May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Outside magazine, May 1996


Kelly McCown's guide to going the distance, no matter what your mode of transportation
By Mark Jannot

The first time Kelly McCown entered the New York Skate Marathon, in 1993, she raced the novice 20k and barely finished. "I remember being incredibly tired and thinking, 'I don't know how people can do this,' " she says. Last year McCown set a course record in the Athens to Atlanta Skate Marathon. The distance: 85 miles. "It's funny how perceptions can change," she says.

As McCown became a better skater, she began skating more, and eventually she stumbled into an endurance-training regimen. "I'd skate some almost every day," she says. "That's how you build endurance." Even so, it helps to have a plan. Recently McCown recruited the help of a coach, Mark St. Peter, who trains athletes at his Fluid Movement Studio in San Francisco. "I added balance to her training," he says, "and laid it out so she can see what's coming." And that's what he's done for you. This regimen, which also incorporates strength training, is designed for any endurance sport and culminates in a race--because it helps to work toward a goal, whether it's a 10k run, a mile swim, or a 20-mile skate. If you aim longer--say, marathon distance--you should double your time on cardiovascular work on Saturdays in weeks six through ten, and on Tuesdays in weeks seven through ten.

Laying the Base
According to St. Peter, the first few weeks are essentially a warm-up: slow, steady cardiovascular work. If you're using a heart-rate monitor, which he strongly recommends, you ought to be plugging away at no more than 70 percent of your maximum heart rate (see "You Got the Beat?"). "That's basically the way you build endurance," says McCown. "You want to keep yourself under your anaerobic threshold, in an aerobic state where your muscles are getting enough oxygen."

St. Peter also recommends that endurance athletes--even recreational ones--add a seemingly torturous number of abdominal and back and hip exercises to their regular weight-training program. "The abs, back, and hips constitute your core strength," he says. "They are the most likely to get injured in endurance sports. So it's important to do lots of reps, because there's no resistance involved. The only way to make these exercises increasingly difficult is to add volume." On Sundays, in addition to weight training, St. Peter has scheduled "active rest," 20 to 30 minutes of a very easy endeavor, like a stroll in the park, preferably in another sport.

Pump Up the Volume
"When you do only one type of exercise, you develop structural imbalances that set you up for injury," St. Peter says. Which is why he insists that in weeks four through ten, at least one of your four cardiovascular training days per week be spent doing something other than your primary sport, one that stresses entirely different muscle groups: Swim if you're a cyclist, row if you're a runner.

Anaerobic interval work introduced in week four is designed to push up your anaerobic threshold, the point at which the muscles can't receive enough oxygen to work efficiently. "Even in endurance races people break away," says McCown. "By training close to your anaerobic threshold, you get the ability to chase them." Anaerobic intervals in weeks four through six should be done at roughly 80 percent of your maximum heart rate. The high-intensity anaerobic intervals in week seven should be all-out efforts, at approximately 90 percent of your max. The high-intensity cardiovascular work in week five--designed to build tolerance for sustained, hard efforts--should be done between 70 and 80 percent.

"In weeks one through five, I'm bringing you up to a first peak," St. Peter says. "You take a bit of a break in week six, then you build to a second peak in weeks eight through ten, which will have the biggest impact on your race-day performance."

Slow Pace/Race Pace
Cut back in the last few weeks. "At the end of the program," St. Peter says, "you're trying to provide healing but maintain the stimulation of the system." The payback for this generosity is two race-pace days in week 11. You want to get the feel of what you'll be putting your body through on race day. "The beauty of this program," says St. Peter, "is that it works just as well for a person who hasn't been training as it does for someone who's already fit. And once you're done, you can start over again, because the first few weeks provide a good recovery."

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