You cut out almost all of your carb intake, outside of insoluble fiber. Instead, you eat a decent amount of protein, and a lot of dietary fat.
During exercise your body typically looks to burn glycogen (sugar) first, then fat. When you deprive your body of glycogen, your body adapts to produce ketone bodies from your dietary and stored fat. These ketones can mostly stand in for the glycogen you would get from consumed carbohydrates. This state of primary ketone production is called ketosis. The Keto diet (obviously) gets you into ketosis.
Why do this? Isn’t any low-carb type of diet bad for endurance training?
First of all, it makes more sense to not run or aerobically train on the strength training day. The swolework is already fairly challenging, and my body has lately responded better to an easy day of strength training with no running/cardio every three days than it has from running or cardio every day.
Secondly, continuing my research on training monotony, I’ve noticed that monotony scores are helped by not having any other training on the strength days. Monotony has gone up as I’ve gotten back to regular training, and it indicates that aerobically training everyday would probably be unsustainable. With every three days being only strength training, the monotony stays closer to normal.
This also indicates it may be sensible to make an otherwise do-able 2nd day run shorter, in order to vary that week’s training stress and reduce overall training monotony.
Conversely, it’s often a good idea to make the 3rd day workout longer, or add a 2nd cardio session elsewhere in that 3rd day, to increase the variance between days and reduce overall monotony.
So scheduled swolework days would come up and I’d make the judgment call to skip them. After a bigger 8/6/22 workout (which itself came after a 5 day break), I went two weeks until my next strength workout.
I’m not oblivious. During that time away, I realized my rotating strength workouts had become somewhat demanding. This was fine when I was not seriously run training following Vancouver 2022.
Now that I’m getting back to longer aerobic runs, the strength training sessions were a little too much. I wanted to scale back strength training but not train too infrequently, or go too long between training muscle groups.
So I made an adjustment
Right before my 8/21 workout, I decided to keep my current 3 day micro-cycle (strength + maybe cross train, running 2nd day, tougher running 3rd day, repeat). But instead of cycling between two workouts with 4-sets per group, I would do one set of every exercise. This reduces the demand a great deal, but also allows me to train everything more frequently.
Plus, with running now once again taking focus, strength is secondary and this volume better reflects that. I won’t get so tired or sore that it impacts my running, and reduces chances of having to skip workouts. Why skip what should be more easily attainable? Even if I dread an exercise, it’s just one set! I can do that!
I would maintain the overload progression I’ve been following to good results: Progressing from 8 reps to 12 reps over multiple workouts, then increasing the weight, dropping back to 8 reps, repeating. But now, it’s just one set, of every single exercise.
I did my central seven exercises, with some revisions. In my last such workout, I incidentally tried Overhead Squats with dumbbells instead of on the Smith rack. Since that felt considerably better, I decided going forward to do overhead squats that way. I also re-added Russian Twists, which would give my obliques some neglected work.
It went fine.
The 8/21 workout was fairly simple and went great, before I got on the spin bike for some low aerobic work.
Garmin Connect’s strength heat-map shows muscles worked. Red sections indicate groups that were primary movers in the workout. Yellow sections indicate secondary movers. Gray sections are untouched.
This workout was a nice snapshot of all the muscle groups I had been working over the last couple months. Everything from both workouts was for the first time together on one chart. (The exception is the obliques, as I hadn’t been doing Russian Twists in a while before this workout.)
It also provided a clear picture of what muscle groups were missing work. The workout was so easy, and I had only done 8 exercises, with plenty of room for more.
Connecting the missing links.
I decided to research a bit and try to get the whole picture red or yellow in one workout. I wanted every muscle group to work in at least one exercise. And then one set of all that can be my go-to total body strength workout.
In Garmin Connect, I’d go back to a prior workout that worked few muscle groups, then edit in different exercises to see the heat-map change. Then I’d delete them. This allowed me to find do-able exercises that would hit the different muscle groups.
I decided to re-introduce deadlifts, which I’d done in prior workout plans months ago. This addresses missing red work for the lower back core muscles. I injured my lower back doing them last December, so I had avoided them since. Some helpful feedback (from the Manosphere of all places) recently fixed my form issues that contributed to that injury. I decided to start deadlifts at a definite sub-max weight and progress from there. I also decided to avoid the Smith rack (where I suffered the December injury). Instead I’ll use dumbbells (DB’s), which I’ve done before with good results.
I mentioned re-adding the Russian Twists. I do these with one of the DB’s from my bench presses, so they’re done at half those exercises’ weight. This reds the obliques, so they’re staying in. I do these on the decline or flat bench after those bench presses.
I re-added triceps extensions on the cable deck. I had removed these, as my other upper body exercises were already involving triceps as secondary movers. However, I wanted one set of red primary exercises for triceps, so the extensions are back.
