This episode was inspired by a quote I read in a New York Times article about Jakob Ingebrigtsen, who, at only 21 years old, is at the very top of the world.
This quote was one of the most impactful things I had ever heard about athletic training: “Jakob Ingebrigtsen estimates that he seldom pushes himself beyond 87% of his maximum effort in workouts. Yes, 87%, so he can preserve the best of himself on race day.”
If you think 87% doesn’t sound like it would do that much, check out his races on YouTube and you will see how he shoots straight to the front and dares anyone to pass him—Jakob manages to wear out the greatest runners on the planet by using his strategic and very powerful running strategy at his preferred distance of 1,500 meters. This show will walk you through all of Jakob’s specific training methods, and I share how his methods were actually designed by his father and two brothers (who also are quite impressive champions themselves) to formulate this uniquely effective training program—one that is notably different from the traditional model that we’re all used to.
Jakob Ingebrigsten estimates that he seldom pushes himself beyond 87% of maximum effort in workouts. [00:24]
The Ingebrigsten team has very unique training strategies. Training at or even a bit below anaerobic threshold can be highly effective to teach your body to buffer lactate more effectively. [03:06]
The athletes are very careful to work at or below that threshold, knowing that there is an extreme cost to pay in terms of recovery when you go too hard. [07:30]
Jakob, at age 16, broke the four minutes mile. [09:18]
Most of us are working relatively too hard. [12:20]
Jakob rarely runs an individual workout for over one hour. [16:48]
Eluid Kipchoge has a similar protocol for training although his distances differ from Jakob’s. [20:42]
How can you apply this 87% idea to your own training? [29:52]
Be sure you end any type of vigorous or stressful session well under an hour. The brain does not have to be trained to suffer. [33:44]
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Welcome to the Return of the Primal Endurance Podcast. T. his is your host, Brad Kearns, and we are going on a journey to a kinder, gentler, smarter, more fun, more effective way to train for ambitious endurance goals. Visit Primal endurance.fit to join the community and enroll in our free video course.
The 87% podcast. Yes, I’m going to title it that because I read one of the most important and impactful quotes about athletic training that I’ve seen in a long time. And here it is: Jakob Ingebrigsten estimates that he seldom pushes himself beyond 87% of his maximum effort in workouts. Yes, 87% so that he can preserve the best of himself on race day. And it came from a New York Times feature article about Jakob Ingebrigsten, The Norwegian 1500 meter Olympic champion, the 5,000 meter world champion, 1500 meter runner up. He is dominating middle distance running on the world stage after an incredibly rapid and high profile ascension from his teenage years.
Now he’s only 21 years old, and he’s at the very top of the world. He’s an absolute machine. You can watch him on YouTube and some of these races where he just goes to the front and dares anyone to pass him. And he just wears out the greatest runners on the planet with this incredibly strategic and powerful running strategy at his preferred distance of 1500 meters. And now he’s the best 5,000 meter. That’s 3.1 miles, 1500 meters is just short of a mile. His training methods are quite unique. It’s all been designed by his father and his two older brothers who are great champions in their own rights. So there’s these three running Ingebrigsten brothers from Norway, and they’ve all reached the very highest level in the world. His brother Jakob’s oldest brother Henrik, is a European champion, fifth place in the 2012 London Olympics at 1500 meters.
The second brother Phillip, is also a European champion, and, uh, best of three minutes and 30 seconds in the 1500 meters. Jakob has run 3 28. Of course, he’s won the European title, the world title, the Olympic Gold. So this one family fascinating, uh, domination of the middle distance running scene from a small town in Norway and very self-contained. They have a reality show I’ll tell you about shortly. But coached by their father Garrett, a very interesting character that you will get fascinated with if you watch the show. Uh, but he is a, um, a self studied, uh, no bias just came into this whole scene without any athletic background or running background of his own and studied the training methods of the elite runners throughout time, without any preconceived notions, and created this very novel and highly effective training program. But it’s quite different than the traditional model that we’ve seen practiced by middle distance and long distance runners for decades.
