Thursday, November 20, 2014

Strength Training for the Lazy?

In my quest for More Strong I've stumbled across 'Body by Science', a high intensity weight training program which claims you can get all the exercise you need, both strength and cardiovascular, in just 12 minutes a week.  The catch is that you're only supposed to do 12 minutes a week.  For those who hate exercise and are pressed for time this is hardly a catch but for those like me who love to be active and outside a lot this is a prison sentence.  But I'm intrigued.  But I'm also feeling like how can I make this work?  If you're doing a sport you're 'allowed' to work on skills during your recovery week but no more physical conditioning.  Now to be fair this program is completely contra-indicative to triathlon training.  The creator, Doug McGuff, is very much opposed to running and other forms of 'chronic cardio' and endurance sports.  And I can't say as I don't share his concerns.  Here's an interesting video by a cardiologist and runner.

And yes there are alternative points of view.  But nonetheless I've been aware of the issues surrounding endurance training and heart health for at least 7-8 years now and it was instrumental in my switch from wanting to train for a half ironman to doing offroad/Xterra triathlons.  In general the recommendations for most health benefits and least damage are no more than 12 hours per week of training and running should be 1-2 1/2 hours per week spread over 2-3 runs, 10-15 miles per week and no faster than 10 min/mile pace, though I believe sprint/interval training is supposed to be good.  Now for me a 10 min./mile pace is near sprint pace but that's another post.  Anyway, I'm not willing to give up these activities that I love but I am willing to sacrifice training for performance for training for health and I kept my training hours to around 10 hours per week for high volume weeks last summer with a couple weeks heading into the 12 hour range.  This is not the sort of training that necessarily gets someone like me to the podium at Nationals but it's a good compromise of health/performance and I felt sufficiently pushed without being overtrained.  The ultimate damage/benefit to my heart is a complete unknown.

So I'm not sure where this leaves me with the Body by Science protocol.  It seems that I can continue to swim my skills/drills masters workouts.  Maybe even include one USRPT/sprint workout?  But running remains a black box.  I was hoping to really focus on running this winter, especially form and it seems maybe I can do that but sprints/interval training are out of the question or maybe only once a week if I don't so my swim sprints.  I'm going to give it a shot though.  If I feel like I can handle it or I'm pushing myself towards overtraining I'll simply stop and go back to my regular weight training.
 But one weight training session a week is so appealing.  I hates weight training and now that I don't have my boot camp class it's all the more difficult to stay motivated. 

And this sounds like it could be a great program for agility people looking to get into shape and/or people who hate to exercise or are very pressed for time.  In perusing online forums and blogs about the program it seems that anecdotally there are people having success.  Seems like the biggest issue is that the program is centered around the notion of pushing the muscle to failure and that for some people this can be difficult to achieve unless you have a coach or training partner at your session with you.  And also that you can eventually develop an aversion to the training  because it is so hard and unpleasant and this was my experience with the Tabata sprints experiment.  Even though the workout was very short I'd start dreading it an hour beforehand.  But I'm open minded here, mind over matter or whatever.  I'm hoping to start this Saturday and I'll post updates.


  1. Interesting! But as far as agility people go... I always wondered how unfit people could have dogs that are fit for agility... unless dogs main form of exercise was running around with other dogs for an hour every day.

  2. Yes, that is typically the case here in the U.S. Many agility people have their own land or access to trails/open space or dog parks where they take their dogs to run. They throw balls, frisbees, etc. Some people have treadmills and swimming pools as well. Even if you go for a hike or walk the human doesn't get all that much exercise compared to the dog.

    As for me I sometimes take Strummer running with me in the non-summer months (too hot in summer), I was even taking him to boot camp class with me when we were doing hill repeats on the open space where he could be off leash, but for the most part he gets a combination of leash walks and off leash time where he sprints. He much prefers sprinting to steady state walking but I think both are important.

    I also don't think most people get enough hard physical training just walking along with their dog. It's fine for general fitness but as you get older and lose muscle mass you become more prone to injury, especially the knees. The other thing is that here in the U.S. people don't walk very much in general, we drive everywhere so we're much more sedentary in regular life. A 40-60 minute walk and no other physical activity is not enough to build and maintain muscle when you get older. I do the majority of my physical training without my dog, whatever walks/hikes I take with him are in addition to my regular training. I think it's really important, especially as you get older, to do short, hard intense training for general health and this has really helped my ability to 'get there' for my agility handling and for stamina for a whole weekend of agility.