds rest between sets, and longer than that between exercises to transition and setup. Take as long as you need to. Usually it takes me about 1-2 minutes, but sometimes it takes me 3-4 minutes if machines are taken or equipment isn’t available and I need to adjust.

Do Workout B with 4 sets of 8 reps. The next time you do each given workout, increase all exercises to 4 sets of 9 reps. The next time, 4 sets of 10 reps, and so on until completing each workout with 4 sets of 12 reps.

The next time after that, increase the weight on each exercise, and go back to 4 sets of 8 reps, repeating the progression between workouts.

For most exercises you can increase the weight by 10 pounds or 5 kilograms. The face pulls should only increase by 5 pounds or 2.5-3 kilograms (the smallest increment available to you).

Again, core exercises are always done with no weight: This is supplemental work and doesn’t need to be progressed. Just go back to 8 reps with the other exercises.

Now, if you fail any of the base exercises in any workout, i.e. you fail to complete every rep, every set, in every workout of that progression (8 reps to 12 reps)… you must repeat the weight in that workout once the workouts revert to 8 reps. You also should repeat a weight if for any reason you don’t feel comfortable increasing the weight in that exercise. You want the increase for each exercise to not be a big deal.

You can follow this progression indefinitely, forever increasing weight until you hit your limits and have to repeat weights, or until you max out a given machine and have to switch to a different exercise.

Added notes:

If you have never done the Overhead Squat before, it’s a challenging but rewarding and underrated full body lift.

Presuming you’re on a Smith Machine, you will likely need to employ a wide grip to ensure full range of motion and be able to fully stand. If you’re taller than 5’10”, you may not be able to use the Smith Machine because even with a wide grip the bar will hit the machine’s top range of motion before you can fully stand. Use a barbell or similar.

You can use dumbbells for Overhead Squats but the demand of the exercise is a bit diminished with separate weights, and depending on how the weights are held overhead it may become a different exercise for the upper body and core. Still, if you must, it can work. Start with 5 lb dumbbells if so and get used to practicing correct form on both the squat and how the weights are held overhead.

On the Overhead I would actually recommend starting out with just the bar and doing only 3 reps per set. On a Smith the bar weighs 25 lbs; if you do it with a freestanding barbell an Olympic bar is 45 lbs; some freestanding bars may only be 10-20 lbs and that’s fine. This compound exercise will be sneaky-difficult enough to do.

Start with just 3 reps per set, progressing for each workout like the others (i.e. when they go to 9, the overhead goes to 4). Once the other exercises get to 12 reps, you should be at 7 reps for the Overhead. Then, when the other exercises add weight and go back to 8 reps, you’d increase the Overhead to 8 reps and it will now match the same progression as the other exercises.

Once you can do 12 reps with the bar, you then add 10 pounds and go back to 8 reps on the next workout, following the normal progression.

For the Decline Bench Press, please use a decline bench with the leg handles (which many mistakenly presume is just a sit-up bench). If you don’t have a decline bench, go ahead and just do Flat Bench Presses.

Please do not lay upside down on an inclined bench for Declines, as this is dangerous as the inclined portion of the bench may not be able to support that weight, and your hips can slide down or off the bench because your feet are not on the ground.

Many coaches will tell you with the Decline Press to just drop the weights on the floor when done. I actually recommend you don’t, that you use a light enough weight that you can sit-up, reach for and pick it up off the floor, and put it back down without dropping it.

On a Decline Bench, don’t ever pick up or put down the weight while laying down, nor remove your legs from the handles while laying down: Both moves are injury risks. Keep your legs in the handles and sit-up before putting down or picking up any weight. Yes, this basically makes it sort of a core exercise because you’re effectively doing a weighted Russian Twist, plus you.

If this is unsuitable or challenging to do, just do Flat Bench Presses instead.

Typically, presuming about 30 seconds per active set, you should finish the 4th base exercise in a workout at about 17-18 minutes, allowing time for about 2 sets of raises or sit-ups before 20:00.

Sometimes you may finish the last base exercise with less than a minute left: Typically you should just rest or walk the gym and let the 20:00 run out. The core exercises are supplemental and not essential.

