Training to maximize suffering

The purpose of training is not to minimize suffering during races. In fact, just the opposite is true. We train to maximize suffering. We train our bodies to make them able to tolerate more stress on race day: higher heart rates, lower blood sugar, increased muscle damage, lower pH, greater oxygen uptake, dehydration, elevated core temperature, hyperventilation. We also need to … Read More

Slowly by slowly

I think we’ve all realized, with some disappointment, that Nike’s Breaking2 project will be based on attempting to break the 2:00:00 marathon barrier by also breaking the rules (illegal shoes, illegal pacing, draft car)…but nonetheless a recent article from Wired magazine on the project has some interesting insights into the training of one of Breaking2 athletes, Eliud Kipchoge. Kipchoge won gold … Read More

Experimental studies of training intensity distribution

The retrospective analyses of athletic careers I’ve reviewed here seem to suggest that the Polarized training model, consisting of a large amount of low intensity training peppered with small doses of high intensity, might be the preferred intensity distribution for endurance athletes. Of course, the fact that many top endurance athletes seem to have followed a Polarized model does not … Read More

What, When and Why

The what, when and why of every single training session in your program should be clear to you. What The “what” is simply the detail of the workout to be performed…the paces, heart rates, effort levels, duration, rest intervals etc. There are unlimited combinations of these variables that can be remixed into workouts. Through experience and experiment we know the … Read More

This is boring, I’ll just train a little harder

Let’s look at a couple of papers this week that further stress the importance of high volume low intensity exercise for endurance athletes, as well as highlight the responsibility of the research subject (you!) to follow the protocol for best results. I’ll dig a little deeper into properly controlled experimental studies in due course, but for now we’ll look at … Read More

Case study #2: Ingrid’s epic 1986

As we all know, elite cross country skiiers tend to be lazy, unfit slobs and as such, the training data of Bente Skari presented in the last Almanac post may not be applicable to runners… So let’s take a quick look at the intensity distribution of a pretty legit athlete, runner Ingrid Kristiansen of Norway during her 1986 season.  That … Read More

A 14-year case study: Bente Skari

To illustrate some of the concepts presented recently, let’s look at a great example of the power of record keeping, a methodological scientific approach to training and the possible value in n=1 reports. This slide from one of Stephen Seiler’s excellent review presentations on Periodized Training shows the training data over the entire career of Bente Skari, one of the … Read More


“I am a scientist, sale I seek to understand me” – Guided By Voices   As an athlete searching for your lifetime best performance you (and your coach) are wise to think like scientists. Proper scientific method involves proposing a hypothesis and then devising an experiment to test that hypothesis. The hypothesis takes the form of, this site for example: I (we) … Read More


As an athlete, realize that you are conducting an experiment in which you are both subject and scientist. Case studies, with sample size (n)=1 are usually looked down upon as the lowest form of “research” since the results are only completely relevant to that particular subject. It’s difficult and dangerous to extrapolate results from n=1 to the general population so … Read More

Training to train

Further to the last post debunking the 12-week marathon myth it seems worthy to discuss the concept of “training to train”.  This boring old-fashioned prep work does not sell magazines or impress your friends on Strava but it is absolutely necessary and is part of a plan that will make you stronger than you can imagine. The period of training to … Read More