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"The Case Against Jogging"
January 20, 2013 2:42 AM   Subscribe

If you've never done the Wingate-cycle test, let me try to explain what it feels like: It feels like your legs are giving birth. It feels like you've got an eight-martini hangover in your calves. Your face contorts like a porn star in an AVN-award-winning threesome scene. You emit noises that resemble feedback at a thrash-metal concert. Maybe your eyes are closed and you're rocking your head back and forth. The upside: It's over in 30 seconds. ... I rode the Wingate cycle as part of my research on a surprising and potentially life-altering theory called high-intensity interval training (HIIT). Think of it as the Evelyn Wood of exercise. The idea is that lightning-quick intense workouts might be as good for you as — if not better than — longer medium-intensity workouts.

High-Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT, is an exercise program designed to get people 'stronger and faster with shorter workouts.' Here's infographic with three different schemes. HIIT can be a good way to break the treadmill routine. One is called "Tabata" after Dr. Izumi Tabata, who published the paper: Effects of moderate-intensity endurance and high-intensity intermittent training on anaerobic capacity and VO2max, in 1996. One is called the "Little Method," after Dr. Jonathan Little published this paper: A practical model of low-volume high-intensity interval training induces mitochondrial biogenesis in human skeletal muscle: potential mechanisms, in 2009. And to round it out, here's Tremblay's 1994 paper: Impact of exercise intensity on body fatness and skeletal muscle metabolism (PDF):
In conclusion, these results reinforce the notion that for a given level of energy expenditure, vigorous exercise favors negative energy and lipid balance to a greater extent than exercise of low to moderate intensity.
Wikipedia article on HIIT.

The Secret To High-Intensity Interval Training

It's important to note that many of the studies involve whole-body exercises like sprints, rowing machines, or cycle ergometer, so things like 'tabata squats and pushups', while challenging, don't fit the protocol. And, as always, claims of "get fit in 4 minutes a day!" are bullshit.

The Agony And The Heresy - Brian Mackenzie's Controversial New Approach To Marathon Taining:
When the hell did this become marathon training? For the past few minutes, I’ve been running 60-second gassers up Seattle’s Queen Anne Avenue, a stripe of urban asphalt so tilted that skiers often schuss down it on snow days. I’m testing a controversial endurance theory pushed by triathlete and trainer Brian MacKenzie, and by the second wind sprint I know I’m in trouble. By the third, I’m biting back the pre-barf taste of oysters and copper pennies. After the fourth, I crumple to the rush-hour sidewalk, splayed beneath Seattle’s pigeon-colored skies. Women walking home from work literally step over my heaving body. And to think that I’m supposed to do eight of these.
Running hard to run far isn't a new idea: The Irish Priest Who Trains Olympic Gold Medalists - previously
Previously
posted by the man of twists and turns (79 comments total) 120 users marked this as a favorite

 
I've been doing HIIT for a while, usually involving sprinting with my buddies. It is quite difficult, but rewarding - I like to tell myself that by doing HIIT I am building a lot of "character." (Inside joke for Calvin + Hobbes fans)

We varied the intervals, but usually we would be sprinting for 20-ish seconds followed by 40 seconds of jogging. I would usually turn my brain off during the later sprints - if I made the mistake of letting myself think, the only thoughts I would be able to dwell on would be "OMG WHY THE **** AM I DOING THIS TO MYSELF I AM SUCH AN IDIOMASOCHISTICDINGLEBERRYPEABRAIN." Or somewhere along those lines.

After rinsing and repeating for a couple of months, I found that I could now do other exercises that I had previously considered to be strenuous (sports, jogging, and whatnot) without barely breaking a sweat!
posted by Kamelot123 at 3:02 AM on January 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


It's important to note that many of the studies involve whole-body exercises like sprints, rowing machines, or cycle ergometer, so things like 'tabata squats and pushups', while challenging, don't fit the protocol.

I'm confused: as far as I can tell, squats and push-ups are certainly as much--or, in fact, more-so--full-body exercises than sprinting. And since HIIT is about exercising your cardiovascular system, these should qualify just as much as anything else. I apologize that I haven't gone exhaustively through all your links yet, but so far I haven't found anything contradicting this. Could you explain and/or cite please?

Otherwise, an excellent post--I've been doing HIIT (mostly in the form of Tabata workouts) for years, including doing stuff like jump-rope, sprinting, thrusters, kettlebell swings, and yes, air squats and push-ups. It's a great workout.
posted by dubitable at 3:27 AM on January 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Is this much different to rugby training where you alternate sprinting and jogging until you vomit?
posted by pompomtom at 3:29 AM on January 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yes, and I have to add, as a nice bonus going up 3-6 flights of stairs now is a piece of cake. I barely start breathing heavily even taking them two steps at a time. I definitely credit this to interval training.
posted by dubitable at 3:29 AM on January 20, 2013


I'd definitely agree with the idea of pain in high intensity workouts. Back in my salad days When I was überfit and towards the end of training for a sports tour the coach split us into pairs, lined each pair up long the touchline and put a line of markers 15 metres away opposite us.

The deal was you sprinted to the markers and back as fast as you could. As soon as you got back the other member of your pair set off. When he returned, you set off. When you returned he set off. I don't recall how long we repeated it for, but I'd have fed my grandmother to a threshing machine to have got it to stop.
posted by MuffinMan at 3:50 AM on January 20, 2013


Could you explain and/or cite please?

Certainly. While muscle activation in the muscles used for strength exercises (like a squat) is high, it is constrained to just those muscles. Unweighted squats don't stress the shoulders, back, core muscles, or really much of anything other than the quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes. Similarly, pushups don't stress any of the leg muscles. You could just flat alternate between them, but then you're not following the timing.

People confuse the Tabata protocol's timing (20 seconds on, 10 seconds off) with the protocol itself, which used a "a mechanically braked cycle ergometer" to stress the cardiovascular system. Also, the protocol relies on exercising at 170% of VO2 maximum effort.

VO2 Max is the maximum amount of oxygen that your lungs can uptake. So the people in the study had their VO2 maximum tested, and then exercised at 170% of the effort required to reach that point. Its an enormous amount of effort, and not easily replicated. Notice how the people in the video were talking the whole time? That's an indication that they weren't at their aerobic maximum, never mind at 170% of that effort. "The idea is that if you can still carry on a conversation while training, then you're not overly taxing your cardiovascular system."

"Because 8 sets of 20″ hard/10″ easy is NOT the Tabata protocol and body-weight stuff or the other stuff that is often suggested simply cannot achieve the workload of 170% VO2 max that this study used. It may be challenging and such but the Tabata protocol it ain’t."
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:57 AM on January 20, 2013 [11 favorites]


HIIT is great stuff for raising your VO2 max and AT. Folks like Mackenzie and other xfitters that think this is a replacement for LSD are neglecting the fact that a) the people switching from LSD to HIIT have a great aerobic base to begin with, and b) end up deconditioning their aerobic pathways if HIIT is all they do.

Maffetone covers this pretty well in his book. The benefit of raising your AT is that you can run faster without flooding your system with lactic acid. It makes sense that folks like Kenyans with a lifetime of aerobic conditioning would respond well to raising the AT, as described in the last article.

There's no such thing as a free lunch. If you want to run fast and far, you've got a lot of work ahead of you.
posted by bfranklin at 4:16 AM on January 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


It feels like your legs are giving birth. It feels like you've got an eight-martini hangover in your calves.

400m hard out will produce exactly the same result.

Yeah as a runner I sort of laugh at these inventive ideas for getting in shape. It seems people will do anything to avoid running.

Regardless of your physical condition, running offers you all you need - and more. You want a quick, high intensity work-out? Run 400m as hard as you can, walk 100m. Repeat until you've had enough. Vomiting is optional. It's a whole body exercise that'll make even your eyelids hurt.