So I want to tell you, uh, about some of their strategies. And of course, this is representing the cutting edge and possibly some widespread revisions in the future to how middle distance and long distance athletes train. So, uh, some of the uniqueness of their method. So this idea that Jakob rarely, if ever exceeds 87% of his capacity in training is a wonderful mind-blowing insight to me, especially when I reflect on my sprint workouts, where I’m quite frequently or routinely going faster than that, thinking that I need to go fast to get better. But being able to dial it back a little bit can deliver some wonderful benefits. One of ’em is the consistent and uninterrupted improvement from working at that anaerobic threshold but not exceeding it. Because when you get up around 87%, that represents estimation of anaerobic threshold. And when you start to go faster than that, uh, the definition of anaerobic threshold is where the lactate starts to accumulate in the bloodstream faster than you can buffer it.
And so you look on a graph in exercise physiology lore, and there’s an inflection point in the graph. So you have kind of a, a steady angle of the line going up representing your pace and the accumulation of accordingly the accumulation of, uh, blood lactate levels, right? So you’re going faster, faster, faster. The lactate is accumulating. You’re getting up into the measurements. They measure it in millimoles. And so the point of four millimoles of blood lactate is believed to be representative of anaerobic threshold. But if you were asked to keep going faster from that point, you would have a spike in the linear pattern of the graph. In other words, to ask yourself to go faster than threshold requires a significant increase in lactate accumulation because it’s so tough, you’re already going fast. And so the anaerobic threshold represents the pace that you can maintain for an all-out effort of a round one hour.
So if you were asked to race all out for all the marbles at a certain speed, whether you’re pedaling a bicycle, like a bicycle time trial, or whether you’re running a race, so the elites will run a half marathon in an hour, that is equating to anaerobic threshold. So you can kind of, uh, maintain this four millimole for around an hour and then you’ll crap out of course. And so in a workout, when you’re doing intervals that last for a couple minutes or one minute or three minutes, or five minutes or seven minutes, um, it’s quite easy to exceed anaerobic threshold for a set of three minute efforts, right? But the appropriateness of training, um, can be counterproductive because even though you’re putting in a good time, that disruption to the system where you’re accumulating lactate faster than you can remove it, uh, over the course of this, uh, interval workout, um, can be fatiguing, cause delayed recovery and higher risk of injuries and breakdown because of the stress impact of the workout.
And so we’ve known for a long time that training at or even a bit below anaerobic threshold can be highly effective to teach your body to buffer lactate more effectively, and thereby be able to maintain a faster pace during a race, uh, a race of an hour or less because you’re still training the same energy systems, even if you’re training for a 13 minute race a three and a half minute race, like the two distances that Yako completes. So in the inab bris and training protocol, uh, working right around that anaerobic threshold is very important, so important that they will take portable blood lactate meters out onto the training ground, the track or the hills, wherever they are, and prick their fingers frequently during the workout to get that important millimolar reading the accumulation of blood lactate perhaps at the top of the hill when they finish the interval, they’ll get their hands on their knees for one second, and then they’ll prick their finger and look at that reading, and the coach Father Garrett will shout at them if they so much as go one second faster than was programmed for a certain interval.
So he’s very, very careful. The athletes are very careful to work at or below that threshold knowing that there is an extreme cost to pay in terms of recovery, in terms of adaptability, when you go a little bit too hard in a workout, that’s already pretty challenging. So you can read more about the types of workouts that the brothers do. Um, they look super tough and challenging when you’re looking at the different ways that they work on threshold. For example, uh, running a 10 kilometer time trial at anaerobic threshold, running 10 times one kilometer with an appropriate amount of rest in between those one kilometer efforts, which would take the, uh, elite runner, um, just around three minutes, maybe a little less. They will do five times two K, or they will do 30 times 400 meters right around that anaerobic threshold pace.
If they’re doing hill workout, one of the favorite workouts is two sets of 10 times 200 meters on the hill. So that would be 20 hill repeats of 200 meters. Now think about this, when you go, wow, what a difficult workout, um, these guys are elite athletes and they’re running within their capabilities never over 87%, so going up a hill 20 times, but right in that cruise level pace where they’re working hard, remember, it represents the pace they could maintain for an hour all-out race for all the marbles. But in a general workout setting, it’s not too much trouble to run as short a distance as 200 meters, or even to run as shorter distance as one kilometer lasting a few minutes when you’re talking about your all out pace that you can maintain for an hour. Now, here’s the key. They do this alot day after day after day.
