We’ve been talking recently about how periodicity in your lifting program – systematic alternations in the intensity and volume over time – can improve your results.  And we honed in on undulating periodicity as an advanced technique.

But what about runners?

Periodicity Is Not The Same As Progression

I previously wrote about how to incorporate progression into your cardio.  But progression and periodicity are not synonyms.  You can progress each week (for example, adding a 1/4 mile to each run, each week or improving your time a little bit each week) but that’s not periodized running.

A fake example “linear periodization” of running would be doing 4 weeks at a 12 min pace, then 4 weeks at a 10 minute pace, then 4 weeks at an 8 minute pace.

But runners know that linear periodization just doesn’t work. (So don’t follow the silly example of linear periodization!)

I realize that most of the people reading this site are much more focused on lifting than on running, as am I, but running still makes up a good part of conditioning and fat loss training for many of you.  So let me explain.

Runners Use Undulating Periodicity

Well, truth be told, runners figured out the value of undulating periodicity long before lifters/strength coaches.   But runners don’t call it “undulating periodicity”.

Take a look over at runnersworld.com and you’ll see countless training plans (in prep for 10k, half marathons, etc.) all of which vary the intensity throughout the week but showing progression over time.

Here’s an example week (more…)

Continue reading about Undulating Periodicity for Runners

Last week I described a running injury I developed and asked for your guesses about the cause.

Of course, there were many contributing factors.

I’m not a physical therapist or any kind of medical professional.  So this is all opinion based, not medically based.

But one stands out, because

a) it was the most significant

b) even the other factors might have contributed, each of them alone wouldn’t have caused this; in contrast, even without all the other factors the main factor probably would have resulted in injury all by itself.

The Main Cause

The main cause was simply (more…)

Continue reading about The Cause Of The Problem – The 3 Percent Rule

pic: Can you guess the cause of my running injury?
Can you guess the cause of my running injury?

I made a stupid exercise mistake last week.  One that could impact my fitness routine for months because of the resulting injury.  I want to share it with you, because hopefully you won’t repeat it.

Even though injury is no laughing matter, what I’d like to do is make this into a game of sorts.  What I’ll do is first, describe the resulting injury.  Then I’ll give you various facts about my exercise, eating, and lifestyle leading up to the injury.

Then you guess what the biggest cause of the injury was.

For some of you it will be obvious but for others not so much.  In this case, the injury was from running.  But lifters could make the same kind of mistake.

Everyone who leaves a reply will get a prize!  And the best answer (based solely on my opinion) will get an even bigger prize.

The Prizes

Everyone who posts an answer in the comments section at the end (by Wednesday), with their guess as to the most direct cause, will get a copy of my ebook called Train Better.  This 200 page ebook has some of the best WFN articles consolidated for you.

The best answer, in my opinion, will get Train Better AND will get a copy of my lifting routine Fat Burn Furnace.

Duplicate answers are fine, but if the “best” answer is given by more than one person, then the first person gets the routine.


Here’s What Happened (more…)

Continue reading about Can You Spot the Mistake?

chinese-squatter1If I were to say to a roomful of average Americans, “I’ve run 4 times a week, every week, for the past 10 years, without an exception, even when I was sick,” I’d get most of the audience nodding their heads in appreciation and admiration.  I’d probably even get some spontaneous applause and a few people would be so impressed they’d be speechless.

If instead, I said to that same room full of average Americans, “I’ve lifted weights 4 times a week, every week, for the past 10 years, without an exception, even when I was sick,” I’d get

-          Blank stares (confusion)

-          Frowns (disappointment)

-          Shaking heads (how could he waste so much of his time?)

-          Scoffs (“he must be so vain to be that focused on how he looks”)

-          Etc.

You get the picture.

The Average American Is A Running Snob

We’ve been conditioned/taught over decades that runners deserve admiration.

Don’t get me wrong – they certainly do deserve admiration.

But bodybuilders and strength trainers don’t get that same breadth of acceptance.  Instead, they get scorn.  Sadly, the steroid issue has tainted the whole weight lifting world to some degree, and quite unfairly.  I’ll save that diatribe for another day.

When most people think of the term “bodybuilding”, they think of hugely muscular men whose entire exercise routine rests on lifting weights in isolation movements. It’s a shame that the term bodybuilding has been pigeon-holed into a single class of exercise.  I love the term “body building” because that’s what all exercise is – building your body.

Of course, bodybuilders and strength trainers are themselves a snobbish lot. Both groups tend to dismiss runners with such phrases as “skinny-fat” or “non-functional” and “weak”.