Best of all you don't need tp pay any coach, you don't need to buy any gym membership: all you need are a pair of shoes and some appropriate clothing for the weather.
posted by three blind mice at 4:37 AM on January 20, 2013 [12 favorites]


three blind mice: "It seems people will do anything to avoid running. "
Most likely because it fucking sucks.
posted by brokkr at 4:43 AM on January 20, 2013 [114 favorites]


It seems people will do anything to avoid running.

Did you read the links? It sounds like you didn't read the links.

Perhaps you'll be more successful commenting if you read the links.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 4:49 AM on January 20, 2013 [20 favorites]


Holy hell, that Wingate test thing is pure evil. When I was in college, one of the departments had it set up as something you could try, and I think maybe one of the physiology classes offered you mild extra credit if you tried it out. One of my roommates did, and pronounced the suffering so intense (and yet so brief) that, from that point on, taking the Wingate test was the Biggest Wager You Could Make in our circle of friends. Forget money, or embarrassing tasks, or whatever, just: "loser takes the power output test." It was perfect, because it was something you really, really didn't want to do (especially after trying it), but it also didn't have any lasting ill effects, was over in 30 seconds, and at the end of it they gave you a little printout saying your peak power was xxx Watts or whatever.

I think the best part about this was the look of befuddlement and wonder on the face of the person in charge of the power output test, when you revealed that you were a) not a student in a class for which this was required/encouraged and b) weren't any sort of athlete, and c) had done it before. That strange look -- you could tell the attendant was thinking, is this person a masochist? is he insane? who the hell does this voluntarily? -- was part of the wager.
posted by chalkbored at 4:55 AM on January 20, 2013 [23 favorites]


Just woke up and haven't stopped laughing yet re: the notion that vomiting is somehow a sign that you're doing something right.
posted by indubitable at 5:09 AM on January 20, 2013 [15 favorites]


Thank you for the exhaustive post, the man of twists and turns.

A different perspective, from Steve Magness at Science of Running:
(this article touches on both crossfit and tabata, I'll ignore the general crossfit stuff here)
A major problem with research studies is that they are all short term. It’s the nature of the beast. But let me pose a few questions to all of you.
What does the typical recreational endurance athlete do?

If you answered jog around or do easy and moderate runs with little hard workouts you’d be correct. Most recreational runners for instance simply go run. Why does this matter?
What happens when you take people just doing mileage and add intensity?

If you answered they improve over a short time, you’d be correct! Think back to your HS days when you spent a summer building a base of almost just mileage and then you hit the season and your coach starts throwing interval training into the mix. You get a nice boost in performance right? This is essentially what happens in these research studies. They take recreational runners who just do easy/base stuff and then throw 6 weeks of training hard on them and they improve. Ask any coach and they’ll say this is just a simple old school peaking/training program. In fact, it might resemble your typical HS application of Lydiard training.
Many coaches, starting, really, with Arthur Lydiard in the 1960s, have observed that high-intensity running is a quick way to get you very, very fit-- to a point. After a certain point, doing only high-intensity, quick efforts, you will stop improving very much. The time period I always hear is about 8-12 weeks; I think this is likely very individual, and probably depends a tremendous amount on your current level of fitness.

Lydiard proposed a system of aerobic (low intensity/jogging) base work over a period of months, followed by a short period of higher-intensity efforts.
In the base training phase of his system Lydiard insisted, dogmatically, that his athletes—not least 800 metres athlete Peter Snell—must train 100 miles (160 km) a week. ...After laying such an arduous endurance base Lydiard's athletes—including Murray Halberg, Peter Snell, Barry Magee and John Davies—were ready to challenge the world, winning six Olympic medals amongst them in the 1960 Rome Olympics and the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Snell who, after retiring from athletics in the mid-1960s went on to obtain a PhD in exercise physiology, stated in his autobiography No Bugles No Drums that the marathon-conditioning endurance aspect of Lydiard's training was the primary factor in his success as a world-beating middle distance athlete.
I don't think that it's an accident that most of the top marathon runners today spent their childhoods running to and from school, upwards of 10 miles/day several days a week.

Now, I know most people reading this post are more concerned about what this means for general health, not what's going to get us to the Olympics, and whether something is the optimal thing from a performance standpoint is entirely beside the point of what is optimal for a lifetime of good health and fitness.

I think that Magness's general point that most of the studies on HIIT (or any other type of training) are very short-term is an important one; Even if HIIT improves your health/fitness over a 8-12 week period (which I don't doubt) I do think there is some question over whether it is the optimal approach over a lifetime. I am no scientist of any type, just a 'hobby jogger' with a reading habit. I do look forward to increased research in this area; it seems to me that there is still a lot we don't know about the best way to improve cardiovascular and overall health vis a vis exercise.
posted by matcha action at 5:14 AM on January 20, 2013 [22 favorites]


I'm a big fan of HIIT for weight loss, but I (a complete non-athlete) did notice the comparatively poor aerobic improvements vs. a running regimen.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 5:29 AM on January 20, 2013


Being healthy is important.
posted by Damienmce at 5:54 AM on January 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


I took a VO2 max test once, and don't remember it being that hard, but then again, maybe I should be happy there wasn't a mirror there.

Regardless of your physical condition, running offers you all you need - and more. You want a quick, high intensity work-out? Run 400m as hard as you can, walk 100m. Repeat until you've had enough. Vomiting is optional. It's a whole body exercise that'll make even your eyelids hurt.

I pretty much can't run except on a treadmill while I weigh over 200 lbs (I'm over 6'1", but have an extremely thin skeleton), and I can't even run on a treadmill at my current weight. I shouldn't say can't run, what I should say is that the probability that I'll have an injury that derails most of my fitness gains or weight loss before I achieve any kind of lasting goal is close to 100%. Don't get me wrong, I think running is great for most people, and I used to run cross country in high school and for general fitness in my twenties. But there are times when you need to break out the more expensive and/or boring options (rowing machine in my case).
posted by BrotherCaine at 5:57 AM on January 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


I run 3-4 times a week and have for the last three years (still new to this running thing). I typically run for about 30 - 60 minutes. 5 km to 10 km. I'm 32 and I have not as yet experienced any major injuries. I'll stick with this program as it seems to be working for me.

If running until you throw up works for you. Well, I'll leave you to it. That's just not for me.
posted by Fizz at 6:02 AM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


My cross-country coach in High School was a big fan of fartleks. Run as fast as you can for a half mile, walk for a minute. Sprint, walk it off. Sprint, walk it off.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fartlek#Fartlek_in_American_culture
posted by entropos at 6:10 AM on January 20, 2013


Backpack in my cross-country days we had interval exercises wherein we would run a quarter mile and then walks one. The trick was you were supposed to run the quarter in under a minute and you were supposed to do so the whole practice. And yet that still doesn't sound as bad as this.
posted by grimjeer at 6:48 AM on January 20, 2013


We learn to fight the war by fighting the war.

Back in September, I could barely run 400m without vomiting. Since then I bought a rowing machine and have started running the 7km from the top of the hill where I live to the river and back (650' down, 650' back up again). I can do that now and not be gasping at the top of the hill. I can run (pretty slowly) for an hour and still have gas in the tank. I dunno if I could have been any more efficient about it but just doing it works.
posted by unSane at 6:55 AM on January 20, 2013


Part of my theory of why people don't like HIIT is their desire to look really cool and fit while training in public, while the goal of HIIT is basically to sprint as fast as you possibly can and then collapse looking like a sissy.

I don't wear real workout clothes, and the expressions I get from onlookers tend to convey "what the hell is that guy running from/why is he running at me, is he a criminal?" or "what is wrong with him, is he dying?"
posted by crayz at 7:01 AM on January 20, 2013 [22 favorites]


I've had really good experiences with HIIT, especially as part of boxing or martial arts workouts. It can really depend on your health, age, fitness, and what you expect to get out of your exercise regime, but I'd recommend it to anyone that's able to handle it.

It helps to have a goal, and someone pressuring you to continue. I just don't have the willpower to regularly push myself until I feel like I'm dying. Part of what can be so effective about partner exercises like sparring is that someone is there to smack you on the head if you slacken the pace.
posted by Stagger Lee at 7:05 AM on January 20, 2013


and whether something is the optimal thing from a performance standpoint is entirely beside the point of what is optimal for a lifetime of good health and fitness.