So they are training at the very highest level, and Jakob is delivering, uh, you know, historic times for age 21. He’s been doing so since he was just a teenager, shattering the World Age group records for running times at 1500 meters. Going back to his first emergence onto the global scene when he was 16 years old. He ran in the pre-class in Eugene, Oregon against the world’s greatest distance runners and the mile and covered it in three minutes and 56 seconds. So he broke four minutes for the mile, the legendary four minute per mile barrier that no human had done until Roger Bannister did in 1954. And now in modern times, that was back in 2017, he did it as a 16 year old, absolutely incredible. So what they’re doing is they’re training frequently at this anaerobic threshold pace, sometimes doing two workouts per day, where they’re picking and choosing one of those protocols that I mentioned, running it right up there around that 87% level and going week after week, month after month, year after year, building and building their capabilities to run at high speed.
And so when it comes time to race on the track in an elite international event, of course they’re going to go way over anaerobic threshold, but these don’t happen very frequently because they’re so stressful. And so look at someone’s racing card for a year, an elite middle distance runner. Maybe they’ll do a dozen races or something like that. But the rest of it is training and well within one’s capability. So I think there’s so much takeaway for the average runner, competitive runner that wants to get better without that constant battle of breakdown, burnout, illness, and injury from doing workouts that are too badass. And I’m referencing myself too, as a, a master’s division, track and field and trying to train for an event like the 400 meters. Um, if I tone that down to 87% when I’m doing my interval workouts, calculated off my best pace for an all-out race, it’s gonna be a lot slower than my historical workout patterns.
And boy, is that a great takeaway because I can also look at my historical patterns and see these minor injuries and delayed recovery and feeling tired a day after the workout when the stress hormones clear the endorphin buzz drops, and you realize that, eh, maybe you pushed it a little too hard yesterday in that exciting experience that you had at the track or at the gym or whatever, uh, goals you’re pursuing. So this, uh, inspiration from Jakob Ingebrigsten is to tone it down a little bit and respect the idea that even the greatest middle distance runner in the world is working at 87% capacity or below. And hey, maybe he has the genetic gifts and the resiliency to train harder than the average person. So maybe we should take that 87% and put it down to an 82 or an 85 or something like that, right?
So we don’t have to model exactly, but we can certainly take the spirit of what the greatest runner is doing and apply it to our own peak performance goals. Here’s the problem. Uh, most of us are working relatively too hard, and furthermore, relatively speaking, harder than the world’s great elite distance runners. In other words, if I’m running intervals at 90% of my maximum, they’re a heck of a lot slower than Ingebrigsten’s, but relatively speaking, I’m pushing my body harder than an elite athlete, which is a ridiculous notion. Okay? So we want to tone things down and always appreciate that perspective that everything is relative. So I talk a lot about the 180 minus age representing your aerobic limit for a purely or an predominantly aerobic workout. And if you exceed 180 minus your age in beats per minute, you’re drifting into a more glucose burning workout with lower fat oxidation per minute.
And so we wanna work in that sweet spot of 180 minus age or below. Now guess what? For an unfit enthusiast, that might mean a brisk walk. So there might not even be a rationale for jogging yet until you get in better shape and you can maintain a brisk walk and not see that heart rate go into the, the beeping numbers exceeding that 180 minus age. And it’s super frustrating because, uh, you’re certainly capable of, uh, running, jogging and going for five miles or seven miles or whatever you’re, uh, you’ve performed so far. But in order to develop and continue to progress without interruption, that’s when you wanna tone things down and honor the importance of, uh, aerobic conditioning. And then when we’re going hard, uh, it’s not time to just unleash the dragon and go until you’re puking on the side of the track.