In rare instances, I’ve finished all the base exercises plus 4 full sets of raises with enough time to spare for another set of something else, in which case if I’m not exhausted enough to just wait out the 20:00 limit I’ll do another set of an exercise of my choice, any exercise I want. You can repeat a prior exercise, just do more raises/sit-ups if you’re up to it, do an exercise from the opposite workout, or experiment with a totally different exercise. But in my experience, this usually happens when I’m doing quick sets, like the Overheads with fewer than 8 reps, and once you’re up to 8+ reps of all base exercises this pretty much never happens.

I will recommend for the Face Pull, the Decline Bench, and the Overhead Squat you do not go any higher than your bodyweight.

The Face Pull faces diminishing returns at heavier weights.

As mentioned, you need to be able to sit up and pick up or put down the weight on the Decline Bench, and once you’re lifting heavy this becomes very difficult. In fact, once you max out the dumbbells and/or need to use a barbell, the Decline Bench is probably no longer feasible and you should switch exercises.

The Overhead Squat is a challenging full-body exercise that can be dangerous at heavier weights beyond bodyweight, because the needed shoulder stability at heavy weight isn’t guaranteed. You’re better off progressing the reps beyond 12 at bodyweight than increasing the weight.

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Various thoughts as of 6/13/2022

  • I finally spent the last few weeks on an extended break. After coming back from Memorial Day Weekend in Flagstaff I did one 50 minute run after work the next day, then (in part because of continued sleep problems) I took it easy the rest of the workweek. I did some break running that Friday, strength trained Friday and Sunday, run Monday and Tuesday and basically took all of last workweek off from training. I was honestly rather tired, and decided to just make it an extended break.
  • I did a sizable cross-train session this Saturday, running 5K on the treadmill, strength training, easy 20 minute sessions on the spin bike and elliptical. After taking the last week basically off, I wanted to do some extended easy work knowing I was going to take it easy the rest of the weekend, which I did.
  • One factor in why I’ve been so tired the last few weeks: Vegas is obviously heating up for summer. Last week in particular was a heat wave and temps have hit 103-105°F. The heat subtlely saps your energy in general. Taking it easy was probably not a bad idea, especially given that following Van 2022 I continued running for a couple weeks afterward, so I never really took a true extended post-marathon break. At least I didn’t take a break due to injury or legit burnout. I just noticed I was tired, and with no goal races on the horizon I decided to just take it easy.
  • I ended up not giving up coffee, just yet. The time may be right to give it a go, but I get a lot out of a morning routine over a cup of coffee so I’ll keep drinking it for now.
  • I have settled into a strength training progression that’s now working quite well: I have ten base exercises (four pull exercises, four push exercises, and for core/abs I usually do hanging raises and pivot to sit-ups if the captain’s chair isn’t available) done between a two day split.
  • I started with 4 sets of each at a manageable but demanding weight (the hanging raises are following a progression since they’re bodyweight and barring gluttony and sloth that isn’t increasing; I can add weight for the sit-ups if needed).
  • I start by doing each set at 8 reps, and after one day of each, I increase to sets of 9 reps. After one more day of each, I increase to sets of 10, and so on.
  • Once I complete training days with sets of 12 reps without any problems, I then increase the weight on every exercise by 5-10 pounds depending on the exercise, and then reduce to sets of 8 reps with the heavier weight (or more demanding core exercise). Once again, after a day of each split, I increase to 9 reps, and so on. After 12 reps of each split, I add weight again, repeat.
  • This so far has been working quite well, and I will continue with this strength approach however many days per week I can reasonably strength train. I’ve been resting if sore, and have scheduled rest days on top of that. If I only strength train twice in a week, fine, and if I manage to train 4-5 days in a week with no problems, that’s also fine.
  • I tinkered with work day runs and according to my Forerunner 945 that’s helped quitee a bit with quick heat acclimation (I went from 5% to 70% in about a week). But the UV index is high (even in the morning it’s basically camped at 10, which means 10-20 straight minutes of sun should burn you) and my arms while not burned have been a bit irritated the last week. I not only took it easy last week on running but stayed in shade on whatever walking I did while limiting my overall time outside.
  • I’ll probably just stick to treadmill running for most run training until the fall. Now and again I’ll run outside for some heat/sun exposure (in fact I plan to today, though I only plan to do it today for this week). This is more for skin protection than it is for avoiding runs in hot weather. If I could handle running easy for 40-60 minutes in 90°F weather I’d do it but it’s the sun exposure that’s my problem there.
  • I’m looking at following a modified 80/20 Running marathon plan for summer, as the midweek workouts don’t ask for more than 60-65 minutes are designed to be done uninterrupted which makes them good for treadmill work, and the plan permits cross training out of easy run workouts as needed.
  • Despite the long break, my marathon shape hasn’t fallen too far, at 54% now compared to the 60’s when I ran Van 2022. I project it to fall to about 47-48% before levelling off and improving again.
  • I intend to run as many 5K-10K races this fall as I can get away with, and the marathon training should get me in good enough shape by October that I can race just about everything up to the Half Marathon distance. The Hoover Dam Half/Full Marathon is in December, and that would be the first Half I’ve run in almost 4 years. It’s been that long. Prior to that, there’s as many as 5-6 other races at 5K-10K that I could do.
  • As for now, priority one is building on strength training with the next priority being getting back to regular 40+ minute runs, mostly easy with a couple of brief bits of speedwork and a longer weekend run mixed in each week. All of this will be on the treadmill, at a sustainably easy set of paces I’ve finally locked into after months of experimenting and tinkering.