And strength trainers look at traditional bodybuilders as vain timewasters, whose muscles are just for show.

So there’s plenty of snobbery to go around.

If you’ve read WorldFitnessNetwork for any length of time, you might guess that I put myself in a different snob group.  I’m a snob against two groups:

a)      People who do nothing

b)     People who do only one thing instead of combining running, body building, and strength training

So yes, I am still a snob.

How Am I A Snob

I shake my head when I see people who do nothing but cardio.  They look horrible (my opinion).  Plus as they age they are doing nothing to diminish sarcopenia.  They are setting themselves up for a retirement of helplessness.

I also have publicly ridiculed on this site people who do isolation movements (like biceps curls, leg curls, leg extensions, Nautilus machines) and are afraid to do squats or deadlifts and other compound, multi-joint exercises with free-weights.  Isolation movements are common for bodybuilders (so I try to use the phrase “body building” rather than “bodybuilding” to distinguish between people who build their bodies [body building] from people who compete in the sport of bodybuilding).

I’ve probably been less vocal about my problems with the pure-strength trainers, but what really offends me most about most strength trainers is their snobbery itself.

Strength trainers act like it’s a crime to use weight lifting to refine your appearance.  It’s not!  There’s nothing wrong with developing routines centered around developing a desired physique.

I have no problem with the workouts from strength coaches of course.  Except that pure strength training isn’t as effective, in my opinion, for refining your physique.

How Are You A Snob?

What are you a snob about?

Continue reading about Bodybuilding Snobs vs. Strength Training Snobs vs. Running Snobs

stopwatch-inverted-tabataTabata interval training could be credited with kicking off the recent craze towards HIIT – high intensity interval training.  This protocol was initiated by the Japanese performance researcher Izumi Tabata in 1996 and 1997 (Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, October 1996, Vol 26 and also March 1997, Vol 27).

The basic findings of his research was that in 4 minutes of work, you could get more cardiovascular benefits, and more fat loss, than in 60 minutes of steady state cardio (e.g. jogging).  That’s right:  4 minutes vs 60 minutes.

How is this possible?

By doing super high intensity interval training.  HIIT.

There are many summary articles available on the web if you don’t want to go back to the original research.  Here’s a summary (but this article is about a variation…):

His exact protocol was to stationary bike at your all-out fastest, 100% pace, for 20 seconds.  Then rest for 10 seconds.  Then go all out for 20 seconds. Repeat, etc.  until you’ve done 4 minutes total.  That’s it.  It’s so simple.  But…

Most people can’t do this.

When I say 100%, I mean 100%.  Not “hard running/biking”.  I mean all out, like a bear is chasing you.  Many people puke during this kind of training.

Because of this intensity, most people fall into two categories after they decide to try it:

a) they end up not really doing 100% in the intervals; they do like 80%, which destroys the whole purpose
b) they give up

I’m no different.  I don’t do Tabata because it’s too hard.  I’m not afraid to admit it.

But I have an alternate that I think you will like even better…

The Inverted Tabata

Before I describe this (and it’s pretty easy to describe), I want to say that it’s quite possible that I’m not the only one to come up with this.  I’ve been doing it since last year and decided to give it a name.

Maybe someone else has prescribed this before, but I did some web searches for “inverse Tabata” and “inverted Tabata” and even some “Tabata variations” and couldn’t find anything. [If you find something, please share it here so I can give credit.]  Anyway, it is my belief that this is the first time “inverted Tabata” is being documented and you get to read it as part of the worldfitnessnetwork.com community!  Ok, enough grandstanding.

It’s so simple, I was surprised nobody else talks about it.

Here’s all Inverted Tabata is:

  1. run full-on, 100% for 10 seconds
  2. shuffle (fast walk) for 20 seconds
  3. repeat at least 20 times, for a total of at least 10 minutes (but not more than 30 minutes)

That’s it!  All I’m doing is switching the times from “20/10″ to “10/20″.  Get it – inverse Tabata?

Of course warm ups are critical.  I do this by first doing dynamic stretches and then doing a 5 to 10 minute slow, steady jog.

If you have knee problems, do it on a bike.

The principle works for 15/30 or 20/40 too.  Personally, after experimenting, I find 15/30, at a total of 20 minutes, works best for me.  I also finish up with a 1 mile steady state jog so my total cardio on this days is around 45 minutes.

The key factors are

a) warm up
b) do your “rest” period for no more than twice the “intense” period
c) make sure you define intense as “all out”
d) don’t have your intense period last longer than 30 seconds or else you won’t really be able to go all out

But this is still really, really hard. For me, around cycle 15 or so, I have trouble.  I feel like my lungs are going to explode and that I might puke.  And even though I am going 100%, I’m not going very fast at that time.  I’m simply exhausted.  A hungry bear would certainly catch me.