You want to keep that under control as well. Now, in terms of the volume and honoring the example from the elite runners, we wanna slash that volume because we don’t have the capacity that an elite runner has that’s running day in and day out. So, um, reading these reports of two sets of 10 times, 200 hill repeats, or doing 30 times 400 meters at anaerobic threshold and all but the very highest trained, uh, recreational amateur athletes might wanna slash that down to, let’s say, eight or 10 times 400 meters at anaerobic threshold. If you’re super, super fit. And if you’re not super fit, maybe you’re gonna work at, uh, four or six or eight times, 200 meters, and still at that, uh, relatively comfortable, but still snappy pace, that’s going to bring you a wonderful training effect, okay? Um, in contrast, and I’m thinking back to my days as a pretty competent high school runner, we would do workouts like six to eight times 400 meters, pretty much near maximum, 100% effort.
Maybe it was 93 or something. Um, you know, I could do a 56 second quarter and we’d do repeats of 61 or 62. Um, so it’s ridiculously close to maximum output. And yes, after you do six or eight of those, you are pretty thrashed and trashed. And so the evolution of training, uh, modeled beautifully by the Ingebrigsten Brothers, is to get away from that model of struggling, struggling and suffering and crushing yourself. And now I’m speaking to the broader audience of whatever CrossFit enthusiasts people turning on the Peloton machine and trying to honor the exhortation from the Peppi instructor to go and push their bodies into the high heart rate ranges and do this many intervals and do three more. And, haha, I was just kidding. I actually meant four more. So, let’s see, one more. Let’s see what you got in you.
And you’re gonna end these workouts with a sense of exhaustion and depletion as evidenced by, for example, diminished energy in general for the rest of the day. Perhaps some sugar cravings or some real burnout episodes in the evening where you’re just crashed out on the couch because you pushed yourself so hard at that 6:00 AM pedaling session or out there with the lively running group the previous evening. And then you’re kind of feeling like you’re paying the price 24 or 36 hours later. So let’s talk a little bit more about, um, Jakob’s unique training, protocol.
Here’s one. He rarely runs an individual workout over one hour, huh? That’s a mindblower because the model for middle distance, long distance runners for decades has been, they put in a lot of over distance work. The Sunday traditional long run, where even a miler will run for two hours or two and a half hours and get that base mileage up.
Everyone’s obsessed with mileage, especially in the track scene. Even today when we have, uh, so much more nuance and sophistication. But runners still talk in that vernacular. When I interviewed Shelby Houlihan, she was mentioning how her weekly mileage has changed over her career from college into pros. And it’s still like this main reference point for what your training program’s representing. And by and large, there’s a lot of people, especially in the traditional western approach, like collegiate running programs where they’re just trying to increase the mileage steadily and sensibly over time and get up to a certain number that is believed to represent, um, an elite performance level. But it’s kind of ridiculous to think here’s the greatest runner in the world who rarely runs over one hour. And if we sampled, uh, you know, the average recreational, participant in half-marathon, marathon, even triathlon, a lot of people are out there running, uh, well over an hour quite frequently.
And guess what, they’re doing it pretty slowly. Uh, in Jakob’s case, he rarely, he has a, a small percentage of his total mileage that’s that slow jogging that we ha tend to, um, emphasize as important. And I’m gonna talk about Kipchoge as well. I’ve talked about him on previous shows, uh, the greatest marathoner of all time, slightly different training protocol because he’s training for a two hour race rather than a three and a half minute race. like Jakob’s main goals here, but he is rarely putting in that really slow jogging, uh, they call it long, slow distance. Sometimes they call it junk mileage, where you’re just out there trotting along in the name of improving your, your base, but it has minimal correlation to your competitive performance, especially when you’re an elite runner going fast. And so it appears that Jakob is kind of minimizing the slow stuff and also strictly limiting the super fast crazy stuff at the top end, and instead training that for a a lot of work and right around that magical anaerobic threshold level.
rarely exceeding 87% of maximum. So he’s doing things like strides and drills and he’ll repeats, and a bit of jogging, of course, uh, warming up and cooling down for every workout. You’re going to accumulate some miles of jogging. But the main focus are on these sets. And you can see this on the reality show where these guys are out circling the track, um, just about every episode. They’re putting in a lot of hard work, but it’s right in that sweet spot. Um, the, uh, calculation, Jakob is running around 180 kilometers a week that represents 112 miles. So that’s still what we might call high mileage. But again, it’s not that, uh, extra stress of doing super hard workouts and then jogging and having that turn into a high mileage week. You see the difference here? So, um, it, it’s criticized that a lot of traditional Western approach training protocols are people crushing themselves in super stressful workouts, which require a lot of recovery time, bring a high risk of injury and breakdown.