End of May 2022: Still recovering, debriefing Vancouver ’22

Hello for the moment from Flagstaff, where I spent the long holiday weekend. I had no training objectives coming here, and only went on one 4 mile run Saturday morning. I also strength trained Saturday and Sunday, which it turns out is real hard at full effort in high altitude, harder than the run. But this was basically a long weekend vacation.

After Vancouver I had kept the run streak going for a couple weeks before deciding to kill it May 15. Since then I’ve taken liberal days off, though I did make sure not to take more than 2-3 days off at a time. I’ve only run about 10 miles a week, with some cross training and strength training in-between.

I’m still a good deal tired. While I want to resume base training I’ve gone touch and go with resuming any treadmill running or cross training, since I don’t have any goal races before this fall. This weekend, I’ve noticed how weary I’ve felt in general, more so than previous trips into altitude.

Over the last two weeks, I’ll have days with good energy, but most days feel like an uphill battle. I suppose that’s par for the course after a marathon training cycle and (even if I could not finish) running a marathon.

I stayed at much better accommodations this time in Flagstaff and was much closer to Downtown, which allowed me to easily walk to and from most places I wanted to visit. Still, I did walk several miles each day, and I have to keep in mind that unlike when I lived in Chicago this is far more walking than the 2-3 15-30 minute walking breaks I’m used to in Vegas. These trpis have been some form of light aerobic training.

I splurged this time thinking it’ll be a while before I have a reason to come back here. I originally came here to train long and escape the Vegas heat, and though I’ll likely want to escape the heat during summer, I’ll probably visit other locales like Big Bear and Utah for that. Those road trips are only 2-3 hours while this one is longer at 4+. There’s also not a ton of places to visit aside from the tourist locales here, and the cheaper accommodations are a bit out of reach from those.

Over the summer, my general goal aside from consistent strength training and building weight/volume on my base exercises will be consistent 45-60 minute midweek aerobic training a few times a week, getting some brief runs outside for heat acclimation, plus working on stretching out a weekend treadmill long run to 2-3 hours at least twice a month. Since I’m not marathon training I don’t have to worry about hitting a mileage total, so I can just go as far as I’m comfortably able to handle, and take down weeks and days off where desired. But I don’t want to totally lose fitness and have to start over in January.

If I get to cooler months in October having done that much in base training, I can actually race those fall Vegas races instead of surviving them or seeing what I can do as I had to do in past years. Then I can ramp in 2023 for Vancouver 2023… because, yes, there will officially be a Round 4 between me and the Vancouver Marathon.

This time I’ll not only plan to be far better trained, but will also make sure to avoid the lane markings on the Burrard Bridge! Those bots dots sneak up on you.

I’ll have other adjustments too. After several years of staying at The Burrard Hotel, which I still like and endorse, I’ll probably pick a place in the West End closer to the places I frequent. The big issue for me with the Burrard turns out to be its walking distance from the places I want to frequent. I was often walking about a mile one way to go to most places and around 7 miles each day. In past years that wasn’t a problem because I walked all the time in Chicago. It was basically the same stimulus. But now, not walking as much all the time in Vegas, I noticed it much more this year. I need to spend extra if needed to stay closer to my usual spots.