Periodization: microcycle, mesocycle, macrocycle. Runners will know this as the base/speed/taper/race/recover paradigm. Probably too much to go into here.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:07 AM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I never understand when people start debating minutiae without first setting goals. If all your trying to do is be in "better shape" than the average American couch potato, then pretty much any exercise program will work. If you are trainin to become an Olympic sprinter, then having a very specific workout plan tailored to that probably makes a difference. But few of us are doing that, so it doesn't really make sense for us to copy Usain Bolt's training regimen.

Also, the "normal" workouts that he article suggests we drop in favor of HIIT seem sort of laughable. Biking at 10mph for an hour? Even the most casual cyclist is going 50% faster than that and 2-3 times as far on a typical ride. If HIIT is better than an arbitrarily easy workout, that doesn't say much.

By why do we exercise? Because we enjoy it? Because we want to be "fit"? Because we want to be attractive looking? Because we want to live longer with fewer health problems? Because we want to win competitions? I don't see how anyone can determine what the best workout for him is until these questions are answered.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 7:24 AM on January 20, 2013 [30 favorites]


Metafilter: Probably too much to go into here.
posted by Appropriate Username at 7:34 AM on January 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


The effectiveness of HIIT vs. LSD type workouts really depends on what your goals are. A marathoner who only does HIIT will generally decondition their aerobic pathways and end up worse at marathoning. Top endurance athletes HAVE tried MacKenzie's protocol--but gave it up when their times ultimately got slower (or were sidelined due to injury, but that's a Crossfit problem, not an HIIT problem).

Someone who is into lifting or power/speed-based work, or wants to go up the stairs without huffing, will likely do just fine with HIIT/"metabolic conditioning" style workouts.

One should also distinguish between the effects of these protocols on the newly-trained, and the effects of the protocols on the highly conditioned. Say you are very non-competitive in the marathon. Maybe you did an online marathon program once, maybe elliptical, maybe you jog around the blog sometimes. But your marathon was pretty much a shuffle. Then you take on a high-intensity program of Tabata work and lifting, and this is the first time you've ever been on any kind of structured, effective, high-effort programming. Your marathon time will almost CERTAINLY improve, simply because this is the first time your body has ever been put through a sane fitness program.

Now take the top-class marathoner. They've been doing it for years. They've tried many protocols. If they're in a rut, and they drop the LSD work, they'll probably feel awesome for a bit simply because the oxidative/anaerobic pathway stress isn't something they're used to and they're getting a psychological and physical break from the mileage. Maybe their first time will even improve. And then, maybe six months, maybe a year later, as the huge aerobic base built by those years of training starts to wither, the times will stop dropping. And if you're NOT in a rut and have been improving with your LSD work then you are probably going to be very disappointed by your next run.

Easiest way to pick the best protocol for yourself is to estimate the length of time your "work" period is in the target activity, then center most of your cardio-type work around that length of time. But make sure a certain percentage of work is devoted to stuff that's outside your main purview, because ultimately you need all of your pathways, just in different percentages.
posted by schroedinger at 7:48 AM on January 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


Former competitive runner here...mainly a 5000m and 10000m runner. I can say that when I was at my best 10 shape (right around 30 mins flat) I was doing short, medium and long stuff in weeks of 90-100 miles or more. Sample week:

Mon: 30 mins easy
Tues am: 30 easy pm: 15x400m at 62-63 sec with 200m jog rest
Wed: 70-90 mins steady (6 min mile pace)
Thurs am: 30 mins easy pm: 5 miles at 5 minute mile pace within 70 minute run
Fri: 70 mins steady
Sat am: 20 min easy, 5-6x mile in 4:40-4:45, 20 easy pm: 30 mins easy
Sun: 15-20 miles steady

Basically, if you want to run fast you do high intensity, you do race-pace stuff, you do long stuff. Running brings specificity of training - if you're a runner you run. I always noted that high intensity training and racing was where I dropped weight. I'd be hanging on to winter weight through a base period and then get on the track in the spring and drop 5 pounds - significant when you weigh 145 and are 5'10".

I'm a big advocate of running easy base mileage at first for rec runners (or rowing/riding if you're heavier as I now do to get extra work in without hurting yourself) and then adding faster stuff as you're ready. The faster stuff will really bring the nervous system coordination, strength and speed out, and will drop weight when done consistently.
posted by jimmythefish at 7:51 AM on January 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


Lydiard proposed a system of aerobic (low intensity/jogging) base work over a period of months, followed by a short period of higher-intensity efforts.
The Welsh Rugby Union team tried a similar approach using the infamous Spala training camp and cryogenic baths to enable more intensive training.
As a result they were easily the fittest team at the recent World Cup.

Still lost though
There's no training regime for being fucking Welsh
posted by fullerine at 7:53 AM on January 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


I don't believe anything that comes out of "fitness science" (nor "nutrition science") until the metastudies have done it to death...and sometimes not even then... But this all sounds like it's worth a try at least.

Tangentially, I've been wondering whether the stuff about the deadliness of sitting (which I also don't believe, but do wonder about), and wondering whether that meant that lots of low-grade exercise (even so low-grade as just standing) was the ticket... That's not necessarily at odds with this stuff, though.
posted by Fists O'Fury at 8:00 AM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Arguments about exercise regimes on Metafilter look a lot like arguments about the ideal diet. I think you know what I mean.

Personally, when I'm not at my weekly gym vacation (I like the sauna part) I run really really fast for as long as I can take it and then walk, not because I know anything about lactic acid and slow-twitch muscles or anything, but because I'm pretty sure repeatedly jog-pounding my sixty-year-old knees into the sidewalk doesn't do them much good. Plus, when I'm running, I like to pretend that I'm flying because I'm kind of immature. (And it helps with lucid dreaming.)
posted by kozad at 8:30 AM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Just a few days a friend brought up this research program, which looks at the effects of a mere 20 seconds three times a week of max intensity effort. Sadly they haven't formally published anything yet, but at least according to my friend it was interesting (and certainly different from the traditional view of how to exercise). My impression was that the theory is that 20 seconds 3x a week is enough to trigger mechanisms where the body prefers to store energy in muscle instead of fat tissue.

I would not be terribly surprised if it actually is something to this, since the benefits of exercise seems to be much more than what you would expect from merely the amount of calories burned in say 1 hour of exercise. (It made me decide to add 20-30 seconds of maximum efforts to the end of my exercise sessions anyway.)
posted by Baron Humbert von Gikkingen at 8:31 AM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I first learned about Tabata and HIIT here on mefi about a year ago, and I can say without a doubt that it changed my life. I'm in my late 40s with two young kids, and I was coming to the realization that I wasn't going to be able to be the kind of physically active parent I wanted to be unless I made some changes.

I had gotten a stationary bike and was doing 3 30 to 40 minute rides a week and had started a modest body-weight workout routine. After 3 months or so, I had plateaued at a point where I could average about 20 mph on the bike in the target heart rate zone and do a routine of about 3 sets of 8 pullups and 4 or 5 sets of 30 pushups, and some crunches & planks, but my energy level wasn't really improving and my weight was staying steady at 198 on my 5-11 frame. When I'd play soccer or tag with the kids, I'd get winded easily and had no burst of speed whatsoever.

After reading a few threads on the blue & green about the Tabata protocol, I decided to give it a go in February '12. I did a little more research on my own and worked into it slowly. It took about 5 weeks to work up to the full 8 intervals. At the same time, I modified my diet to eliminate simple carbs. No calorie counting, just an effort to be mindful of everything I ate. The first thing I noticed, about 3 weeks into working up to the 8 intervals, was that my discomfort threshold during exercise had risen dramatically. This meant that I was able to break through the plateaus in all of my routines. By the time I was the full 8 Tabata intervals 3 times per week, I was doing 4 sets of 12 pullups, 5 sets of 40 pushups, had doubled my plank time, and could maintain 22 mph on the bike for 30 - 40 minutes at the same target heart rate that I had at 20 mph before. All I have is anectdotal evidence, but I'm positive that I made substantial gains in aerobic as well as anaerobic capacity.