If You Run Outside

Now, as a practical matter if you run outside, you probably don’t have a timer handy.  Of course, you can run with a stopwatch (I do).

If you don’t want to carry one around, some advance planning helps here.  But the exact seconds in each stage may end up shifting a bit.

  • Pick a starting point on your road.  Have someone time you the first time to see how far you can go in 10 seconds.  Mark that.
  • Shuffle (or fast walk) back to the starting point and do it again.
  • And again.
  • And again.  Each time marking off your finishing point.
  • After 10 times, you now have what is likely to be your average distance for all 20 cycles.  Consider that your end point.

So, for future Inverse Tabata runs, just sprint each time from your start to your end point and shuffle back.

Your initial sprints will likely be a little less than 10 seconds and your final sprints will likely be a little longer, but close enough.

Inverse Tabata With Weights

Now, for those of you who tried my fat-burning weight training workout, you’ll notice something.  It essentially is a HIIT with weights.  Go here to refresh your memory if you didn’t try it.  Essentially, it involves triple sets so that you are doing about 30 seconds intense, then 5 to 10 seconds of inadvertent rest as you switch exercises, then 30 seconds intense lifting, then 5 to 10 seconds of “switching cost” rest, then 30 seconds intense, followed by 60 seconds of real rest.

While that workout isn’t “inverted Tabata”, you could esily see how you can develop a routine that is.  I think I’ll try that mid-summer, after I complete the 5×5 workout I’m testing and will soon share with you…

So What’s the Science Behind This?

a) Izumi Tabata also tried intervals at 30 seconds intense, 120 seconds rest; that didn’t have good response (response is defined more fully in the scientific articles but let’s simplify here and think of it as oxygen capacity and total fat burn over 48 hrs)

b) I have no scientific studies to quote on how effective my inverse Tabata variation is compared to Tabata.  But I do have years of experience and common sense.

c) Since I haven’t heard of inverted Tabata before, I can’t find any science on it; and since I don’t have million dollar labs at my disposal, I can’t really test it.

So, you’ll have to try it yourself and see how it works.  Please note:  like any information on this site, what I write is purely for educational purposes and you should see your doctor before trying anything.  You need to take full responsibility for all your actions.

Do you do Tabata?  What do you think of this alternative?
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Continue reading about Introducing Inverted Tabata – Interval Training

Determined athlete running and thinkingThe other day my ipod shuffle wasn’t working so I did my run in “silence”.  The good news is that it didn’t affect my motivation or speed or anything.  The bad news is that I figured out I’m a pretty weird guy…

You see, without my audio, my brain simply started thinking (I hear that’s what brain’s do when left to themselves).


oh my God…

I’m insane.

I kept thinking the same things over and over.  Literally. It wasn’t a “worry thought” either – just a random thought about how my office is set up.  So I kept repeating the same phrases over and over.  “What if I moved my desk to the south side…. What if I moved my desk to the south side and repositioned my monitor… what if I repositioned my monitor… what if I moved my desk to the south side…”

I’m not exaggerating. This is what my brain did.  For miles and miles.

Now, I managed to force myself to switch to a new idea (which I also repeated incessantly like a woodpecker too dumb to know it was pecking a metal mailbox).

But around mile 4, that same freggin’ office thought came back and I couldn’t shake it for a mile.

Enough Of My Psychosis, What About YOUR Psychosis?

Now, you don’t read WorldFitnessNetwork to hear what a psycho I am.  But I’m guessing you are now curious about what kind of a “thinker” YOU are.

Here are few thinker types for you to consider.

Most of us will span a few of these, either alternating from day to day or even flitting from one persona to another in the same run.

To see which you are, make sure you are unplugging from your mp3 player – you can’t truly think with external input in your ears.

