- "Try a TRIATHLON: Can you do this and not lose muscle?"
- "MARATHON training for beginners"
- "Estimating your VO2max"
- "Nutritional tips for endurance performance"
- "www.skreeminfury.com - Who are these guys?"


It is hoped that this newsletter will provide some helpful tips for the casual exerciser that is training for "summer fun" triathlons and marathons. However, if you want expert advice on this subject, there is probably no one better than Barrie Shepley and his group at Personal Best - www.personalbest.ca. Barrie helped coach Canada's Simon Whitfield to a gold medal in the 2000 summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia.

Personal Best suggests you find a coach to help you with your weak areas of the triathlon. For example, a swimming coach is likely to be a great asset because proper swimming form is essential for a good performance in this part of the event. You should also incorporate training for specific aspects of the race (such as the transitions between events) or you could be in for a big surprise on race day. For example, novices are often hindered with "wobbly" legs when switching from biking to running or by excessively long changes from swimming gear to bike riding. Don't let these happen to you!

Now on to the issue of body composition and triathlon training, can you maintain the muscle mass you gained over the winter while running, biking and swimming several times each week? Fortunately, the answer is yes. Unfortunately, this means that you won't be setting any records in your triathlon. Basically, if you want to train for endurance events, you risk burning so many calories that you may lose muscle! Therefore, you must continue with properly planned weight training so that you maintain the muscle over the course of your triathlon training and participation.

The recommendations are simple. You should continue to follow your previous weight-training schedule but with slight reductions in frequency and volume. Keep that intensity (the amount of weight you use in the exercise) high! Reducing frequency refers to the number of days you lift weights (decrease from 4-5 days down to 2-3) and a reduced volume means decreasing the number of sets you do to only 1-2 per exercise.

Keeping your weight-training intensity at a high level should help maintain most of your strength and mass without taking away from your running, biking and swimming. If you try to weight train too much while increasing your running/endurance training frequency, you may not be able to give yourself enough recovery. This may lead to sickness, injury, more muscle breakdown, or reduced performance. Therefore, cut back a little, and enjoy the triathlon experience. Strength and mass will return quickly after you complete your triathlon, assuming you reduce your energy expenditure from endurance training and return to your regular weight-training program.

Obviously your nutrition will play a big role as well. Post-training nutrition should be a priority of all athletes, not just bodybuilders. Make sure you have something ready to be consumed immediately post-workout (see below for more details). Sport scientists recommend carbohydrate intakes of upwards of 7-11 g/kg per day during heavy training. Your protein intake should be a minimum of 1.6g /kg per day. Add some healthy fat (omega-3 polyunsaturated fat) and antioxidants to your diet and you should be set.

Even triathletes (and marathoners) that do not want to maintain muscle mass should include weight training in their off-season training regimens. If you are consistent with weight training, you should be able to slightly increase your performance and overall health while preventing injuries. Look back to ISSUES #34 & 37 for an endurance athlete's resistance training protocol. You may even want to check out ISSUE #18 for the facts on training for strength and endurance simultaneously.


You do not have to be training for a marathon to use the following recommendations. The guidelines will help you train for any distance. These traditional recommendations for beginner endurance athletes are quite simple and are focused on increasing aerobic capacity and endurance. For those with competitive endurance sport experience seeking an advanced program to increase performance, the following recommendations may not be of great benefit. Again, try the experts at www.personalbest.ca for experienced help. Personal Best also offers corporate fitness and sport-specific training camps.

To improve endurance, you must be consistent with your training. If you are an absolute beginner, do not be put off by your inability to run (or swim) continuously for a long period of time. Simply begin your training with run-walk (swim-rest) intervals of a pre-determined length. As you progress you will be able to shorten the length of the walking or rest intervals and soon you will be exercising continuously for an extended duration. Just make sure to complete the set length of the workout each time.

For example, begin with a 30-minute training session partitioned into 10 intervals of 1-minute running interspersed with 2-minutes walking. This is an arbitrary example and depends greatly on your initial fitness. As well, if you are just beginning to swim, you may only be able to perform very short work intervals. Whatever interval length you use just be sure to train consistently!