By June, my weight was down to 180 and I felt fantastic. Love handles were gone, my skin looked better, bags under the eyes were gone, nagging aches in my neck and lower back were gone. I was sleeping straight though 8 hours a night for the first time in years. I was able to outrun my kids. My energy level felt as good or better than it did in my 30s.

At the one year mark, I still do Tabata on the stationary bike 2 to 3 times a week and usually just do one 30 to 40 minute aerobic ride (output at target hr has continued to improve). I've kept the same diet and gotten into a more sophisticated workout routine. I've added muscle mass, and my weight stays in the 185 to 187 range. I've tried other Tabata workouts like burpees and kettlebell swings, and I think they have their place for some people, but I prefer the bike, primarily because the risk of injury is much lower when you reach the failure point and form breaks down, which is inevitable if you are doing a true Tabata workout.

I've recommended Tabata and other types of HIIT to a few friends, especially those who feel they've gotten into a rut or hit a plateau. Some have had great results, some had modest improvement, and some just hated it and couldn't get into it. I'm not sure why it worked so well for me. Maybe I'm just naturally a sprinter and my body responds best to that type of activity. Maybe all I really got out of it was the ability to push through pain a little better in my workouts like when I was younger. Who knows? What I do know is that arguing about what type of workout is best is pointless. The best thing is that each person finds a rewarding routine that they enjoy and can stick with.
posted by gimli at 9:15 AM on January 20, 2013 [12 favorites]


Greg Amundsen, one of the early CrossFit celebrities, tried almost this same idea. The write-up for the CrossFit Journal is here [pdf].

What I got out of reading that is that there probably is something to the theory that it works better than you might think, but that it might not be the best way to train for pros. And that not running 100 miles does not adequately prepare you for the sheer punishment of running 100 miles.
posted by ctmf at 9:28 AM on January 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


three blind mice: "It seems people will do anything to avoid running."

the man of twists and turns: "Did you read the links? It sounds like you didn't read the links. Perhaps you'll be more successful commenting if you read the links."

Well, I've read the main link. It's called "The Case Against Jogging," and claims that it's better to run for two and a half minutes than to run for forty-five minutes. So, uh. Is there anything in any of the other links that contradicts the claim that running less in a different way is better than running more?

I don't know. I don't think this is about laziness. But I swim half an hour a day, and this is telling me I should cut that down to two and a half minutes, too. I don't think it's that weird to be skeptical.

Also, ctfm's link makes a lot of sense to me, generally. It seems like a useful part of a regimen. I don't know that it's an entire philosophy. And, yeah, I like running / swimming longer distances, maybe just because that's the kind of workout I prefer, and I'm still tempted to feel that there's some benefit to them. And I'm skeptical to claims that there isn't. (Characterizing long-distance running as just "jogging" kind of bugs me, too; if you're actually not running at any real and practiced pace, then yeah, there's not a huge amount of point.)
posted by koeselitz at 10:09 AM on January 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


And that not running 100 miles does not adequately prepare you for the sheer punishment of running 100 miles.

Exactly. I read through the Outside article on crossfit and marathoning last month and while I appreciate the notion that CrossFit can get you very fit, I agree with the other perspective in the article that says elites must do whatever it is their sport demands on a regular basis through specificity.

The notion that says you can run a 3:20 marathon and do limited running is fine, and 3:20 sounds pretty fast to most people. But, as someone whose goal was more like 2:20 when I was running, I can safely say that 2:20 marathoning can only be accomplished with lots of running.

The elite groups that are running the best right now (Salazar in Oregon, who trains both Mo Farah and Galen Rupp - 1-2 in the last Olympic 10,000m) is to do as much running as possible, and supplement that with enough strength training to address any weaknesses the athlete seems to have when running. The program involves so much hard running that all possible gadgets to keep them running are used, including alter-g treadmills which can support up to 100% of your body weight when running to facilitate running even when severely injured, and pool running for increased resistance. The bottom line, however, is: running.
posted by jimmythefish at 10:10 AM on January 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


Most likely because it fucking sucks.

I'm annoyed by and fascinated with this pervasive proud laziness and refusal to be a human animal. What do you think long legged bipedal apes are built for? Running gets you high. It doesn't score you an antelope anymore, but do you really think that all of these distance runners are vain masochists? Do you think people run across the Sahara just to piss you off?

Barely apropos of anything, there was a park trail I used to run on about every other day. Last summer here in Texas when it had just started to be 110°+ every day I started seeing this guy, my height about 5'7" but in the neighborhood of 350 lbs. Every time I ran I saw this guy, which means he was out there nearly every day. At first he'd stop running and avoid eye contact when anyone came around the bend, but by the end of the summer he had the runner's nod down. I was running 40 or 50 miles a week at the time and he made me feel like a slacker.
posted by cmoj at 10:39 AM on January 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


I'm annoyed by and fascinated with this pervasive proud laziness and refusal to be a human animal. What do you think long legged bipedal apes are built for?

We're built for lots of things. Some of us are built for running and really enjoy it. Others are not and enjoy the many, many other means of exercise that are out there. I personally don't love running, but I do it to stay in shape for sports that I do like, like ultimate frisbee and volleyball. I am fortunate to have a girlfriend who, like you, enjoys running, so she gets me going out for a jog several times a week.
posted by Aizkolari at 10:49 AM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm annoyed by and fascinated with this pervasive proud laziness and refusal to be a human animal. What do you think long legged bipedal apes are built for?

Calling it a "pervasive proud laziness" is a pretty unfair judgment, and isn't a particularly constructive way of encouraging people to become more active. For many, as Aizkolari mentions, it's just too damned hard on their bodies (especially 40-50 miles a week -- consider yourself lucky if that doesn't cause you tremendous pain). Or they can't afford the expensive running shoes required to keep their knees in-tact -- it wasn't until I could afford nice running shoes that I could finally run longer than a mile, and I'm no slouch. Conversely, I know people who can swim extraordinary distances and bike 100 miles easily, who absolutely hate running.
posted by spiderskull at 11:02 AM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


My three-year old, who is the fittest person I know by far, follows the Playground System (tm)(c).

This basically consists of:
Walking/biking to the playground - Warm up phase
Running around like a crazed lunatic - High Intensity Phase
Slower, but still fast laps around the playground - Aerobic Phase
Contortions and stretches on the climbing structure - Flexibility Phase
Hanging on the swing - Cool-down Phase
Wriggling and squirming from Dad's arms while being force-carried home - MMA Phase (optional)

So, after I develop the infomercials for this system, the new fitness craze will be 'Find a 3 year old and follow her around the playground doing everything she does'.
Best fitness of your life, guaranteed.

(Be sure to obtain parental permission, else you will involuntary enter our advanced course - 'High Intensity Police Evasion')
posted by madajb at 11:05 AM on January 20, 2013 [33 favorites]


I had been running and doing triathlons for about 20 years when I got turned on to Crossfit and started mixing it in (that was about five years ago). I met MacKenzie in 2008 and attended his Crossfit Endurance seminar. His ideas have evolved since then, but the basic ideas are still the same. I've tried to follow his Crossfit Endurance training template twice since then. If you don't read carefully, or just read the magazine articles about MacKenzie like the one linked above, you'll get the impression that people are spending almost no time training. However, what MacKenzie is really talking about is more of a tradeoff of adding a lot more intervals and strength work and cutting back on your long days.

To give you a concrete example, in a typical Ironman triathlon training program for an age-grouper, you would spend about 15 hours a week actively training (meaning you are swimming, biking, or running). Out of that you might spend maybe two hours of that 15 working at high intensities in the pool or on the track. This is to get ready for a 2.4mi swim/112 mi bike/26.2 mi run. In MacKenzie's program, you would train more like 7 or 8 hours a week, but the amount of time spent doing high intensity work is much higher. When I tried to use the shorter version of the program for Olympic distance tris and half marathons, I found that my forty something year old body just couldn't maintain the training load and both times I ended up reverting to a more traditional program. It is also just psychologically very hard to go out almost every workout and work at redline intensities. I still do plenty of interval work by any traditional training metric, but still not nearly as much as MacKenzie prescribes.