And accordingly, because these workouts are so stressful, this type of athlete following this protocol is compelled to do a lot of very slow jogging because they’re torched from their Tuesday evening track session. And so Wednesday morning they’re gonna go run eight or nine minute miles.
Here’s another key attribute, uh, from Jakob’s training. He’s claims to have never missed a formally planned, structured session since he was a little kid, 10 years old. I might, I think he might have said five years old. And definitely he started training very seriously, uh, at a very young age. And the protocol put together by the father is pretty strict and methodical, uh, training strategy. They go to training camp a couple times a year. Every workout is ca carefully regulated and carefully contemplated, and he’s never missed a session. So if you can say that, and you’re also kicking ass on the world stage, that means your training is highly effective.
And I think all of us might reflect, Hey, we’ve planned these, uh, training schedules, maybe paid a coach or consulted a book or internet article about how to train a 12-week training program for your half marathon goal race. And if you adhered to it, I guess that would, uh, say that it’s more effective than one where you kind of fell apart and fell off it and perhaps did that repeatedly if you’ve had time off and then returned and tried to do the same old thing that was clearly too stressful or ineffective by virtue of you not being able to adhere to what was planned. Okay? Never missing a formally structured session, uh, working within a tight range of training intensities whereby the anaerobic threshold is emphasized sometimes at twice daily workouts. Who does this remind you of? That’s right, the great marathoner Eluid Kipchoge, where his workouts are landing in a tight range that’s representative of around 80% of his maximum capacity.
So if Jakob is doing these track sessions that are dancing around, uh, 87% or dancing up to, I should say 87%, Kipchoge is doing something very similar, but more appropriate for marathon training. So his workouts are probably longer duration intervals and a little bit slower or less percentage of capacity. Kipchoge also is landing his volume in a very tight range of 120 to 130 miles a week with almost no tapering, which is incredible insight as well. So even before a major marathon, Kipchoge will train, train, train as usual, working at that 80% capacity. So well within his capacity, low score on the overall stress scale of the stress impact of the workout, but, and tremendously impressive and tremendously consistent by any outside observer. So he’s moving along pretty quickly because when you think, look, here’s a guy that can run four minutes and 38 seconds per mile for 26 consecutive miles, and you take 80% off that, that’s, you know, what, a six minute mile in training or a five something, which is still tremendously fast, but for him, it’s, you know, think about going a minute and a half slower than your own personal marathon race pace.
So if you’re a competent recreational runner, let’s say you can do a four hour marathon, which these days is, considered pretty fast. It’s in the top 20% of finishers in the Los Angeles Marathon, for example, and I believe that represents, oh, is it a nine minute pace per mile? Sorry if I’m off there a lot, but then add a minute and a half. So you’re running 10 30 miles in a workout, which a four hour marathoner would scoff at. Like, wow, this is so slow. I can barely <laugh>, barely keep my balance, but that is how the elites train. So we want to emphasize that point of applying this protocol to your own training methods and your own race pace and your own capabilities at anaerobic threshold, for example. Unfortunately, many, if not most competitive amateurs are not following this protocol. And instead, you’re busting yourself with these crushing workouts that require a lot of recovery time, and then in turn doing some really, really easy stuff which might not give you the greatest return on investment.
So it’s something to, uh, recalibrate here and consider, I’m certainly considering it very strongly and trying to implement this concept of backing off on the most intense workouts. And then on the flip side, being more consistent with the basic training protocol. So it’s not like this all or nothing thing. And this potentially, uh, or theoretically could conflict with the very popular notion these days of what they call polarized training, where you’re either going really hard or you’re going easy. I don’t think you could characterize Jakob’s training protocol as polarized, uh, nor for Kipchoge. But I think the beautiful message that the polarized training is trying to convey is that we wanna stay out of that, uh, familiar zone, uh, the exercise physiologist, call it the black hole where you’re working just a little bit too hard for your own good. So in the case of middle distance, you’re going, you’re exceeding that 87%, you’re going into, uh, the lactate accumulation, uh, energy zones.
