Above All Else...

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Fitness '97, February 1997

Above All Else...


Allen's long-and-slow approach to endurance training won't work if you violate its main tenet: Stay below your maximum aerobic heart rate at all times. If you find yourself impatient and compelled to cheat by doing more, increase duration, not intensity.

Start each workout extra slow. Rather than simply bolting out the door, Allen actually walks the first two blocks and then does a ten-minute mile before working up toward his aerobic threshold.

Contrary to the old joggers' tale that says that you're within your aerobic range if you can hold a conversation with your training partner (or sing along with the track on your Discman), the most accurate way to gauge your effort is via your pulse. If you have trouble taking yours on the fly, consider shelling out for a heart-rate monitor.


Never leave the track feeling like you couldn't do one more sprint just like the last. "If you overdo it," says Allen, "you're much less likely to come back."

Use hard group workouts--like riding at the front of a pace line--as a substitute for solo sprint sessions to mix things up a bit. But remember, the advantage to the track is the comparative feedback it provides. Don't forgo intervals, just replace them when you need a change of pace.

Mind the big picture. If time runs out before you've finished your schedule of intervals, move on. Your muscles need at least two full weeks of tapering before the big event. "Save the give-it-all efforts for the race," says Allen. "You can't afford to leave your best efforts on the track."


If you're pressed for time, narrow the strength routine down to three core exercises: bench presses, pull-downs, and squats or leg extensions. These work the biggest muscle groups, encompassing 85 percent of the body's muscle mass. If you then find yourself with five more minutes, add abdominal exercises. Ten more minutes? Add dumbbell pullovers, curls, and triceps pushdowns.

In the adaptation and endurance phases, choose weights that are a challenge, not a strain. Save the biggest plates for the power phase--when your muscles will be sufficiently prepared to be pushed to the brink.

Since lactic acid can sabotage efforts to promote fat-burning metabolism, make sure to coordinate your program so that the power phase doesn't overlap with the aerobic base-building phase of your endurance training.

Mental Training

Insights gleaned from your workouts are the key to helping you visualize successful efforts. You want to identify and then be able to recall how you feel when you're performing at your peak.

Embarrassed? Get over it. "Sure, attaching words like 'strong and smooth' to your mental cues might seem a little hokey," says Allen. "But hey, you've gotta call them something."


As race day nears, avoid dramatic changes in your diet. While the tendency may be to overeat to fuel up for your event, you'll have long since lowered the intensity of your training, which means you won't burn off excess calories so easily.

Consider weaning yourself off caffeine during your aerobic base-building phase. "You always push a little more after a cup of coffee than you might without it," says Allen. "And since these workouts already make you fight the urge to go hard, you don't need that temptation."

If you're craving sweets, try ... squash? Indeed, with refined sugar and flour off the menu, Allen uses the versatile gourds to satiate his midwinter sweet tooth--slicing them, steaming them, and then firing them into the oven with a dash of Parmesan cheese and a sprinkling of cinnamon. "They're kind of like cookies," says Allen, "but they're totally healthy."

Copyright 1997, Outside magazine

More at Outside

Elsewhere on the Web

Not Now

Open a World of Adventure

Our Dispatch email delivers the stories you can’t afford to miss.

Thank you!