I also previously arrived in Vancouver a few days before the marathon and then stayed 3 days after before leaving. Next time around I’ll arrive closer to the marathon, then stay basically for the week afterward to enjoy the city before returning. I probably can’t help wanting to walk around and explore, so getting there Thursday night or Friday I can be a shut-in and make those first 3 days all business, then I sleep off the marathon, wake up Monday and have all week to enjoy Vancouver.

I also pretty much live off sushi, ramen, and the occasional fried food or greasy spoon breakfast when I’m in Vancouver. Did that have an effect on my ability to sleep well? Possibly. In past years I was more aggressive about getting and eating fruit, so I’ll probably need to plan out balanced nutrient intake for that trip.

If I do another marathon this year, which I’m not counting on, it’ll be close to home. The Hoover Dam Marathon is in December and Lake Mead Marathon is in January, both around the Lake and along the Railroad Trail. They also do a Half and shorter distances, and at the least I’m seriously considering doing one or both Half races. I’m open to signing up for one of the fulls and then using it as a long training run, going through the Half distance and then tactically dropping out once I’ve had my fill. These are smaller races so training for either would not be the big deal a destination marathon is. Perhaps the lower pressure stakes would make one or the other do-able?

I have no set plans right now. I am thinking about it. There would be plenty of fall training time to get in marathon shape if I wanted to, and it would be easy to bail if it ultimately turned out I didn’t.

Given my ongoing sleep issues, I am also considering a huge step: I may wean off and give up coffee, at least for a while. After working on all sorts of variables with my sleep, I realize my daily caffeine intake is the one I haven’t gone after. I don’t drink more than 16oz coffee in a day, and it’s usually done before I get to work, often by 8am. But who knows if the half life and fat soluble storage isn’t contributing to my inability to stay asleep most nights.

To avoid withdrawal symptoms I would wean off in 72 hour stages, cutting to a flat 12 oz for 3 days, then 8 oz for 3 days while transitioning in black or green tea, then switching to tea or half-watered-down-coffee for 3 days, and then finally at a suitably low dosage giving it totally up within the following 3 days.

Anyway, I’m heading back to the Vegas Oven in a little bit. I didn’t sleep great last night, so I likely will nap once I’m back and hopefully get better sleep this night. More to come later on after I return.

The Burrard Bridge wins by TKO: 2022 Vancouver Marathon DNF at 30K.

I rolled my left ankle at the end of the Burrard Bridge at 19 miles, and though I could run on it I turned the corner and decided to drop out of the Vancouver Marathon there.

It had already been a struggle. I did not sleep well at all that night, woke up at 1:30 after maybe 4 hours sleep and simply could not return to sleep before having to get up. I dressed for the race tired, (ironically) wanting to go back to bed, with various aches and pains around my body.

This was similar to 2018, where a lot of bad shit was happening with work (I left the job shortly after returning) and dealing with the fallout followed me to Vancouver. This time though, I had no such issue, and just have been struggling in general with sleep. I hadn’t slept particularly well the previous night, or any night since getting to Vancouver. The first two nights were okay, but the last three nights hadn’t been great (less than 6 hours each).

I enjoyed the trip to that point. The lack of heavy sleep hadn’t really bothered me, but not getting enough sleep prevented me from shedding the little aches and other issues that taper-rest should have eliminated. Going on my annual 7 mile exploratory run around Stanley Park on Thursday after I arrived probably didn’t help with recovery either.

I decided to make a point not to complain about it, that it could go better than expected, and many people have to deal with far worse. I was in a better place than 2018, and better equipped to handle it than I was then.

I would grind it out as far as I could. I wasn’t totally confident I could finish the marathon in my condition, but after everything to get to this point I felt I at least had to make the good faith effort to run it. At the very least, I wanted to get as far as Kitsilano, if for no other reason than I at least didn’t face a long walk back to base (like I did in 2018 when I pulled out at 5K and had to walk several miles through neighborhoods).

I also decided to bring my hydration pack, sans hydration. The bag could hold my Xact bars, a couple protein bars I decided to include, a shirt to change into. It allowed me to not forget anything without cramming or weighting down my fanny pack or pockets.

We had a lengthy delay to the start due to police activity on the route, and the marathon started about 9:15am (45 minutes late). That at least gave a good buffer of time to power nap a bit, use the port-a-potty without pressure, drink some extra fluid at the start line. I felt back and forth between being amped for the run, and exhausted wondering how the hell I was going to do this.