I re-added work on the hip abduction machine (your legs are in weighted clamps and you press them outward). They’re usually a skippable isolation exercise. But the abductors are a hard muscle to red out otherwise, and hip abductions are a red exercise for those. Abductions are not hard to do with considerable weight and proper form.
The hardest heatmap group to find exercises for is the neck. Exercises you think impact that group (like shrugs or neck extensions) don’t impact them on the Garmin heatmap. Randomly I thought of the levator scapulae muscles. I found a Garmin option for the Levator Scapulae Stretch (a neck stretch against resistance from your arms). It turns out that exercise turned the muscle group red! So I’m doing those now (no weight added).
I gave this a try this morning.
This morning I knocked out a total body strength workout. I did 1 set of 11 reps for all twelve (12) exercises, in this order.
This workout, tough but do-able, only took 21 minutes.
After I finished, I updated Garmin Connect and then realized I hadn’t done or programmed anything for calves. Calves however are pretty easy to program. I just did a quick set of standing bodyweight calf raises, to get to 13 exercises total.
My heatmap for this morning’s workout then looked like this.
So, cool. I managed to work every single muscle group. And, a few of them are yellow. So, I now want to make the whole chart red. This ensures every muscle group Garmin calls out is a primary mover in at least one exercise. This is a total body strength training workout should do.
I had good energy in this workout (at 7am, despite no coffee, I might add!). There’s certainly room to add more exercises. (I’m currently not concerned about keeping these workouts to 20 minutes. It’s a total body workout rather than a split routine. These can now go 30 minutes if needed.)
The muscle groups in question:
The hip flexors
The hip adductors (inner thigh and groin muscles).
It would be easy to just do specific isolation exercises for those groups. But finding other compound exercises that worked with other muscle groups would be more productive and better for run fitness. Isolation is better suited to bodybuilding, which needless to say isn’t a high priority goal of mine.
So I went to work:
I programmed a new total body strength workout, that would work every muscle group as a primary mover.
If you create a strength workout manually in Garmin Connect, you won’t get a heatmap for exercises. I just figured out that doing a super quick set and saving it on my watch allows me to freely edit that workout with a full heatmap.
So I did a couple squats, saved that “workout”, and went to town in Connect on swapping in/out different exercises.
The Hip Flexors
The Flexors are a hard muscle group to program. We use them a lot in our lives, but isolating them as a primary mover is another matter entirely.
Initially I was at a loss for what exercises to consider. But then I randomly thought of burpees, the classic ‘squat to full plank, do a pushup, jump back to plank, tuck jump straight up and back down to squat, repeat’. I entered that as a lone exercise, and found myself a mother-lode exercise:
The burpee works so many muscles. It does in one set what bench presses, squats, and calf raises would do. Plus it works anterior hip flexor muscles as a primary mover, not the easiest group to program. It does all that in one exercise.
So I definitely will add burpees, which I’ve done many times before. I won’t have trouble doing one set of 8-12.
Now, I could subsequently remove my bench presses, since this uses the pecs as a primary mover. But I still want to improve my incline/decline bench weights, as well as build my overhead squat. So I’m leaving those bench presses in. My chest will just get 3+ sets of work every workout at different angles, as will my quads and glutes. Plus, the overhead red-works my deltoids and traps (shoulders).
The one set each of those exercises isn’t a killer, and fronting those with burpees won’t be a problem.
So that only reds out the hip flexors and calves. It also eliminates the need for the hanging leg raises, which red-worked the abs and quads. The raises were always a secondary priority, and finding the captain’s chair free is often a pain anyway. That eliminates a hassle at the gym.
I always do Hammer Curls, a stiff-forearm bicep curl that along with biceps work the forearms as a secondary mover. I really didn’t want to waste time on separate forearm curls or similar.
It was while separately considering Farmer’s Walks (walking the gym while carrying weight at your sides, akin to carrying groceries into the house), seeking out an alternative to obliques and hamstrings, that I found the Farmer’s Walks actually red-work the forearms as its primary mover.
Yes, you are carrying weight with your legs. But your leg, shoulder and back muscles are actually secondary movers. It’s the forearms that do the bulk work holding and balancing the weight. So the rest of your body can capably walk with it.
This seems a lot more cumbersome than simple forearm curls. But its total body engagement is closer to what I’m looking for. Plus, it’s essentially a dynamic cousin of the deadlift. Most of all, it’s one of the more functional exercises you can do. Think about how often you’ve got to carry stuff this way in everyday life (e.g. I mentioned carrying groceries).
No matter how crowded the gym gets, walking across with a pair of weights has never been a problem. So Farmer’s Walks are definitely going in.
There’s pretty much no other exercise aside from the Adductor Machine that works the inner thighs as a primary mover, without being cumbersome and needlessly redundant. Doing burpees on the floor is fine, but I’m not doing clam-shells or weird squats/planks on the floor just to red out one muscle group, when I can just get on a machine and knock out one easy set in seconds.