The people I've seen locally who have had success with MacKenzie's programming all have a couple of things in common. One, they are already what you would probably consider elite (e.g. running 10Ks in the 30s, maybe winning their age group at races), and two, they are coming into it with a very long/large training base, like many years of traditional high volume training. And lots of race experience. I liked ctmf's comment about "not running 100 miles does not adequately prepare you for the sheer punishment of running 100 miles." I've done a couple of ironmans and a couple of ultramarathon trail races. As anyone who has done even one can tell you, the hardest thing is keeping food in your stomach. You can only learn what you can keep down in hour 10 of a race by doing those long training runs and rides and experimenting. And there are a lot of other things that you can only learn through experience, like dealing with blisters or running at night with a headlamp. I'm a big fan of HIIT and have taken 5 minutes off my 10K PR since I adopted it into my training, but feel like the articles in magazines like Outside and Triathlon that portray it as a silver bullet that takes little time and little effort are misleading.
posted by kovacs at 11:09 AM on January 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


"Also, the "normal" workouts that he article suggests we drop in favor of HIIT seem sort of laughable. Biking at 10mph for an hour? Even the most casual cyclist is going 50% faster than that and 2-3 times as far on a typical ride. If HIIT is better than an arbitrarily easy workout, that doesn't say much."

The most casual cyclists certainly are going at 10MPH or less for 10 miles. I'm not a casual cyclist, and my favorite ride is a 12-mile ride where I do 3 bridges in Brooklyn-Manhattan, and I probably average 12-14MPH.
posted by benbenson at 11:09 AM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


three blind mice: “Yeah as a runner I sort of laugh at these inventive ideas for getting in shape. It seems people will do anything to avoid running.”

I would think that "as a runner" you'd be interested in the ways different people do their workouts. jimmythefish had some great thoughts above about how this kind of workout can be incorporated in a regimen. There's nothing wrong with being inventive in coming up with ways to make yourself stronger, and it's pretty clear, as I said above, that none of this is about laziness.

You probably should give the links above more of a chance before being so dismissive. I'm a little skeptical like you, but I'm at least trying.
posted by koeselitz at 11:10 AM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Calling it a "pervasive proud laziness" is a pretty unfair judgment, and isn't a particularly constructive way of encouraging people to become more active.

I'm not talking about people with disabilities or different personal preferences. There is a not-uncommon dismissive attitude of LOL exercise that people have that I don't understand at all. Especially since all of the people that demonstrate this attitude that I can remember knowing are very into professional sports.
posted by cmoj at 11:42 AM on January 20, 2013


Said better, "I don't like to/can't run," is totally different from, "Running fucking sucks."
posted by cmoj at 11:43 AM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


> Being healthy is important.

I can't tell if that statement is facile or incisive.
posted by Monochrome at 12:46 PM on January 20, 2013


"Also, the "normal" workouts that he article suggests we drop in favor of HIIT seem sort of laughable. Biking at 10mph for an hour? Even the most casual cyclist is going 50% faster than that and 2-3 times as far on a typical ride. If HIIT is better than an arbitrarily easy workout, that doesn't say much."

This is only true if you extrapolate from their speeds when riding through pedestrian crossings against the lights.
posted by srboisvert at 12:54 PM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


While I have no doubt that high intensity workouts does wonders in a shorter time for helping your body , nonetheless, there remains something to be said for long steady runs that settle one down into an almost zen-like state of being in which ideas and insights develop and perspectives change on problems. I have a few friends who get their best ideas for books they are writing while running at a steady easy pace. That sort of thing can never be a part of HIT.
Why not then alternate?
posted by Postroad at 1:06 PM on January 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Said better, "I don't like to/can't run," is totally different from, "Running fucking sucks."

True. The first is an opinion, whereas the second is a fact.
posted by MrBadExample at 1:23 PM on January 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm going to put on my calendar an alert to write a book in 30 years, when HIIT is de rigueur (so to speak) due to ever-diminishing free time and the moral virtue of suffering that our American work ethic so successfully instills. Sensible health will have become synonymous with brief but intense bouts of pain, puking, and collapse. Against this background, my book will introduce this awesome new exercise regime, which gains you a large percentage of the health gains conferred by the usual pukeathon -- but instead merely consists of loping along at comfortable pace, often through a nearby park, for 30-40 minutes every other day. You too can become nearly as fit as your gasping, retching peers, but in an entirely enjoyable way that is nearly as easy as walking! Of course, no one will believe it -- how can such plodding possibly make you healthy? -- so I better start documenting the diminishing practitioners soon. But alas, I'm probably too lazy for that, mere jogger that I am...
posted by chortly at 2:21 PM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Said better, "I don't like to/can't run," is totally different from, "Running fucking sucks."

True. The first is an opinion, whereas the second is a fact.


Alright, I'm gonna go ahead and go back to my original "proud laziness" reading.
posted by cmoj at 2:38 PM on January 20, 2013


I'm gonna go ahead and go back to my original "proud laziness" reading.

There is a middle ground, you know. I understand why some people love running. And that's great for them. The zen-like state that Postroad mentions, for me that happens in the pool. My attention goes to feeling the resistance of the water against my limbs, and the rhythmic quality of propelling myself through the water allows part of me to go on autopilot while I get in touch with my inner fish. I don't have to pay attention to the pool, I know when to make the turn, my mind can go elsewhere, and I crawl out of the pool afterwards feeling spent and awesome at the same time.

I experience the same thing sometimes in spin class. On the road I'm so focused on watching for traffic and other hazards, I don't have the luxury of going into that state, but in a dark room on a spin bike, I can really get in a zone, marveling at the amazing things our bodies can do.

Ask me to run? Oh no. No, no, no. I can handle jogging on asphalt for long enough to get my four year old mastering his big kid bike. But my body hates running. Mostly it's my knees and, frankly, my breasts. Two pregnancies left me FIVE cup sizes bigger than I started, running is just really uncomfortable on a physical level. Don't even get me started on finding a decent sports bra when you have a really unusual bra size.

For me, personally, running fucking sucks, and laziness has fuck-all to do with it.
posted by ambrosia at 3:07 PM on January 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


Said better, "I don't like to/can't run," is totally different from, "Running fucking sucks."

True. The first is an opinion, whereas the second is a fact.

Alright, I'm gonna go ahead and go back to my original "proud laziness" reading.


I can understand your frustration at MrBadExample's joke, but your reading is still unfair. Saying "running fucking sucks" is not the same as saying "lol fitness". I hate running. I'm 32 years old, 6'2" and around 210 pounds. I tried a very basic "couch to 5k" programme a few months back. During the second week my knees just gave up. I jacked it in and hobbled around for a couple of weeks. It was four weeks before I was confident enough to get on my bike or to do a kettlebell session. The thing is this: I still don't know why my knees gave in. Lots of people have told me it is because I don't have the right shoes. But what are the right shoes? Apparently I should go to a specialist shop and run on a treadmill so that my style can be analysed. Given that I can't run for any length of time how would that work exactly? Also, decent running shoes are expensive.

I think running fucking sucks but I like cycling and love swimming. A friend of mine is running the London Marathon this year and she agrees that running fucking sucks. My brother took part in a triathlon last year and I can't tell you the number of times during his training that he expressed the opinion that running fucking sucks. Laziness doesn't come into it.
posted by jonnyploy at 3:30 PM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


One, they are already what you would probably consider elite (e.g. running 10Ks in the 30s, maybe winning their age group at races), and two, they are coming into it with a very long/large training base, like many years of traditional high volume training.

Do you know how long they've followed the protocol and continued to see results? Like I said, my understanding is without the mileage eventually that big ol' base erodes and long-term performance suffers. Mark Twight is probably the most well-known name that's talked about this, but I've read other endurance athletes discuss it as well. I imagine the shorter the race the longer it takes for the effects to be seen.


