Guest blog: Doing more with less: An alternative approach to training (for everything) for the ambitious amateur by Andy Magness

Guest blog: Doing more with less: An alternative approach to training (for everything) for the ambitious amateur by Andy Magness

Posted In: Fitness | Running | Triathlon divider 5 Comments »

There is a bit of a reliance on the ‘trickle down’ wisdom in training programs these days, particularly for those aimed towards people with ambitions of longer events. The routines of top athletes are tweaked, shortened or otherwise modified and then touted in magazines, online training programs, DVD’s, and the like.

A random sample of such programs targeted towards, say, marathon or longer distances, will have the following things in common – LOTS of volume, and an emphasis on the physical training. While these approaches can indeed work for those able to stick to them without getting injured, in my opinion at least, there is another way.

I’ve been personally experimenting with the effects of low-volume, higher-intensity training, as preparation for ultra-distance events for about three years now. During that time my weekly training time has been limited to under three hours for the first two years, two hours for the nine months after that, and is currently at only 70 minutes.

That’s right, I only train, on average 10 minutes a day. What’s remarkable though is that I’ve found that I’m still able to perform ‘well’ (by most people’s standards) at events ranging from multi day adventure races to triathlons to ultra distance runs and bike rides.

My success is based on three things – not any of which are likely ever to come out of the distillation of pro athletes’ workout regimens

  1. Cumulative gains (over years, not weeks and months) from a program where long term consistency is actually possible
  2. Excellent Return on Investment (ROI) from very short duration, high intensity training, and
  3. Proper emphasis being placed on the mental requirements necessary for any ultra distance effort.

Although I’m primarily interested in seeing how to maximize my endurance potential while minimizing my training time, these principles apply equally well for those who have more modest goals of getting fit and doing well at sprint triathlons, half marathons, or even 5/10 Ks.

In the next few posts, I’ll talk about each aspect in more detail and then describe how to put them all together to create your own custom workout plan to do more with less.

Happy training!

Andy Magness is a 37 year old amateur athlete and adventurer based in Grand Forks, North Dakota . He strives to find the balance between work, family, and an outrageous   desire to be fit enough to ‘do anything’.  His blog chronicles his attempt to ‘do more with less’.

5 Responses to Guest blog: Doing more with less: An alternative approach to training (for everything) for the ambitious amateur by Andy Magness

  1. simon says:

    Eric and I had a long chat about this article. While I find it interesting, I find it worrying. Nothing in life is free. This includes fitness. Obviously, fitness is relative as are personal athletic goals. When Andy says he does well in the events he competes in, he does say “by most people’s standards”. Completing events is fantastic, however I would simply advise caution before diving into an abbreviated training program. There is a reason that pros train as hard and as long as they do. With volume, and repetition comes improvement. To go with an abbreviated program without having years of fundamental base training in technique and endurance capacity, I cannot see great success, or even enhanced injury avoidance. So, as I mentioned at the beginning of my comment, fitness isn’t free, and if it’s an important goal to you, then it’s worth working for. As a final ancedote, I train with a number of masters aged runners in Calgary. Many of these athletes run between 4-8 hours per week and over the past 4 years have seen tremendous improvement and reductions in their PBs. To Andy’s point that consistency will bring improvement, I wholeheartedly agree, but I would advocate higher volumes.

    • EC admin says:

      Thanks for the feedback Simon. I love getting people’s point of view. Keep it coming!

  2. andy says:

    Simon – thanks for your input. It is hard to adequately display the seriousness of thought and research that i’ve put into my ideas in such a short post. I certainly don’t advocate anyone change anything that is working for them. Nor do i think that i’m suggesting things come for free – the truncated program that i use would be hard for most people to stick to because of the intensity required. there is plenty of research that shows that true HIIT can provide physiological changes similar to 10 times the amount of more traditional training, however. but most people can’t or don’t want to stick to HIIT day in and day out – it is very very hard. And again, the consistency is absolutely key. i hope you’ll stick around and comment on the other posts, and or check out some of the more lengthy pieces on my blog and continue the discussion.

  3. kim says:

    I have in the last year or so, started doing these short high intensity workouts…I am a single mom of three and training for hours just isn’t feasible. I’m not a competitive runner .. i run for sanity and fun (who knew i’d ever say THAT?!) i love, love, love weight training but don’t have time or funds for the gym. So, i discovered some workouts that give me full body strength and tone, push me hard and leave me sweating. All the while, watching form of course and including stretching. This past summer I did my first obstacle race..the Spartan Sprint and considering I don’t put hours and hours in, I did surprise myself in terms of strength and endurance. Again, I’m not training to beat any records..just a mom trying to stay healthy and strong ( and sane)..but high intensity, short workouts work for me!!

  4. andy says:

    awesome Kim! never done an obstacle race myself, but think i need to soon….

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