Within 2-3 training sessions, you should begin shifting the duration of the each interval to include more exercise and less rest. Eventually you will be running for 30 minutes continuously. It is also recommended that you separate your initial workouts by a minimum of 48 hours, and perhaps even 72 hours. Therefore, in your first week you will only train 2 times. As your muscles become accustomed to the stress of exercise and "eccentric" contractions (the force your muscles absorb when landing), you will have much less soreness from running and jogging.

At this point you now have 2 options. You may choose to increase the intensity (running pace) of each individual 30 minute training session or you may increase the length of each workout. It may be best to incorporate both for 1 session each week (i.e. 1 long session and 1 intense session). Increase your training frequency to 3 sessions, if you have not done so already.  This 3rd session will be of low- to moderate-intensity and of a very long duration to best simulate the actual competition.

Typically, the longest run (Session 3) will take place on a weekend or day that can be completely devoted to training and followed with rest and recovery. Remember that as you progress, the long runs may be up to 3 hours in length! For your first long run, you may need to return to the walk-run protocol that you used in your early running development. Therefore, you will certainly need time to fuel up with a proper pre-run meal, 1-3 hours to perform the training session, and then plenty of time to recover (massage, cold baths, and other additional recovery modalities).

Thus, the long run is typically a Saturday or Sunday event. The long run is important specific preparation, and prepares you for shoe problems, fluid intake, proper clothing, etc. Try to run the course itself if at all possible. You may also want to incorporate 2 or all 3 of the events into a long training session. Again, this allows for the most specific preparation possible.

Session 1 is scheduled for 2 days after the long run to allow your energy stores to be replenished and for muscle soreness to be reduced. If Session 3 is performed on a Sunday, you may not run again until Tuesday. For absolute beginners, it is recommended that 3 days be scheduled after your first long run in order for your body to recover. You will be sore, so imagine what the day after the race is going to be like! Session 1 should be of increasing duration and moderate intensity. Try to add 5 minutes per week to each run so that you cover a maximum of 60 minutes or 10 km on this day, whichever is less.

Finally, Session 2 will be performed on Thursday. By this time you should be ready to go and very recovered from the long run. In this session, you will "hammer" it out for 30 minutes (but don't neglect a warm-up). Set a distance that you would like to complete and keep track of how far you get in each weekly "intensity" session. That will provide you with a goal for future sessions and allow you to judge your progress. This is an important area to focus on if increasing performance is your number one goal.

Session 3 should also get progressively longer each week. However, it may not be wise to perform a session that is as long as the race itself. For the last 2 weeks before the big event, limit your longest sessions to 75% of the actual race. In the final week leading up to race day, perform only 1 training session at a moderate intensity for a relatively short duration. Check out the nutritional recommendations that will give you a little edge as well.

This is a traditional training protocol for endurance events. Weight training fits in very well on a Monday, Wednesday, or Friday. Please realize that advanced training methods and schedules can be much more complex than this. Fortunately, this schedule has been outlined with performance and SAFETY in mind, especially for beginners. Don't get hooked on the idea that more is better, as it is certainly not, regardless of your activity. Again, if you find this training program to be below your level of capability, do seek an expert in this area to help you improve.

This is a safe and effective introduction to running and endurance sports. You should greatly improve your endurance, decrease body fat, improve health, and improve your aerobic power simply by training consistently along these general guidelines. Remember that if you begin to feel any pain or injury from "overuse", STOP, rest, recover, and make any adjustments necessary. If you don't, long-term problems lay in the future. Be conservative. It's only a fun marathon.

No article on an introduction to endurance training would be complete without addressing injury prevention. There are several hazards of running to which beginners often succumb. These can include dehydration (see tips for pre-hydration in ISSUE #57), gastrointestinal distress, shin splints, and muscle pulls. See the nutrition recommendation section regarding when to eat around your training and racing so that you can avoid an upset stomach during training. 

Warm-up and stretching guidelines are always a controversial topic (check out ISSUES # 16, 54, & 60). Theoretically, because endurance running, biking, and swimming are not explosive sports, the number of acute injuries should be limited. There is no scientific evidence proving that static stretching prevents injury in endurance sports. In fact, there should be few, if any, incidences of muscle strains in a regularly training athlete. For the beginner, you MUST emphasize a low-intensity warm-up period consisting of simple specific movement. If you are about to jog/run for 40 minutes, then make the first 5-10 minutes a buildup from walking to jogging.