Alright, I'm gonna go ahead and go back to my original "proud laziness" reading.

I mean, I'm in power/strength-based sports, and I really like doing those, and I don't have any problems pushing myself or working out. But I've never been able to run easy, even when I was doing triathlons. It was the worst leg for me. I never learned proper running technique, my breathing is all off, I lumber, it's just an awful experience and I don't have the cash or time to learn to run properly, especially when it's not my main sport. It's not all proud laziness.
posted by schroedinger at 3:50 PM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


jonnyploy: The thing is this: I still don't know why my knees gave in.

See a qualified PT, not a shoe salesman. No shoe is capable of correcting hyperextended knee posture, or internally-rotated femurs, or anterior pelvic tilt, or glute medius deactivation etc. etc., any one of which will cause knee problems. If you're tolerating these issues now, in 20 years you could find yourself making the same argument against walking.

You should reserve judgement on running, or any exercise, or hell any pursuit whatesoever, until you know you've made adequate preparation to do it right - and that includes the mental as well as physical labour. It's disingenuous and self-defeating to make a flawed attempt and then throw in the towel for good.
posted by Kandarp Von Bontee at 4:05 PM on January 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


This thread has digressed, so I will now join.
Running sucks for many of us, and not because we are lazy.
That beautiful smooth flowing run you see by talented runners, effortlessly floating across the landscape? That's not me.
If you saw me run, you'd scream STOP. It's ugly and it hurts, every step hurts.
Yet I was able to ride 8000 miles this year and complete 3 double centuries. It's just this: No running.

Back on topic; Yep, intervals (the old school term for this) help. I worked doing Chris Carmichael's Time Crunched Cyclist efforts last season, and I'm pretty sure they made it possible for me to get through my tougher rides.
posted by cccorlew at 4:11 PM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I took up running 4 years ago and absolutely hated every second of it for the first 2-3 years. Now I love it.

I think most people aren't going to go push through that hurdle though, it's pretty big.
posted by Dynex at 4:38 PM on January 20, 2013


"Do you know how long they've followed the protocol and continued to see results? Like I said, my understanding is without the mileage eventually that big ol' base erodes and long-term performance suffers. Mark Twight is probably the most well-known name that's talked about this, but I've read other endurance athletes discuss it as well. I imagine the shorter the race the longer it takes for the effects to be seen."

I don't personally know anyone who has done it longer than a season. Everyone I know who has experimented with the Crossfit Endurance stuff had a couple things in common: triathlete with one or more IMs or half IMs under their belt; enough crossfit to have an open mind about experimenting and open to MacKenzie's ideas; wanted to get ready for another IM or half IM; fast, but not fast enough to be sponsored or doing it for a living; didn't want to devote every weekend to the never ending long run/long bike/long brick grind. Way too many variables and a small sample size makes it really hard to draw any conclusions about long term viability. Maybe MacKenzie is collecting this data. I've followed Twight's raves and then rants about his experience with cutting out the longer stuff. It rings true for me. But I think there just isn't enough data out there yet.
posted by kovacs at 4:39 PM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I really enjoy a lot of exercise. I did martial arts for many years and loved it. I like lifting. I like riding my bike until I'm near falling over.

Running is the opposite of that, for me. I've never enjoyed it even a little, even when I was in pretty good overall fitness. It's not just laziness.
posted by flaterik at 4:52 PM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm what you might call a fitness runner. I'll head out three or four times a week and do about 10 mi/wk total. This is in combination with lots of cycling and some strength training. So as a person who runs, but isn't a really good runner, maybe I can bridge some gap here.

Unless you've been there as an adult who hasn't done vigorous exercise in a long, long time I suspect that most skilled runners can't possibly imagine how painful running can feel to those people. Your legs hurt, your chest hurts, and you're breathing so hard you feel like you're going to faint or literally have a heart attack on the spot. So saying something like "How can you not enjoy running, it's great!" rings pretty damn hollow when it's just about the most painful thing you can do short of stepping on a nail.

Similarly, if you're one of those adults I just described, it's hard to see how this could possibly be an enjoyable activity. People who run long distances must have super-human ability to tolerate pain, right? All I can say is that as you exercise regularly, slowly gaining fitness and losing a bit of weight, running (at a modest pace, at least) becomes far, far easier. It might take a year or two of regular effort for some people but, assuming you don't have other issues, running two or three miles at a moderate pace can actually feel pretty nice in that "It's good to feel alive" sort of way.

So let's try to keep in mind what it's like to run in somebody else's shoes, yes? Maybe?
posted by LastOfHisKind at 5:41 PM on January 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


The observation that exercise regimens are like diet regimens is very accurate - people seem to hold strong opinions with little or no evidence.

If I had a choice I'd exclusively rely on high quality studies for all of my exercise regimen, but sadly there is so much we still don't know, have not studied and will never study, and that means I must try to reason and intuit my way forward.

However, there are some things we do know, so there's no sense in holding onto myths - there's an accesible book by Gretchen Reynolds "The First 20 Minutes" that gives a very nice overview of where we are wrt. exercise science.

For the record, my interest is exclusively the effect of exercise on long-term health outcomes. I have zero interest in athletics for its own sake, which of course colors my approach.

What has not been mentioned so far, is that one of the big limitations of the lack of very long term HIIT studies is the impact on your muscle and skeletal system.

We do know, that one way in which you build bone (before 30) and retain bone is through impact, weight and vibration. When you jog, your leg bones (and spine) are jarred (vibrate), and sustain weight and impact for certain length of time.

Might it not be the case that you need that vibration, weight and impact for a minimum length of time per week in order to build and/or maintain bone health, and that perhaps, if you limit your workouts to a few minutes of HIIT that might not be enough? In other words, HIIT might have equivalent benefits to jogging for aerobic fitness, strength and speed - or perhaps even be superior - but long term, if all you do is HIIT with zero longer aerobic exercise that involves impact/weight/vibration, you might have sub-optimal bone health?

We also know that jogging maintains bone health in the leg bones (and lower spine), but does nothing for arm bones and other parts of the skeleton. Cycling apparently does even less. Therefore, for bone health of your entire skeleton, we do need something more than just jogging. I personally do jog, but also try to incorporate a bit of HIIT each week (plus some plyo). It seems to me limiting yourself to just HIIT might not be optimal (from a long-term health outcome point of view).

There are other things that jogging does. One measure of health, especially at older ages, is functional strength endurance and flexibility. You should have enough fitness to easily meet daily life physical challenges - getting out of bed, reaching higher shelves, moving luggage, running to the bus, etc.. Do HIIT and long aerobic workouts provide the same kind of fitness long term? What about other parts of the musculoskeletal system - tendons, joints etc.? Once upon a time people speculated that runners damage their knees, but research shows that that's not true, and that more likely running protects leg joints. Of course, there is always the potential for damage if you run on the wrong surface, have terrible form, bad shoes etc. - but the question here is what is better long term for the musculoskeletal system - HIIT or jogging (or both?).

I imagine there might be some advantages to getting the tendons and joints habituated to sustained usage at length, such as happens when jogging - if you strengthen your joints and tendons, you might benefit in your functional fitness and be able to f.ex. sustain longer walks and meet other physical challenges of life. Would just limiting yourself to HIIT give you the same kinds of benefits wrt. the musculoskeletal system? What about injury potential of HIIT vs jogging?

There are many unanswered questions about HIIT vs jogging from a long-term health outcomes point of view. Focusing exclusively on one (HIIT or long-aerobic) might not be optimal.

