How to Run 100 Miles: The Art and Science of Endurance-Week 13

One of the best seminars I’ve ever attended was led by hormonal specialist Ali Gilbert. It almost 5 years ago to date…

Lex and I headed down to Connecticut for a day filled with presentations by Ali, Dr. Pat Davidson, and other leading thinkers on the topics of health, fitness, and human performance.

Ali’s talk touched on all of the things that had somehow become taboo-especially in the endurance training community. Sex drive, disruption of the menstrual cycle during high volume training blocks, and the role of testosterone and estrogen in brain and body function.

This week’s installment of The Art and Science of Endurance is a deep dive into the material that Ali presented that day which fundamentally reshaped how we think about training both male and female athletes.

As I prepare to offload a ton of material in the form of slides and podcasts I want to share a story from my early days of coaching.

I was coaching a woman who loved to hike and run and wanted to add strength training to her routine to maintain bone health and prevent the loss of her ability to play in the woods and run races for decades to come.

She also worked a very high stress job and was having difficulty sleeping.

I learned that the sleep disturbances had been ongoing for years.

The lack of sleep began to catch up with her and eventually she started experiencing issues with mood, cognition, and chronic stress. I asked if she had gotten a blood panel recently. She hadn’t-and after our repeated talks about hormone levels affecting long term health she opted to get one done at a local lab. It turns out that her testosterone levels were completely tanked.

It was extremely low and at the recommendation of a health practitioner that she was seeing she began supplementing with testosterone.

This dramatically improved her sleep which restored the many aspects of mental and physical health impacted by insufficient exhaustion that we covered in a past installment of the program.

Without addressing her insufficient testosterone levels she may have struggled with mental and physical decline for the remainder of her life-no matter how much strength training and endurance training she invested in.

Moreover, the training process itself can significantly impact testosterone levels in the body-for the negative as well as the positive. My goal this week is to highlight strategies to maintain or boost testosterone naturally along with some considerations around training in alignment with the menstrual cycle. This is something that we’ve discussed at length with our athletes at the training center and it can be a game changer from an injury prevention and performance perspective.

Let’s dive in.

Below you’ll see a few key slides from Ali’s presentation.

The supplement question comes up a lot when talking with athletes. Getting a blood panel can highlight area’s of deficiency without making broad generalizations about supplementation. As pointed out in Ali’s presentation, Vitamin D, ZInc, Magnesium, and Calcium at the most common deficiencies that you’ll find and they can be easily cleared up to restore the essential micro-nutrients to optimal levels.
High estrogen in men is increasingly common. A strength training program along with some simple lifestyle changes can make a remarkable impact on health while reducing the risk of heart disease, stroke, and prostate cancer.
Testosterone levels for women are barely addressed in the conversation on health, fitness, and performance-but as you’ll learn they are critical to optimize for many aspects of both physical and mental health.
This distinction alone can be hugely beneficial for helping female athletes optimize their investment in training to get the results that they seek without burning the candle at both ends (working to put on muscle when the body is less anabolic and vise versa.)
Some simple ideas on nutrient timing and macronutrient distribution.
This may be the simplest and most important slide to illustrate how to optimize training around the menstrual cycle.

For the male athletes in the program, the deep dive below should cover the bases of what you might want to know about testosterone. If not, I highly recommend following Ali G who recently started a project called testosterone school and who’s podcasts and e-books are a treasure trove of information on all things hormonal health.

The podcast episodes below highlight some of the misconceptions about testosterone and female athletes that persist despite the abundance of research in this area.

Free testosterone for women we’re shooting for 300–400. A lot of women that I see are in the 100 or lower range, and that’s very common.” -Dr. Derrick Primex

Hormonal health is one of the most overlooked issues in health and fitness-especially in the endurance training community. Optimize for health, longevity, and performance here and all of your training efforts will be exponentially improved.

Note the ball in between Lex’s knees on this squat. Don’t hesitate to give this a try and feel how it cues adductors while creating changes in the orientation of of the pelvis. We use it often with many of our athletes and are always amazed by how much benefit they’ve found in this simple variation.