  1. The repeater – whatever thought pops into your head, you repeat it over and over; just when you think you’ve moved onto a new thought, you realize you are back to repeating the previous thought; this is me most of the time.
  2. The randomizer – you are like ADHD on cocaine.
  3. The workaholic – you go over your work.
  4. The planner – you think through your day ahead of time.
  5. The reflector – you reflect on how your day went (or about yesterday if you are a morning runner).
  6. The basketcase – you think about all the problems in your life and end up more stressed after your run than when you started.
  7. The perfectionist - you work over a particular issue ad infinitum and then rework it.  And rework it again.  And again.
  8. The freak – you might be one of these people who get all freaked out with the endorphins that come with running and start having odd visions and bizarre thoughts.  I won’t list examples here.  You know who you are.  And stay away from my road.
  9. The gamer – you count the cars that pass; or see how many drivers you can get to wave at you; or you search for all the walnut trees along your route.
  10. The milestoner – to make it through, you keep resetting distance markers:  “Just one more telephone pole”.  “Make it to the next mailbox.” Etc. until you finish your run.
  11. The elite master – you think about your form; your pace; how your legs feel; how your stride is; how the hair on your arms is affecting your wind friction (ok maybe not that).
Which one are you?  Or do you have another type I should add?
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Continue reading about What Do You Think About When You Run? – 11 Thinking Types

Runners need to lift weights.  And I mean heavy weights.  Even if you don’t want to be a bodybuilder, you need weights for strength training and for maintaining muscle mass.

1.    Improve Run Speed

You’ll notice your pace increasing when you add heavy weight training to your routine.  I’m not talking about a few casual sets of leg machines.  I’m talking about all-out squats with good form and maximum weight for sets of 6 to 8.  And fast deadlifts and squats will give you some extra power for your shorter runs.

2.    Improve Run Endurance

Doing 45 minutes of hard-core weight training, without too large a rest between sets, is really tiring.  Assuming your are lifting with intensity.  And I don’t know about you, but multiple sets of deadlifts leave me quivering and wanting to curl up in a dark room.  But I don’t stop – I keep going.  And that endurance, plus the added muscle fibers, increase your running endurance too.

3.    Burn More Calories

Yeah, 1 hr of running burns more immediate calories than 1 hr of lifting.  But adding 10 lbs of muscle will burn an extra 45 calories EVERY DAY EVEN AT REST.

4.    Running Erodes Muscle

If all you do is run, especially steady-state, long-distance running, your body will pull energy from your muscles.  This leaves you with less lean body mass.  Yet more muscle has been linked to reduced rates of cancer, increased done density, and a number of other important age-related health benefits.  And don’t forget that sarcopenia (the natural loss of muscle mass) starts in the your 30s and progresses rapidly after 50.  If you are only running, you are going to waste away.

5.    Prevent Injury

It should be obvious that stronger muscles prevent injury.

6.    Normal Life

Doesn’t involve a lot of running around unless you are under 12 yrs old.  And even then, it’s quick bursts of running, which is more strength than endurance.  Normal life does involve lifting things all day long.  To be sure, normal life likely involves sprinting, but how many of you are really sprinting as part of your runs, rather than jogging?  You should.

7.    It’s Raining

If it’s cold and snowy or rainy, I hate running.  And I can’t stand treadmills.  So if you are serious about running but have to miss a run because of weather, head for the weight room.

8.    It’s Fun/Breaks Up Monotony

I’m probably preaching to the choir here, but weight lifting is fun!  I can’t imagine the monotony of running being all that I do.

8.5    You’ll Look Better

I guess this is subjective, but I hate the skinny-fat look you see on so many runners.  You know, where a 5’10” guy is 130 lbs but still looks somewhat flabby?  Weight training intensely with heavy weights will put some meat on them thar bones!


Looking for a good training program for runners getting into weight training?  You’ll love Mike Geary’s The Truth About Six Pack Abs.  This is so much more than just a “6-pack abs” book.  He’s got top-notch sections on diet, weight training, and bodyweight exercises.  Order now from http://bit.ly/wfnabtruth .  He has a full refund policy so you have no risk.


Continue reading about 8.5 Reasons Runners Need To Lift Heavy Stuff

I love running. I love weight training and bodybuilding. By trying to do both, am I destined to be ineffective at both?

runners vs bodybuildersMany of you are runners too. And if you subscribe to this blog, you are no doubt into weight training. I keep hearing and reading on other blogs that you can’t do both.   That’s bull.  Here’s their theory: pumping iron builds muscle mass that will add weight to your body; that added weight will slow you down and add stress to your knees and other soft tissue ultimately leading to injuries if you run. And on the other hand, steady-state cardio (medium or long distance running) will burn more muscle than it burns fat.  [Some experts even go so far as to say "give up cardio totally".  I've got an upcoming post to dismiss that, but back to today's post...]

Bottom Line: They’re partially right – yes, it presents big challenges to try to do both, and their theory is correct.  But their conclusion is wrong – of course you CAN do both!  I say – forget the science. Do what you love!

Did He Just Say To Ignore Science?

Well, sort of.  I’m not saying ignore it – I’m just saying that life is too short to live in fear.  So a more pragmatic (but less pithy) way of saying is:  learn the science so that you can compensate for the hard realities and still do what you love.