Then of course there is the somewhat disquieting recent research showing that the health benefits of exercise are definitely bell-shaped. We are talking about the most robust metric - all cause mortality. It transpires, that the curve is fairly dramatic - health benefits accrue very quickly from 0 exercise to about 20 minutes weekly and much more slowly with more quantity/intensity. Jogging more than about 20 miles a week starts INCREASING mortality; and jogging faster than about 7-8 minutes a mile also increases mortality. Those are pretty low numbers for many exercisers (myself included, in the past). Now, these are aggregate statistical results. I'm sure there are individual differences. We know for a fact, that the conditioning response to exercise, as well as many measures such as insulin, differ dramatically between people dependent upon their genes - there are many who actually appear not to respond to exercise at all (about 20% or so), many who respond only on some measures (such as insulin), and there are a few who are super-responders; but there appear to also be unfortunate souls who actually respond *negatively* to exercise.

Be that as it may, unless you get a full genetic workup, you may not know what the optimal exercise protocol for you is (and science has not progressed far enough to make it clear in any case). What to do then? And how does HIIT vs long-aerobic fit into that? And perhaps one protocol works for some while another protocol (say more HIIT) works for others.

The bottom line is that - as with nutrition - we have a lot of contradictory and tentative research out there, and relatively less evidence based recommendations. In the absence of such authoritative, data driven, science backed results, we should be careful not to succumb to the fad of the moment (HIIT) without clearly acknowledging that this is all speculation - strong statements like "against jogging" are probably not optimal, and unlikely to be true for everyone even if they happen to be true. Keep and open mind, and listen to your body.
posted by VikingSword at 6:18 PM on January 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think the 'does running suck or not?' thing is kind of a bit of a derail given that the principles of HIIT (or its opposite, though no one is really advocating only low effort all the time) can be more or less applied to any endurance sport, whether it's cycling or swimming or climbing.

I have been the person struggling to run for even a minute at a time and I've been the person saying, after 20 miles, 'yeah, why not, I could still do another mile'. I would never tell anyone who doesn't enjoy running or has physical issues that keep them from doing it that they should just keep at it, that one day they'll experience a moment of epiphany or whatever. If you enjoy it and if you want to get better at it, great. If you hate it, that's fine too, do something else.

For me, the health benefits I want to gain from running are very closely tied in to the performance aspects. I enjoy running but I doubt I would ever get out of my warm bed at 6:30 on a cold Saturday morning if I didn't have whatever current performance goal I have at the forefront of my mind. As long as I am improving, I am motivated; when my performance is stagnant, I lose motivation. For this reason I am always interested in research on training techniques, even though I am pretty much a middle-of-the-pack runner myself.

schroedinger and kovacs- I hadn't heard of Mark Twight -- I tried his website but I'm having trouble finding a concise summary of his experience with HIIT-type stuff- do you have any specific link recommendations? (google keeps thinking I am searching for Twilight. Uh, no.)

From what I am hearing, though, his experience sounds like what I would expect-- if you take someone with a really solid endurance base and add a bunch of high-intensity stuff and reduce the volume, you'll get a huge performance boost. (Lydiard advocated this type of thing, to 'peak' for a goal race). But as your aerobic capacity fades, you begin to stagnate. I think some level of periodisation is key if you are training for performance-- a period of high volume coupled with low intensity, a period of lower volume coupled with high intensity, and possibly a period of very specific intensity type work (marathon-pace runs if you are training for a marathon, for example).

One thing I find interesting about the "Outside" article linked in the FPP ("The Agony and the Heresy"): The author had a marathon PR of 3:45 (8:35 pace). He wanted to run a 3:20 (7:38 pace). He ended up running a 3:40 (8:23 pace).

There is a formula that says that if you have very good aerobic conditioning, for every time you double the distance you run, you should add 15 seconds to your pace-- so for example if your 5K pace is 7:00, your 10K pace should be 7:15, and your half-marathon pace (21K) should be close to 7:30, and your marathon pace (42K) should be close to 7:45.

Using that formula, his one-hour tempo run (7:15 pace for an hour is 8.275 miles) indicates that he has the speed to run a 7:45 pace for a marathon-- pretty darn close to the 7:38 pace he would need for his 3:20 goal. The problem is, like the vast majority of athletes, (myself included, if you can even call me an athlete) he is lacking the aerobic conditioning necessary to make that happen. I do wonder how he would do following accurately a conventional program-- I know it is just a magazine piece and I shouldn't speculate too much on his training, but I can't help but thinking that by addressing the muscle weaknesses/imbalances that are probably leading to his ITBS, by doing lots of slower running, and by doing a small amount of really high-intensity stuff, he could get much closer to achieving his goal.
posted by matcha action at 6:30 PM on January 20, 2013


The problem with stuff like HIIT is that you will absolutely destroy your joints and tendons and ligaments if you don't have a good base. Which you get by doing long slow workouts and gently stressing them so they get stronger. For months if not years.

Couch to 5K is a good beginner program because it builds you up slowly and gives you lots of time to build new and stronger tissue. HIIT is all well and good for people who already have that base but people who are thinking "should I take up jogging or cycling 3 days a week or this new fangled HIIT thing? It seems much quicker" are going to cripple themselves. There should be a disclaimer in all these articles.
posted by fshgrl at 7:01 PM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


So, what's an LSD workout? Is that the aerobic benefit of staving off a panic attack resulting from trying and failing to tie one's shoes for five minutes?
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:07 PM on January 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


LSD = long, slow distance. Also referred to as LISS = low intensity, steady-state. Basically, keeping your arse moving long enough to accrue chafe.
posted by Kandarp Von Bontee at 7:20 PM on January 20, 2013


schroedinger and kovacs- I hadn't heard of Mark Twight -- I tried his website but I'm having trouble finding a concise summary of his experience with HIIT-type stuff- do you have any specific link recommendations? (google keeps thinking I am searching for Twilight. Uh, no.)

Mark Twight is a former world class alpine climber who now trains people using a a lot of techniques, including HIIT, at his Salt Lake City gym, Gym Jones. He has recently put most of his content behind a paywall, and the original articles are no longer available on the public web, but he blogged a couple of years ago about his successes in ski mountaineering and bike racing from a more HIIT focused training regime. After about 18 months he concluded that his endurance base was eroding away and he went back to a blend of HIIT and longer, less intense workouts.

Twight covered in Outside magazine and recently in Velonews.
posted by kovacs at 7:58 PM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thanks kovacs-- I am very interested to read about his experience.
posted by matcha action at 8:00 PM on January 20, 2013


I'm annoyed by and fascinated with this pervasive proud laziness and refusal to be a human animal. What do you think long legged bipedal apes are built for? Running gets you high.

I am annoyed and not-at-all fascinated by people who refuse to accept that the feelings they experience are not necessarily universally felt. In the ten years prior to getting married I averaged 5-6 days/week of running. I did it to lose weight...I was too self-conscious for public places and I was able to find a weight-loss solution that worked for me relatively privately (thanks to a nearby little-used park). I worked my way up to regularly running over 30 miles/week and lost a great deal of weight. There was not a moment, not a minute that I enjoyed.

My tolerance for pain increased. My will-power to run increased. I ran because, for me trying to lose weight, it worked. But to say that running gets everyone who does it high...that is simply silly. To say that avoiding something that truly felt like a cloud over my day was some signal of proud laziness is so self-centered.

Running was a hated task that I learned to live with. Running has never felt natural, and I have done it so much. I will return to running, because it works. And when I do, it will be what it always has been...a fucking burden. You should realize that actually enjoying running that is a privilege that not everyone feels.
posted by Hypnotic Chick at 8:47 PM on January 20, 2013 [14 favorites]


Youtube has some pretty interesting videos of the Wingate test.
posted by funkiwan at 10:45 PM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


he problem with stuff like HIIT is that you will absolutely destroy your joints and tendons and ligaments if you don't have a good base.

Well, that really depends on the exercise and the person. Low-impact exercise, like on a rower or an Airdyne, is significantly less injurious than jogging. A lighter person is also going to experience less stress than jogging (similarly, a lighter person will not see the bone density building benefits of jogging a heavier person might because the stresses on the body are so much less).

Which is not to say a beginner should go right into HIIT, but a beginner doing low-impact HIIT is unlikely to be able to sustain the muscular recruitment and intensities necessary to injure themselves right off the bat, unless they're doing a complex movement extremely wrong (like a barbell complex).