This week’s training looks very similar to last week. The conditioning workouts are different and the mileage changes a bit. You’ll see the modifications below.

It’s also the last week that you’ll see these longer “article style” installments to guide the program-where you take your training from here will be entirely dependent on your goals and how you want to feel and perform.

Next week’s installment will focus on goal setting and selecting from a variety of mileage and strength training options. You will be given a 16 week training plan that we’ve used with athletes locally and globally as well several different approaches based on your unique goals for the season.

You can always join in on the Physiology First live sessions on the PFU platform for new training ideas and live workout experiences to add to your existing arsenal of knowledge and your current training goals.

Use this week to ask: Where are my strengths and weaknesses? How do I feel on longer run (14 miles is the highest mileage that we’ll run at this stage of the program with options for higher mileage approaches and lower mileage approaches presented next week.)

What are my physical goals? Body composition? Longevity? How do want to feel in my body? Do I want to emphasize muscle growth, hormone levels, and overall health gains or do I want to play super hard in the mountains, trails, or roads this year and push my endurance capacity to a new level?

These are just some questions that will guide your training experience for the remainder of the program. They are questions to get honest about at every stage of the training process. As long as we are honest with ourselves about our goals we are training with agency and autonomy while building an antifragile training system that allows us to adapt on purpose!

Strength and Conditioning: Day One

Same as last week except the squats are now sets of 10 with a 6 second eccentric and a 6 second concentric phase and the conditioning workout is as written below:

Every Minute on the Minute for 12 minutes with nasal only breathing-if possible, of course ;)

Minute One: 8 x 40 foot sprint. Rest the remainder of the minute.

Minute Two: 15 squat thrusts

Minute Three: Heavy farmers carry (weight in each arm-heavy kettlebells work well but anything can be used as a weight to carry.)

Repeat for 12 minutes with an alternate version being “as many squat thrusts as possible in the Minute Two block. Choose this if 15 seems easily accessible and you really want to push your aerobic capacity on this round and use the carries to regulate breathing.

Aerobic Base: Day One

Run: 10 miles. Nasal only breathing. Goal: Imagine head of femur and ischial tuberosity (back pockets) as two magnets. Notice what happens when they move towards one another as opposed to away. More glute engagement, less back strain, more like running in a telephone booth than falling forward with your belly button leading the charge.

Recovery:

Post run breathing: 2 minutes

Inhale through the nose. Exhale through the mouth. Repeat until heart rate is approximately 60% of Max HR or until you feel like you can comfortably return to nasal breathing.

Strength and Conditioning Day 2:

Same as last week except the squats are replaced by 3 sets of 8 single leg heel supported deadlifts and the conditioning workout is as written below:

A.) 5 rounds:

10 single arm squat and press (5 per side)

10 ninja cleans (5 per side)

30 jump rope skips

B.) 3x8 single leg glute bridges. These are such a powerful exercise-keep them in your repertoire every season and you’ll build glute strength for DAYS!

Sprints: Take this sprint effort at a moderate intensity and use it as an opportunity dial in the mechanics that we covered throughout the program so far and to ease back into the sprint work. Maintain a 65–70% effort this week.

Three rounds each of:

5 x 25 meter sprints. Walk back to the start after each effort. Rest two minutes between efforts.

Recovery:

Post run breathing: 2 minutes

Inhale through the nose. Exhale through the mouth. Repeat until heart rate is approximately 60% of Max HR or until you feel like you can comfortably return to nasal breathing.

Aerobic Base: Day 2

Run 14 miles: Nasal breathing only. This will be the longest run to date. Tune into how your body feels on these efforts and ask where you’d like to see progress. Is it speed? Is it form? Is it muscular endurance? In order to progress with agency and clarity it is critical to pinpoint “what” changes you’d like to prepare your body to adapt to. You’ll be given the option to take the program into several distinct directions based on your goals next week-so use this run to figure out what exactly those goals are!

Thank you all for being part of the program. We hope that you’re feeling stronger on every level and we look forward to creating several paths to follow next week while supporting you in every way that we can until race day-and beyond!

David

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