And for the pure endurance athlete, like a marathoner or triathlete, you’re going over that 80% over that maximum aerobic heart rate and drifting around in this kind of hard zone as Dave Scott says, which is highly counterproductive. And so, for both the elite examples that I’m talking about, that’s certainly not the case. So they’re kind of, uh, just working at the highest comfortable level, could we call it that? And again, they’re flying down the road doing these tremendously impressive workouts, but we also have to extrapolate that to their competitive pace and realize that they’re well within their capabilities, more so than the average recreational guy like this master’s athlete talking to you and doing his 400 meter and 200 meter repeats at a pace that’s too close to my maximum for my own good. There’s interesting comment recently from Huberman Lab podcast where Dr.
Andrew Huberman talks about not wanting to chronically overproduce the stress hormones. And one of the recommendations, especially in the backdrop of hectic, high stress, modern life, where we are routinely calling upon fight or flight mechanisms for the entire stressful workday or difficult interpersonal interactions, right? We’re constantly in this prolonged stress mode over consumption of digital entertainment and mobile device technology. All these things are kind of adding up, uh, on the stress scale to where we’re overstressing ourselves in a chronic manner every day, and he wants you to, uh, limit, uh, difficult workouts to an hour 15 or less. And identifying that from research as sort of a cutoff point where if you’re in the gym working hard and the music’s pumping and you’re going from one set to the other set to the other set, but you’re in there for longer than an hour and 15 minutes, or if you’re doing some somewhat challenging, long distance bike ride in the pack, or doing a trail run that’s lasting for longer than that, and working up at those challenging heart rates that identifies a workout that’s chronically stressful or excessively stressful and have a difficult time recovering from and benefiting from.
So I mentioned the reality show briefly. It’s a really fascinating and well done show. So I’d give a plug to go look at the team Ingebrigsten Reality Show. But what’s really cool is that the show was filmed over many years. And so you see this young kid, young Jaklob at 13, I believe, when they started filming, and then he’s 15 in the next season, and he’s looking up to these amazing brothers who are like rock stars in Norway. They’re some of the most famous athletes, highly celebrated. Their names and pictures are on billboards when the big track meet comes to Oslo every year, the Bisit games. And he’s doing these little one-off interviews where he says, yeah, my goal is to be, uh, you know, someday beat my brothers and be the best in the world. And it’s kind of funny to hear this teenager with swagger, talking to the camera at age 13 or age 15.
And then here he is winning the Olympic gold medal, uh, just as he predicted. And I talked about that 3:56 mile he ran at age 16, just sensational and watch out. And then here he comes. So, um, go check out the reality show to see a window into the background of a really hard training family, and the whole thing’s a family affair. There’s like seven kids and everybody’s involved one way or the other. Pretty cool. Anyway, this guy is no joke, and I was fascinated in Eugene watching the World Track and Field Championships where he picked up a silver medal in the 1500 meters, and he was absolutely crushed and super after the race. He’s got so much confidence and speaks honestly and doesn’t sugarcoat things, and he was just livid after the race. He said he made some tactical mistakes, and he actually told the cameras that he was embarrassed to get a silver medal at the World Championships at age 21.
So his standards are impossibly high, and then he goes out and executes. So, that’s pretty fantastic. So, uh, let’s talk about this 87% and how you can practically apply it to some calculations to make your workouts work for you. So I’ve talked about my, uh, main sprinting goal of doing the 400 meters one lap around the track. And my estimated best time right now is around one minute. So the way to calculate 87% is you put 60 into the calculator and then hit the divide key divided by 0.87, and then it spits out in the case of 60 divided by 0.87, that would be, a minute nine or 60:09. And so if you’re, let’s say a person who can run, um, six minute miles for 10 K a six minute mile is 360 seconds, uh, hit divide by 0.87 and you get the calculation of six minutes and 53 seconds per mile.