VikingSword, your post makes a lot of assertions about jogging that really require a lot of clarification and caveats. For example, jogging and knees. Jogging, if done by a light person with perfect form, could build the muscular necessary for healthy knees. Jogging, as done by most sedentary overweight people, is accompanied by a host of muscular imbalances and movement dysfunctions that lead to all kinds of problems. Jogging is not inherently going to increase flexibility--talk to any runner about what will happen if they simply jog without doing mobility work with their hip flexors, calves, adductors, etc. It won't be pretty. And for newbies who tend to be even more inflexible jogging plus their movement dysfunctions will tighten them up further. Jogging is far from a panacea.

If you want to improve flexibility, bone density, and musculature, with relatively low risk of injury, you can't go wrong with a simple full-body lifting program. Provided your lifts are executed with good form, of course!

I remember hearing interviews with Reynolds when her book first came out, and while her enthusiasm was infectious her fitness advice wasn't great.
posted by schroedinger at 11:54 PM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Whatever works.

Personally, I don't do lots of mileage. I'm a decent runner but I'm descendant from other decent runners ending up with hip replacement surgery. F that.

I think everyone has the right to reject LSD or HIIT if it's not right for them.

But I also think everyone CAN find something that works. And it's usually as obvious as what's in your grocery cart.
posted by surplus at 9:15 AM on January 21, 2013


I'm annoyed by and fascinated with this pervasive proud laziness and refusal to be a human animal. What do you think long legged bipedal apes are built for?

What annoys and fascinates you is evolution. Animals, as a general rule, avoid expending energy unless it is necessary for survival e.g. finding food, reproduction, or escaping danger. Ostriches are very fast bipeds, but we tend not to see them out there in the plains trying to beat their 10k time or get a "runner's high".

Similarly, I do not think that bipeds are "built for running". The reason is that the fastest biped are nowhere near as fast as the fastest quadrupeds. Bipedal apes are built for bipedal locomotion. There is no indication that they are "built" for any particular pace, and the energy concerns discussed in the previous paragraph would indicate that they rarely run just as quadrupeds do.
posted by Tanizaki at 9:21 AM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Personally, I'm annoyed by and fascinated with people's profound anti-gym snottiness. "Why do you waste your time and money in one of those places? Just buy a pair of shoes and the world's your oyster!"

Well, because a pair of shoes and an oyster-world don't provide CHILD CARE, is why. Going out running with a 2-year-old is not exactly a recipe for any kind of high-intensity anything, except perhaps learning about all the different individual examples of leaves and bugs in the whole world.
posted by KathrynT at 9:30 AM on January 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


CHILDCARE "Going out running with a 2-year-old is not exactly a recipe for any kind of high-intensity anything, except perhaps learning about all the different individual examples of leaves and bugs in the whole world."

My best swimmer buddy gave up the pool (which had daycare) and she jogs pushing a 2-child running stroller. She might be a bit excessive. Her girlfriends all admire her on Facebook when she posts pics of her abs, but secretly they wish she'd get fat again.
posted by surplus at 10:44 AM on January 21, 2013


Jogging strollers only work if you live in a place with wide, well-maintained, empty sidewalks. I have a jogging stroller, and I use it often, but it's unsafe in the road and impossible to use on the sidewalks if there are lots of other pedestrians. Plus if it's cold outside, it can get really easy for a kid to get miserably frozen, since they aren't moving at all. A 2-child stroller is too wide for the sidewalks in my neighborhood, which are badly maintained and have a lot of tree encroachment.

(on top of all that, my 2-year-old is prone to respiratory infections, and he seems to be more prone to them when we spend a lot of time outside in Seattle winters. Cheaper to pay the gym fees than to pay the ER $4K to save his life when he gets croup, frankly.)
posted by KathrynT at 10:52 AM on January 21, 2013


Every serious athlete should use intervals because they sharpen your performance, but the gains are proportional to the base. You can get a quick spike in performance with HIIT but the height of the spike will be limited by the stuff that takes a lot of time -- there is no short cut. Consider for a moment that 70% of the energy in an anaerobic effort comes from aerobic sources. Aerobic fitness is the foundation.
posted by dgran at 11:09 AM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


What do you think long legged bipedal apes are built for?

Riding bikes. Seriously, it is the perfection of our evolution and running suits us about as well as swinging from branches.
posted by dgran at 11:11 AM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Low-impact exercise, like on a rower or an Airdyne, is significantly less injurious than jogging. A lighter person is also going to experience less stress than jogging

I'd disagree with both those points. Low impact stuff still uses your joints and your connective tissue and it's perfectly easy to hurt yourself on a rowing machine if you don't have the base fitness to be doing that. Especially at explosive speeds.

Also people who are heavy, their joints and bones have long since adapted to the extra weight. A program like Couch to 5K is designed to transition them to running safely. via jogging slowly for a long time.
posted by fshgrl at 11:24 AM on January 21, 2013


cmoj: "I'm annoyed by and fascinated with this pervasive proud laziness and refusal to be a human animal. What do you think long legged bipedal apes are built for? Running gets you high. It doesn't score you an antelope anymore, but do you really think that all of these distance runners are vain masochists?"

One: A lot of distance runners are vain masochists.

Two: Shin splints. Knees.

Maybe we're "designed" to run and hunt, but we're sure as hell not designed to run and hunt and live past 30.

I run a lot, and have done so for quite a long time. I've only gotten a runners high maybe 5 or 6 times. I know the sport well enough to know that I was certainly not "built" to be good at it. Often times, it's a profoundly painful experience, and my pitifully small lung capacity, short legs, and flat feet don't seem to help matters either.

For whatever reason, I can sustain higher power outputs on a bike or erg for much longer before wanting to keel over and die (and even at that, it's a different feeling of wanting to keel over and die). I still haven't figured out why running sucks so badly, but I'm gradually getting better at it.

fshgrl: "I'd disagree with both those points. Low impact stuff still uses your joints and your connective tissue and it's perfectly easy to hurt yourself on a rowing machine if you don't have the base fitness to be doing that. Especially at explosive speeds"

If you're rowing at anything that could be described as "explosive speeds," there's a damn good chance that you're doing it wrong. Maintaining a high power output on an erg does not actually require fast rowing. If you can practice proper technique and avoid hurting your back, rowing also stresses your joints a lot more evenly. Importantly, those stresses are also largely independent of your body weight.

Yes, you should occasionally consult with Somebody Who Knows What They're Doing, but I'd argue that rowing is a whole lot less-bad than running, especially if you're looking to shed some pounds.
posted by schmod at 8:09 AM on January 23, 2013


I'd disagree with both those points. Low impact stuff still uses your joints and your connective tissue and it's perfectly easy to hurt yourself on a rowing machine if you don't have the base fitness to be doing that. Especially at explosive speeds.

Also people who are heavy, their joints and bones have long since adapted to the extra weight. A program like Couch to 5K is designed to transition them to running safely. via jogging slowly for a long time.


This simply isn't true. Damage to joints/tendons/connective tissue generally can be acute or acquired over a long period of time. Overuse injuries can happen anywhere, but overuse and acute injuries are far more likely to happen when high impact is involved, such as when running. Especially on concrete and pavement like most runners will do. The whole reason Couch-to-5K works up slowly is an acknowledgement of this risk of injury.

Nobody is suggesting somebody who's never worked out before suddenly go at explosive speeds their first time on a rower. Learn good form first! The Airdyne is even easier to work up too, as it pretty much guides you as what your form should be. But somebody who wants to build up to HIIT quicker, needs to lose weight, and wants to avoid injury would simply be better off doing exercises that don't involve slamming against the ground over and over and over.

People injure themselves when a force is applied to the connective tissue in such a way that the body cannot resist it and gives in. You don't injure yourself via simply muscle contraction or by explosive work in of itself. An exception would be something like tearing a hamstring through sprinting--and someone new to exercise is very unlikely to have the neurological coordination and muscular development necessary for that to happen.
posted by schroedinger at 6:00 PM on January 23, 2013


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