Once we were going, I was calm and steady. After a brief inexplicable heart rate spike into zone 5, my HR settled back into 147 bpm, and to my pleasant surprise stayed right there most of the way, through more than 3 hours of running. I did a really good job of adjusting and moderating my effort to the situation, even up the dreaded Camosun Hill and the long descent down the Marine Drive hill out of UBC.

I only stopped to walk at aid stations, and I took fluid at every one along the way. Turned out that after the 3rd aid station or so none of them were sering Nuun electrolyte fluid, only water. Whether they ran out, or mixing it was too much of a problem (I noticed the stations that did offer it were struggling badly to keep up with Nuun cups), they stopped offering it from the 3rd or 4th station all the way up. This created a big problem for a lot of runners, whether they knew it or not.

While fortunately the cloudy overcast had returned for the often sun-baked portion in Point Grey and Kitsilano, I was now struggling badly, and that 147bpm heart rate began climbing to 150. My stomach was also struggling to take on any more fuel (I had brought several Xact bars and took some offered on-course, having put down about 6 of them at this point plus one of the protein bars), the electrolyte deficiency from the course’s lack of Nuun making it harder to tolerate any more glucose. I got around this in 2019 by having 2 liters of electrolyte-rich Gatorade on my back, but no such luck here.

Sure enough, my energy levels collapsed hard around 25K, on top of the cumulative fatigue of grinding out a slow marathon effort on extended short sleep. It didn’t help that, to everyone’s surprise, the sun came out early in the race (at least for a while), which heated things up a bit more than expected and emptied everyone’s tanks a bit more quickly.

To my pleasant surprise I found open port-a-potties at 26K, earlier than expected (in 2019 I did not hit an open one until 28K in Kitsilano, right before the Burrard Bridge). I used it quickly and popped out with very little spring in my step. My Stryd readings showed throughout the race that I was holding 180’s, 190’s, low but easy, but now I was struggling to get out of the 160’s.

I had come-and-go nagging pains that had followed me for months showing up throughout the race. At one point my left hamstring felt like it was going to pull, but that went quickly away and didn’t recur. My right hamstring, that proximal tendon (opposite of the one that derailed me last year), both achilles tendons, parts of the soles of both my feet, were randomly squawking here and there throughout the run, and in some ways it felt like I was holding everything together by a few carefully managed threads.

This whole marathon I soldiered with the sense that it would be something to go in with all this working against me and still someone find it in me to finish. But even the motivation of that had faded like the earlier sunshine well before the Bridge.

Onlookers here in Vancouver are great about cheering you on, and you get the sense of not wanting to let them down. That was probably the biggest reason I never slowed to a walk before 28K (even then it was to sit down and get a rock out of one of my shoes).

I decided I would get across the Burrard Bridge and head towards Stanley Park before re-assessing on finishing. The Bridge made the decision for me.

I decided to charge up the bridge at speed, passing dozens of bonked runners walking up the bridge. I actually did a solid job with effort and pace. The effort however could not undo how tapped I was feeling. The potty stop did bring my heart rate back down, but the fatigue was a growing monster I had already been carrying for a couple hours.

I crossed the 30K timing mat, wondering exactly how much I had left for the final 7 miles and whether I had enough to finish, when I stepped on what’s called a Botts’ Dot.

Those dots on lane markers in the road are called Botts’ Dots. Canadian roads don’t have many of them (it snows in Canada a lot, and plowing over them is impractical), but on the Burrard Bridge a few reflective dots are interspersed on lane markings along the road. I stepped on one near the north end of the southbound lanes and rolled my left ankle (supinated).

I quickly recovered and kept running. It felt weird for a couple steps, but I was able to keep going with no other distress and turn the corner onto Pacific. However, everything else I mentioned above, multiple doubts about being able to make it, now were combined with knowing I had just rolled my ankle and though I could run on it adrenaline may be masking any issue with it. I said enough.

I found an empty space on the south sidewalk of Pacific, stepped off the roadway and stopped my watch just a bit over 19 miles. I sat down and pulled off my bag and singlet. It was not a hard decision. Maybe the ankle felt okay now, maybe I could hold up as it was. But for another 7.3 miles? In my condition? And if I had to drop out in Stanley Park, there was no way out of there other than the miles of seawall in either direction? It didn’t seem worth the risk, and again by this point finishing the race felt more like an afterthought than a goal.