Uh, it’ll come out in a total, and then you gotta divide by, uh, 60 and figure out the pace per mile. And so if you are a six minute 10 K person, which is really fast nowadays, that’s, uh, 37 minute 10 k, you’re going to do your, uh, your threshold sessions at a pace of six minutes and 53 seconds per mile. And I think any six minute per mile, 10 K runner is gonna go 6 53. That’s ridiculously slow. I can do way better than that. Think about doing mile repeats. Most people would go out there and run the same speed as they can run for 10 K. And so if you’re going way slower than that, boy, that gives you a real break on the energy systems and the stress response to workouts whereby you can go and put in a good consistent pattern of such workouts working that anaerobic threshold without that risk of breakdown, burnout, illness, and injury.
Elaine Thompson, the queen of sprinting in the Olympics, she has back-to-back gold medals in the 100 and 200 meters in Rio and in Tokyo, uh, the great Jamaican sprinter, one of the fastest females of all time, the fastest living human at 100 meters with her 10.54 time from 2021, I believe, uh, very strongly, that’s the fastest, a female who’s ever run due to the existing world record being a little bit controversial with a broken wind meter for FloJo back in 1988. But anyway, Elaine is fast, her name is FastElaine on Instagram, so follow her. Uh, but some, uh, information about her training, uh, contends that she runs her early season intervals at around 77% of her capacity. So in my own own personal example, if I’m using that benchmark of 60 seconds for 400 meters, 77% of that is a minute:18 for a 400 meters, if I’m doing a workout calculation that’s so slow, I don’t even bother going to the track.
I’m like, what am I doing here? I’m wasting my time. I need to hurt. I need to suffer. I need to push myself. Well, here’s the greatest sprinter on the planet, the fastest female of all time working at that very comfortable rate. Again, this is early season stuff, and as they progress toward peak competitive events, they’re gonna do faster stuff. They do a lot of shorter work. I watch them practicing in Eugene, and they’ll do a lot of explosive 30 meter starts with extensive rest in between. And so they’re working that maximum explosive capacity. But just that representative example of going out there in early season and doing stuff at 77% that is gonna allow you to progress steadily without all that risk. And all my fallout that I’ve experienced from nagging aches and pains and minor injuries that keep popping up when you think you’re okay.
All right. So the takeaway of this whole deal here is build and build and build without interruption from overly stressful workouts. Make sure that you end any type of vigorous or stressful session well under an hour and 15 minutes. How about just say an hour? So don’t go hard for over an hour ever, unless it’s the big race day. And then you pull out the stops and you push yourself to a peak performance and then recover afterward. And that’s wonderful once in a while. If you want to get a lactate meter, man, everybody’s all into tech these days. We didn’t have any of that stuff. Seem like we did okay, but this stuff could be pretty helpful over and above heart rate, which is extremely helpful and probably mandatory for any serious endurance athlete to be checking that heart rate during workouts.
And of course, we know what the aerobic maximum is, 180 minus age when it comes to anaerobic threshold, it’s a little more difficult to calculate, but maybe you can get some anecdotal data amassed on yourself where you realize that anything over 1 60 or 1 65 or whatever represents a, a, a discernible increase in degree of difficulty, so much so that it might represent a spike in the increased degree of difficulty. And you wanna work well below that to be comfortable and conservative. And that’s how you build as an athlete from everything from a fast middle distance runner with a competitive event lasting three and a half minutes, all the way up to extreme ultra distance runner, marathon runner going for two hours or even more. Oh, now’s the time when the highly motivated driven competitive types are, are raising their hands and shaking their heads.
And the audience going, wait a second. If I don’t push myself in training, how am I ever gonna get, uh, competitively toned to handle, uh, the severe challenge that happens on race day? And I want to, uh, reference some great commentary from Dr. Phil Maffeone, the Godfather of endurance training. He has some amazing interviews that are not published anywhere except for the Primal Endurance Mastery course. So when you enroll in that, you are going to get, uh, wonderful hours of interviews, maybe three hours, okay? Where I sat with Dr. Phil at his home in Arizona, and we talked for a long time about all aspects of healthy endurance training. And again, you’re not gonna find this anywhere except on the course, but he made this wonderful contention that first and foremost, the brain does not need to be trained repeatedly to suffer.