I’ll just use the adductor machine, before moving to the abductor machine.
The Full Fourteen
From all this I have put together a sequence of what is now fourteen exercises. Below is the Full Fourteen, a total body strength workout (including sample reps and weights). All listed exercises are just one set, with at least 60 seconds rest (longer is OK as needed).
Entry of all these exercises into a sample Garmin Connect workout confirmed that every muscle group is red-worked.
Garmin Connect estimates this workout would take about 21-22 minutes if done efficiently. I’d imagine some breaks would run a bit longer as needed, so it’s more like 22-25 minutes, certainly less than 30 minutes even with some challenges.
Let’s do it.
This going forward will be my total body strength workout, done on schedule every three days (barring races or race taper timing requiring a day off).
I will follow my 8-12 rep and weight progression normally, and see how far I can go with all of the above. For new exercises, I’m using a known-do-able weight and will just progress that the same as the other exercises. This last workout was 11 reps of everything. So the next workout will start with sets of 12 reps. If everything’s fine, I’ll increase exercises’ weight by 5-10 lbs and go back to 8 reps.
Go ahead and give it a try.
Obviously, you’re free to take this template and use it as a workout yourself. Google and research any exercises as needed. From my experience, these are easily do-able exercises in a gym for most people.
Eventually, I will devise a total body-weight strength workout equivalent, and will post it here.
The 21 day cycle has worked okay for me so far. However, 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. I also had a dinner for my dad’s birthday. I also had a car issue to sort out 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. After that, my 3 day cycle goes back to normal by Monday (which incidentally is the next scheduled quality-run day).
I ended that 21 day cycle post mentioning Training Monotony. That’s the subject I’ve been personally focused on the last week or so.
Training Monotony is a metric devised long ago by Carl Foster. Training Monotony measures how variable your workouts are within a training week or similar period. 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 do a lot of hard workouts with insufficient easy days or rest, an overtraining or burnout risk. 2) Or you do a lot of easier workouts without a mix of more challenging workouts. This in turn stagnates or decreases 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. Honestly, most coaches and training plans do shove a lot of volume down your throat that for many just runs 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. This eventually stagnates your progress. Your body grows accustomed to the regular stress, and ceases to progress.
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.
TRIMP is short for Training Impulse. This measures your effort based on heart rate (% max), and 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. 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 get an unacceptably higher number like 3.00 or more.
Why it’s unacceptable depends on how you get there:
If these are all hard workouts, you won’t recover between them. 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.
So you would combine monotony with total volume to get a better idea of which side you’re on. If you’re running 1 mile a day, 7 miles a week, you’re probably on the stagnate/unimproved end. 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 discusses, worrying about Monotony can seem 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 prior years’ training (and without getting into a granular breakdown and collection of graph images), I 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.
I’ve been entering in TRIMP values for planned workouts in a given week. I 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. You’ll notice the easier Recovery & Aerobic training is around low 80’s%. Harder training for me now is any intense running. This is not just zone 3 and above. Harder zone 2 counts right now as I work back into regular running shape. I also include 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.
I not only plan weeks ahead but put the current week’s completed volume in, to compare with my remaining schedule. I want to make sure the Monotony stays on track, or if I need to make an adjustment.
The sample above is the current week. I had to make several adjustments to the remaining schedule, As mentioned earlier, this has been an unusual week with multiple distractions. I had wanted to do more Friday. The strength workout that day was originally scheduled for Wednesday. As I rearrange the schedule, I make other adjustments to re-balance the monotony.
I quickly noticed the longer the long workout is, the lower the training monotony goes. A more demanding long workout increases the standard deviation. At the same time, the long run’s ability to lower Monotony is obviously limited by how long and intense of a workout you can do.
For example, it doesn’t do good to plan 150 TRIMP worth of training, if doing 80 is currently too hard. Personally, I just did about 200 TRIMP in a 2 hour 45 minute hour workout. This was a 45 minute run and 2 hours on the spin bike. S,o in this case, I know the 105 TRIMP long workout in the sample above is well within reach. For me, 105 TRIMP is either about 7 easy running miles, or 5ish tempo or interval miles.
I also notice that if you add any volume to harder training days, it reduces the increase in Training Monotony. If you put it in an empty or lighter day, the Monotony goes up.
It also creates a monotony problem if you have to shorten that long workout. The deviation between workouts decreases, and the monotony could surge. You could just cancel the workout when this happens, though of course long workouts are important.
If measuring by TRIMP, cutting a long workout short because it’s TOO hard can actually even things out. A shortened workout could produce an average heart rate so high it produces the same TRIMP. If pressed for time, you can turn a long run into a shorter tempo or interval run resulting in the same TRIMP.
All of this is infancy-stage experimentation and research for me right now. 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.
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.
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.
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….
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.
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.
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.