Ask the Coaches 275: How Run/Walk Protocol Works, Different Styles of Bikes, Heat vs Cold for Fitness, Training for the Mile, and more!

December 7, 2018

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In this episode of Ask the Coaches, Brock and Lucho answer listener’s questions about How Run/Walk Training Works, How Different Types of Bikes Affect Training, Using Heat vs Cold for Fitness, How to Train for the Mile, and more!

Michael asks:

I’m training for my first true ultra, a 55-hour event on December 30th in Houston, called the Snowdrop55. It’s done on a 0.7-mile loop and it’s done to raise money for children’s cancer research. My main goal is to get to 100 miles in the least time possible (hoping for 24 hours). My secondary goal is to tack on at least 50 more miles before the end of the event to get to 150 total miles.

Here’s my question, I’ve been building up by not only running long but by doing a ton of walking. I completed a trail marathon (with 5,000 feet of climbing) about 6 weeks ago, did a downhill half marathon (2,000 feet of descent) two weeks ago. Have had my biggest volume week ever (54 miles running plus 32 miles of walking) a few weeks ago. Despite a “niggle” in my right glute/hamstring attachment, I’ve completed a four day stretch of over 70 miles of running and walking.

So here’s my question. I run/walked for three hours this morning using a 2’ run/2’ walk protocol (but reset at the end of each mile), which ended up having me complete 16 miles at 11:05 pace. I then walked 4 more miles and had a massage (which helped the glute/hamstring but also flushed out my legs), whereupon my legs actually felt great. I’m going to continue to put on the miles the next two days and see where it leaves me.

Here’s my question, I’ve listened (actually geeked out), on your physiological analysis of training for sprints (<9 sec, 20-30 sec, etc.), and wonder if there’s a corollary for ultra running. Obviously, this can apply to training, but it also will apply on race day. It strikes me that the 2-minute run/walk intervals allow the muscles to recover in a way that I’ve never really felt before. It seems to me that my legs are more stressed after 2 hours of non-stop running than they are after 4 hours of the run/walk protocol. Are you familiar with any science behind this? Are there ideal intervals? I’m planning to do a 40-50 mile day in the next couple of weeks to both prepare and to test out this method. One thing is for sure, the walking volume has to be helpful, since it’s something I’ve never done before, and I’ll be doing a ton of walking in the event.

My present plan is to maintain the 2’ run/2’ walk protocol until I can’t:), while hoping that I can maintain it until the 10-12 hour mark. This goal has mental and physical significance to me as it relates to Ironman but would also put me in position to walk the remaining hours to achieve my goal.

The coaches say:

  • Some reasons why the Run/Walk method works:
    • Continuous use of a muscle will result in quicker fatigue
    • The longer the run segment, the more fatigue
    • It’s a form of interval training
    • Conservation of resources (Fat metabolism)
    • Quicker recovery
    • Less stress on the weaker muscles and ligaments
    • Ability to enjoy endorphins
    • Reduce core body temperature
    • You can use the Jeff Galloway “magic mile” calculator to approximate your run to walk ratio.
    • Check out this study called “Ground reaction forces at different speeds of human walking and running.”
  • As far as determining ideal ratios, there’s no “perfect” ratio. Think about what you want to do and what you feel comfortable doing. Go with the flow during the race.
  • If you do have a time goal (which it doesn’t seem like you do for this) you might consider checking out Jeff Galloway’s calculator for pacing and use that to determine the run/walk time.

Vince asks:

I am training for my third Ironman in March 2019 (Ironman New Zealand) and have been doing a lot of my commuting to work, as well as bike training on my mountain bike. Can you please let me know if this is detrimental to my bike performance as I am racing on a Cannondale Slice Time Trial Bike.

I will usually ride my bike to work once or twice a week and do a ride with my girlfriend on the weekend, so I am riding about 3 to 4 hours on my mountain bike and the rest of my training is about a further 4 hours either on my spin bike or time trial bike. I can tell that my heart rate is pretty high when I am riding my mountain bike, but am worried I am utilizing different muscles compared to riding the time trial bike which may be reversing any gains I am making?

The coaches say:

  • You are working harder on the mountain bike so make sure you recover enough.
  • There are some geometry differences between the two bikes but not enough to reverse gains.
  • As long as you spend enough time on the bike you are racing on, you will be fine.
  • You will run into problems if you don’t spend enough time building up muscles for aero position (lower back, psoas, shoulders, and respiratory muscles). Tight muscles will negatively impact your run. Solution: more time on TT bike!

Greg asks:

I’m a 53-year old male mountain biker in Phoenix, AZ. I will frequently over-dress for a mountain bike workout because I feel like there are a host of benefits from getting a good sweat flowing during a workout. I also have an unheated pool in the backyard, and with nighttime temperatures dipping into the low 40’s, a plunge in the pool gives me a big cold shock. I try to stay in the water between 3 and 5 minutes, but never long enough to start shivering since I’ve heard that is an indicator that you’ve gone too far into developing a stress response.

I separate my hot workouts from the cold plunge by several hours, typically a sweaty morning ride and an evening cold plunge; but I still wonder if I’m working at cross purposes. Am I negating any potential benefits of either strategy by doing both? Or should I pursue a more cyclical strategy where maybe one or two weeks is heat adaptation and then move into a cycle of cold adaptation. I would love to hear your thoughts.

The coaches say:

  • Check out Brock’s “Get-Fit Guy” episodes about Heat and Cold.
  • Brock would suggest using heat as a recovery method and cold as a therapy. Separate them with a few hours since cold has been shown to blunt the results of a hard workout.
  • Don’t be afraid of shivering in the pool. This is good! Shivering signals that your internal body temp has dropped low enough to convert white adipose tissue into brown (aka fat burning).

Sarah asks:

I have the goal on 2019 of running a sub 5 min mile! I am a former: Collegiate track athlete and ran a PR 400 of 56 and 400 hurdles in 60 and Professional long course triathlete.

My last and only known mile time is 5:13, which I ran this past spring just after duathlon nationals (where I placed 2nd OA – 1st AG).

For the past few months, I have been mostly biking and focusing on strength, only running 1-2 x a week.

This coming year I turn 40 and before it’s too late, I want to try and run a sub-5 min mile, but I don’t know where to start!!!  How much run volume should I have per week (hours)? Do you have an idea of some key workouts I could incorporate into my training?

The coaches say:

  • You have a huge run base so volume is not important for you. You can probably get by with 30 miles a week.
  • Train short to long (speed first, then distance).
    • Begin with 100m speed. Not PR level but close.
    • Move on to intervals close to VO2 max; 1000M max.
    • Then move on to threshold mile repeats with 1-2min rest. The goal is to train your body to function well with high amounts of lactate present.
    • 8-10 weeks out: drop threshold and go back to interval.
  • Stay away from 800s because the numbers start to mess with your head.
  • Keep max velocity work (30-40 meters; 6 reps with 4 min rest) in all year.
  • Don’t bother going out and running 6 miles easy.
  • Running on the track isn’t necessary. Train where you can. Soccer fields work well for max velocity training.
  • Strides downhill can be helpful too (2-3% grade ideal).

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