"Shin splints" are a very common cause of discomfort in individuals beginning a running program. This pain, occurring in the front of the lower leg, is likely due to the eccentric force applied with each stride as the foot hits the ground. Shin splints can be avoided by ensuring you are running in proper apparel (go to a running store to buy your running shoes, they are the experts!) and by trying to run on softer surfaces (grass is better than pavement, and concrete is the worst, don't run on sidewalks!).

Of note for beginners: Research has shown that individuals with more fat mass may have more muscle soreness and could lose more leg strength after endurance running that has a large downhill component. This is due to the greater load of the individual that will accentuate the eccentric stress on the muscle. The bottom line is that if you are overweight, then you should take it easy when going down hills. Don't be afraid to walk!


For the more serious athlete, here are some guidelines that may help you determine you aerobic power (VO2max). The calculation comes from Barrie Shepley at www.personalbest.ca. The VO2max of an endurance and team sport athlete is often highly valued and gives some indication of performance level. You can also check back to ISSUE #2 for an additional method of VO2max calculation, along with a full explanation of the term.

Before using the equation, you must first determine the time required for you to run 10 km. Now convert this into a decimal form. For example, if you ran 10 km in 40 minutes and 45 seconds, your decimal score would be 40.75. You may now enter this score into the following equation:

VO2max = 120.8 - (1.54 x 10 km time) 10 km time = 40 minutes and 45 seconds = 40.75

VO2max = 120.8 - (1.54 x 40.75)

VO2max = 58.05 ml/kg/min

For the numbers to have true value you should be a runner and you must undertake an all out effort when determining your 10 km time. Based on the above calculation, a 10 km time of just over 40 minutes will result in an estimated V02max in the high 50s. Accordingly, a time of 42 minutes will land the athlete in the range of 55-59 ml/kg/min. The calculation does not differ between males and females.


Nutrition is obviously a big factor in both performance and your ability to maintain your body composition. It is very possible to lose large amounts of weight, including muscle, if you are running 2-3 hours per week, especially in addition to a large volume of cycling and swimming. To maintain muscle, you have to eat enough calories, specifically carbohydrate and protein, and at specific times. Remember these numbers: Carbohydrate = 7-11 g/kg per day during heavy training.

Protein = 1.6g /kg per day.

Your diet should contain 20% of calories from fat.

Everyone, athlete or not, should take a daily multi-vitamin/mineral and antioxidant.

You should also keep fluid intake as high as possible. Drink lots of water all day (as much before and during as your stomach will allow). Try to stay away from refined and processed sugar products, except for your post-training drink. Just as in weight training, immediate post-run nutrition is important! Have a high-carbohydrate beverage (containing a small amount of protein) as soon as your run ends to replenish muscle glycogen (energy) stores.

The post-workout drink should contain up to 0.5-1.0 g/kg of CHO and 0.1-0.2 g/kg of protein (longer training sessions require larger energy intakes). For example, a 70 kg individual that completed a 60 minute training session should consume a beverage of 70 g of carbohydrate and 14 g of protein. This is approximately 300 kcal and should be consumed within 500-1000 ml of fluid as soon as possible after training. You may need to double these recommendations after training sessions of 90 minutes or more. Talk about refueling and re-hydrating!

Avoid concentrated sugar beverages such as juice and soda pop immediately before or during training because this may lead to an upset stomach. Some people may not be able to tolerate any food in their stomach when they begin running or swimming. Therefore, you must appropriately time your training between meals.

For very long training sessions, it is recommended that you "train" yourself to consume drinks with a very low sugar concentration. For example, Gatorade (and other sport drinks) has been formulated to contain a 6-8% sugar solution. This has been shown to be well absorbed and helps to increase endurance performance. Juice and many other commercial beverages contain a 14% sugar solution and are not well tolerated by the stomach during exercise. However, simply diluting these drinks with equal amount of water gives you a 6-8% sugar solution sport drink!


How far can you (or will you) take it? Endurance athletes are some of the most dedicated athletes to their sport. Just take a look at this website, www.skreeminfury.com, to see an example of busy people making time to train for the endurance sports that they love. Not only world-renowned scientists, but world-class performers as well!


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