So there you go. The Burrard Bridge delivered the knockout punch at mile 19. I felt good about going 19 miles in the condition I was in. A lot of runners wouldn’t have even started in the shape I was in. I didn’t just run out 19 but stayed consistent in effort throughout, even as fatigue hit me hard coming out of UBC and going through Point Grey. To get that far was in itself an accomplishment, even if the record will show a DNF after 30K.

The ankle didn’t feel bad at all, but I took it slow walking under the bridge and back up Burrard Street to my hotel, which was fortunately only a few blocks away. I didn’t have to do much to stay slow and easy: Everything hurt. I was tapped out. What had been passing pain in my achilles now became clear, stiff soreness in both tendons. My right hamstring ached. Other things probably hurt too, but it was hard to notice. If anything, my ankle ironically was one of the things that didn’t seem to hurt much at all. But even after 19 miles, I was as totally beaten as if I had run the whole thing. I may recover a bit more quickly than if I had run it all, but I still need some downtime.


Overall, it wasn’t the best training cycle. Turned out there was a lot I hadn’t done as well as I should have, challenges came up that made it hard to stay on track, the run-up to the race in itself had a variety of issues (I didn’t even get into the complications with the Canadian COVID travel restrictions and what I did or didn’t need to do to enter the country, never minding the airport test), and then back-end insomnia screwed up my fitness for the race itself. In-race complications didn’t help, but I was already battling leading into the race itself.

So, in a way, this was just the cherry on top of a weird cake that fell apart. I think about how it would have gone had I stuck to the original Higdon-style training plan, but my complications with the long runs as it warmed up probably would have derailed those more than they did with the training I had done. And I wouldn’t have had as much volume, plus the scheduling might have overtrained or burned me out before race-day. I probably salvaged quite a bit changing things the way i did, even though the end result was still far from perfect.

That said, the classic post-marathon “never again” feeling only lasted about 18 hours. I feel like Vancouver Revenge Tour in 2023 is necessary, to even the series at 2 wins apiece. Vancouver beat me in 2018. I beat Vancouver in 2019, and Vancouver beat me again this year. I now have improved training knowledge (which came far too late this time around), which should make a 2023 effort go far better.

Still, I wonder if there’s a tug of war on these Vancouver visits between the marathon itself, and actually enjoying a vacation in Vancouver. I did try to take it easy in the days before, but the city and where I’m staying just requires so much walking everywhere. I couldn’t log less than 5-6 miles walking a day without spending too much on taxi rides or being a hermit in general (plus I had to go to the Expo to get my bib, of course). In Vegas, even with work break and lunch walks, I only log about 2-4 miles walking on weekdays. I had forgotten how much more walking I did in Chicago. While walking in Vancouver was normal compared to life in Chicago, it was a lot more stressful on my body than everyday life in Vegas, where people drive everywhere.

As much as I like staying at The Burrard, turns out it’s a bit out of the way from places I’ve visited more often in Vancouver. I’m often walking a mile each way or more. Again, living in Chicago the long walks weren’t so different from the usual, but now it actually kind of added to the stress (and yes, it’s probably part of why I couldn’t recover before race day). It’s not like I’m getting a discount staying at The Burrard either (plus while the hotel itself is nice, the surrounding area admittedly is a bit sketchy). So maybe next time I need to bite the bullet and get a room at a nice Downtown hotel closer to where I’m going.

Though I had considered running another marathon this fall, I think I have enough other things I want to improve fitness-wise that I’ll shove that idea aside. And of course, I’m in no hurry to go through the training and the pain of running a marathon again this year, in a potentially warmer and less vacation friendly environment. I’d also have to burn off the rest of my work vacation time, which could create a problem if something came up where I’d want/need to use it.

I want to get back to strength training, and rebuild my base run fitness from scratch, which is real hard to work on when marathon training. I also need to clean up my diet, and not having to pound calories to fuel training will help a lot with slimming down. I also have Vegas races in the fall I like running too, so not coming off a marathon training cycle will help those go a lot better.

So, I’ve got a couple more days in Vancouver before heading back to the Vegas oven. I have enjoyed the cooler, cloudy and sometimes rainy weather. Summer’s not really fun no matter where I am, so can’t exactly rue the imminent arrival of another summer in Vegas when it’s probably also uncomfortably hot elsewhere. I’ve got some errands and similar to attend to when I get back, not to mention needing to rest and heal up overall. So we’ll see after that what’s driving me next.