The brain is gonna pull through when you ask yourself to summon a peak performance effort, uh, a perceived life or death effort, right? So if you’re going and running 26 miles, or you’re running a 50 K on the trails, or you’re doing a long distance triathlon and you start to feel tired, guess what the brain is gonna pull you through. It doesn’t need to go there again and again and again in training to get honed and to get, you know, competitive in, in that mindset and persevere. In fact, if you abuse the brain’s, strong willpower and perseverance, it’s not gonna be there for you on race day. So if the brain doesn’t need to be trained to suffer, then we add onto that, that the anaerobic muscle fibers, the ones that help you go at a fast pace, do not require a lot of volume of training to be honed, to be optimal.
The anaerobic muscle fibers by definition fire explosively to allow for fast pace. And yes, they are definitely recruited when you’re going for an hour duration all out race at anaerobic threshold. But you don’t need to go over and over and over into the highly anaerobic, highly explosive output because while these anaerobic muscle fibers fire explosively, they also require a lot of downtime after working. The power lifters and the high strength athletes know this, where they will go in, they’ll do their set, uh, lifting a lot of heavy weight, uh, maybe do another, maybe do another, uh, but then they’re going to go through training protocol where there’s a lot of days where they’re not challenging those muscle fibers in the central nervous system to perform explosively over and over again. There’s more rest between sets and all that good stuff. So we want to kind of not traffic in overtraining the very delicate sensitive and explosive and aerobic muscle fibers.
So what does that leave us? That’s the aerobic energy producing enzymes and muscle fibers. And guess what? They love to be trained at volume, right? But the best way to train the aerobic system is at a very comfortable pace and heart rate. So when you’re training aerobically and you’re monitoring and minding that 180 minus h cutoff, that means you’re leading a healthy, active lifestyle with plenty of low level general everyday movement. Walking the dog counts as an aerobic training session, pedaling your bicycle over to the farmer’s market, your cruiser bike at slow speed, everything counts and nurtures that, that aerobic system at a comfortable pace. And your formal workouts, sure as heck, better be at or below that 180 minus age number because that’s when they’re truly aerobic. So you can train that aerobic system. Guess what? The aerobic muscle fibers feed the anaerobic muscle fibers.
So even the, even though the anaerobic muscle fibers don’t use oxygen, they are benefited by the functioning of the aerobic system to remove waste products and things where after they’ve fired, perhaps they’re gonna need some nurturing and support, some blood flow, some oxygen delivery. So that is the call for emphasizing aerobic conditioning and minimizing the anaerobic exercise and in general, adhering to those wonderful guidelines, like 180 minus age for aerobic conditioning. And then when you are working at anaerobic threshold, you limit it to the proper threshold levels or below, in Jakob’s case, that 87% applies. And for the marathon or Kipchoge, he’s working almost entirely at 80% or below. Great takeaways, thank you for listening. Let me know what you think. Send us some email firstname.lastname@example.org and share this show with a friend. I really appreciate you spreading the word dun dunna.
I hope you enjoy this episode and encourage you to check out the Primal Endurance Mastery course at primalendurance.fit. This is the ultimate online educational experience where you can learn from the world’s great coaches and trainers, diet, peak performance and recovery experts, as well as lengthy one-on-one interviews from several of the greatest endurance athletes of all time, not published anywhere else. It’s a major educational experience with hundreds of videos, but you can get free access to a mini course with an ebook summary of the Primal Endurance approach, and nine step-by-step videos on how to become a primal endurance athlete. This mini course will help you develop a strong, basic understanding of this all-encompassing approach to endurance training that includes primal aligned eating to escape carbohydrate dependency and enhanced fat metabolism, building an aerobic base with comfortably paced workouts, strategically introducing high intensity strength and sprint workouts, emphasizing rest, recovery, and annual periodization, and finally, cultivating an intuitive approach to training. Instead of the usual robotic approach of fixed weekly workout schedules, just head over to Primal endurance.fit and learn all about the course and how we can help you go faster and preserve your health while you’re at it.