Four Steps to Maximum Speed

The latest research can help boost your horsepower—and cut your workouts in half

May 13, 2009
Outside Magazine

   Photo: Chris Philpot

The Pillars of Fitness

To get in peak shape try out all four parts of our comprehensive series.

The Warm-up Is Over

IT'S TIME TO START CHASING YOUR AEROBIC-FITNESS GOALS IN EARNEST. Maybe it's your first half-marathon or century, or maybe you have loftier ambitions ultramarathons or 24-hour mountain-bike races. Whatever the case, you've most likely been following a training philosophy that's guaranteed to get you to the finish line but much more slowly than you're capable of.

When left to their own devices, most recreational endurance athletes either rely too heavily on long, easy workouts or eventually fall into patterns of going moderately hard all the time. Both approaches are fine if you just want to have fun and stay fit, but neither will make you faster. To hit your cardio peak, you need to blend that steady endurance work with gut-busting intensity. And a rapidly growing body of research points to the gut busting as the key. You have to become your own best coach. This month we're going to walk you through that.

If you followed the advice in the first installment of our four-part Pillars of Fitness series, "Building a Base" (March; our guide to preparing your body for year-round fitness you should be feeling looser, stronger, more balanced, and more eager to go than ever. Good, because while we're going to start scaling back the volume of your workouts, we're going to up the intensity like never before.

Meet The Experts

NANNA L. MEYER: A doctor of exercise physiology with the University of Colo­rado at Colorado Springs, Meyer is a registered dietitian who'll be offering advice for cardio fuel. Meyer raced alpine for the Swiss national ski team, and she is now a consultant to the United States Olympic Committee and serves as sports dietitian for U.S. Speed Skating.
CURTIS CRAMBLETT: In March, this USA Cycling coach and physical therapist helped us self-diagnose and treat physical imbalances. This month Cramblett walks us through the stretches that will help stave off injury during harder exercise. His instructional video "Active Stretching and Self Massage for the Cyclist and Triathlete" will be out in May.
NEAL HENDERSON: Known for providing customized training schedules to a diverse roster of both pro and amateur athletes from cyclists to runners to ice-hockey players exercise physiologist Henderson is the sport-science manager at the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine. This month he gives us advice on how to ramp up the intensity.