New Mantra: Faster, Harder, Shorter

The "faster, harder, shorter" mantra, aimed at people of all ages who wish to achieve quick results on the road to fitness, is spreading like the H1N1 virus.

My last blog was about some anti-runners who recommended a grueling, once per week, 12 minute routine in which you do extreme resistance (weights or machine) exercise to the point your muscles fail. Half their book was a dire warning that running will debilitate or kill you.

Then I got an email from Al Sears, MD, who promotes a copyrighted program called PACEBOOK (I bought a copy and found some good stuff) that recommends short, intense, progressive interval training, which can be sprinting, biking, swimming, lifting, jump roping, etc. Like his book, his email had more dire warnings about jogging/running. Check out:

So I cringed when I picked up the the August issue of Trail Runner magazine (in which you'll find a snatch of poetry about running in mud they printed from my April 2009 blog) to see an article entitled "The Fabulous 4 (Minutes) - The Short - Intense - Workout That Delivers." It is about a system developed Izumi Tabata, at a Japanese sports institute in the early 90s, that involves sprinting as hard as you can for 20 seconds, then resting 10 seconds, then sprinting again. You do this eight times. Tabata discovered that this painful regimen can confer tremendous improvements in aerobic and anaerobic capacity. (I'd be wary of any regimen developed in Japan because, even today, it will be influenced by medieval samurai culture, which places a high value on suffering.)

I think there are great benefits to be gained from interval training. I do sprints once or twice a week. But it should be noted that the only injury I've had this year was a pull in the lower left Achilles tendon that occurred when -- sprinting! The anti-runners always offer scientific studies to support their attacks on jogging/running, however, often these studies are flawed or incomplete. If you want to read a good blog, with solid scientific thinking, that questions these broad claims for interval training over running, go to

If you haven't done intervals in a long time, start very slowly and build up. There is no hurry to get to "fitness." The journey itself is the goal. Start with the slow gentle approach to interval training recommended by Covert Bailey.

A TOJ knows that all physical activities come with some risk of injury. So what? To a TOJ, the real problem with the 4 minute this and 12 minute that is he or she enjoys exercising too much to be subject to time limits. Life's too short as it is.

1 comment:

Donald Moore said...

Dave, it's Donald--future TOJ-to-be. My thoughts on faster, harder and shorter: it worked for me but in a modified way. Let me explain. With Byron retiring and becoming CEO, doing double duty as CEO and COO for 90 days and our rapid PCHC growth I knew last Dec/Jan I could not get in the same quantity of training this year for triathlons as I did in 2008. I discerned that I would have to increase quality to make up for a loss of mileage, laps and spinning workouts. I trained my ass of for a half marathon last fall and dropped my PR from 1:59 to 1:52. So, going into 2009 I knew I had built a huge aerobic base from which to work. My plan was to swim 2-4x per week, run 3-4 times a week with 2 shorter (3-5 mile) up tempo or track workouts, one easy day and one long run and bike as much as damn possible with as many hills as I could find. Also, I committed to what I called "epic" workouts 1-2x per month on top of this, usually with friends. Example, 2 x 3 mile bike up a avg. grade of 8%, 30 mins per leg. Or, a 8 mile canyon run up and down. Or, an indoor tri: 1000m siwm, 45 min stationary bike and a 30 min tempo run at the Y. The upshot was increase the intensity, increase the affect of gravity (hills) and mix in a periodic workout that exhausted my body. My mantra: push back to fatigue barrier. Don't worry about being the fastest in field but don't let anyone "out-suffer" you. I don't know about 12 minute insanely intense workouts but my tempo runs, bike hill repeats and trail runs (walking many times) did the trick. I did a tri in Salida yesterday (1000m swim, 25 mile bike and 10K run) and dropped my time by a minute over last year. I wanted to break 60 mins. on the 10 K (last year time was 1:00.57) but landed a 1:03this year. However, I shredded my bike time from last year, which was kick ass because the bike is my weakness. I had worked and worked all year on my cadence, gearing and lactate threshold on the hills and I negative split the two loop course and despite a slower run posted a PR for the tri course called Tenderfoot. So, quality works but what's the surprise about that? I tend not to think or behave at the extremes. My size and age tells me that huge quanitites will never be a good formula for a long term running/tri career, which I desire. So, quality it is. Oh, and, I belive in river runoff wading after a run and ice baths at home after any effort greater than an hour. I believe in it. Dave, it's honor to post to your blog cuz you get this stuff. We have to do a 'fitness' effort one of these days and share some karma. Peace. Haiku:

When the legs are fresh
The trail looks tasty, go now
Run until you stop