What is  “Running”?

For simplicity, let’s break running into two categories (yes, I know there are a million ways to slice it, but stay with me here for my point):

a) steady-state, medium- to long-distance (like jogging or at the high end, marathons); in this running you are keeping your pace and heart rate pretty constant

b) interval-style, short, with intense bursts (like sprinting); in this running, your pace and heart rate vary considerably throughout the run

This post isn’t talking about high-intensity burst running, like sprints or hill intervals. Lots of science has shown that type of running to be very effective for burning fat and only needs 20-30 minutes of it a few times a week.  It works well (and even complements) a hard-core weight training regimen and I’m not arguing about that.  And most bodybuilding/weight training gurus also don’t argue with that.

I’m also not talking about competitive runners or bodybuilders.  Since I am not, nor have I ever been, a top marathoner or on-stage bodybuilder, I can’t attest to how doing both might affect the upper echelon of athletes.  But know this:Tom Venuto, champion bodybuilder, is not one of those people who poo-poo running.   He’s got an entire chapter on cardio in Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle (that’s an outstanding book, weighing in at 341 pages – yes, 341!).  And even Arnold typically ran 4 or 5 miles several times a week during his show prep (though he doesn’t mention, in his outstanding Encyclopedia of Bodybuilding, at what intensity level he ran).

I’m talking about 20 to 40 mile a week, subscribe-to-Runner’s-World, “looking for the runner’s high” kind of running.  The science is pretty conclusive that you will be burning muscle after about 60 minutes or so of steady-state running.  But I don’t care, because I love it.  And there are ways to mitigate the downsides (see below).

Now, you don’t want to have running be your only exercise:  if you’re fat, you’ll take too long to lose it, and if you’re normal-weight, you’ll turn into that “skinney-fat” you see in many marathoners that is antithetical to what the WFN community is striving for.

How To Be a Runner and a Bodybuilder

Here’s how you CAN be gaining lean muscle mass through weight training AND do medium to long-distance running:

1.   Eat.  Eat lots.  Eat often. Eat slow carbs (for example, oats) and lean proteins.  If you are lifting weights 3-4 times a week and running 3-4 times a week, you need calories.  But don’t go for sugary calories.
2.   Stagger your running distances on different days. For example, I run 3 times a week:  6 miles, then 8 miles, then 10 miles.  Once in a while, my 10 miler goes to 13.1 (a half marathon).
3.   Pick one run to be an interval run. Why?  This recruits more fast-twitch muscles, burns more fat, and increases your overall speed.  For me, it’s usually my 8 miler.   I turn this into an interval run as follows:  first 5 minutes is steady state, then I alternate with roughly this sequence:  sprint for about 1 minute at about 90% of my max effort, then slow to shuffle (about walking speed really) for 1 minute, then get back to regular pace for about 2 minutes.  Repeat until you are done, but make sure your last minute is a full-on 100% sprint.  You’ll be astonished how quickly you tire out!

4.   Never run on the day after your leg-training day for weights. You need a day to rest after maxing out on squats.  If you don’t, your leg muscles are not going to grow.
5.   Never run before weights. You need maximum focus and strength to get the most out of your weight training sessions.  If you don’t believe me, try it each way for one week and you’ll see what I mean!
6.   Weights, Refuel, Run. After your weight training session, take a 30 minute break or so and get some protein and good carbs before you run.  But make your refueling light so you don’t upset your stomach.
7.   Watch our stretching. Don’t do too much static stretching beforehand.  There is some mixed science on this issue, but I recommend you do dynamic stretches before your weight training, and before your running, but do static stretches on your off days or after your workouts.
8.   Pay really close attention to your body. If you notice the start of any injury, back off a bit.  I personally suffered from plantar fasciitis several years ago because I tried to keep running for weeks after it started.  By then much damage was done.  Remember – you’re trying to do two things you love (weight training and running) while improving your health and physique.  Don’t be bullheaded and think you are superhuman.
8.5 Change your socks. Always change your socks before you start a run.  Your feet will appreciate it!

If you are running simply to “get in your cardio”, and you hate running, then absolutely go for the aforementioned sprints or hills.  And read Mike Geary’s The Truth About 6-Pack Abs, p. 89 to 92 (that book is so much more than a book about abs, by the way, as my critique of the book highlights).

But if you love running, for the joy of running, don’t give it up.  And don’t give up your weight training either.

If you are a “runner” who is also dedicated to weight training to build lean muscle mass, please share your own tips by commenting below!

Continue reading about The Running Bodybuilder – 8.5 Tips