31 August 2010

Just Because You're An Endurance Athlete Doesn't Mean You Need To Look Like You Have AIDS

Last year, Triathlete magazine carried an article I found hilarious, due to the irony of having a hot, ripped chick on the cover, about whether or not triathletes were body image obsessed. Expecting the thing to be jammed with hot chicks, and to at least be marginally impressed by the Pavel-esque physiques of the guys, I opened the thing up to be confronted with a pack of walking skeletons unseen in the western world since the POW camps of the last world wars. Amusingly, the article went on to describe how the guys seemed to be more obsessed with being skinny than the women, as they believed that a low BMI would lead to greater victories, provided they didn't die of starvation in the meantime.  I was under the impression that everyone on Earth was aware of the exploits of Dean Karnazes, which should have laid all that bullshit to rest long ago.  The guy's not super jacked, by any stretch of the imagination, but he's not 10 calories from the threshold of death by starvation, either.  For those of you who are unaware, he's won all sorts of ultramarathons, completed 50 marathons in 50 days, ran 135 mi across Death Valley in 120 degree heat (the Badwater 135), and is an avowed paleo guy, laying all of the nonsense about high carbs for endurance athletes to rest.  
Just about every guy in your gym has smaller legs than Karnazes.

Clearly, Karnazes isn't going to be winning any bodybuilding competitions anytime soon, but he is a fan of resistance training, mostly in the form of bodyweight exercises.  This is why he carries more muscle than the average runner, which he claims is key in injury preventions.  "Too many runners only run" says Karnazes, "hence their overall muscular development isn't very good.  I carry a little more bulk than your typical runner, which may slow me down a bit, but ultimately helps with injury prevention and being able to go those super-long distances."

Lance Armstrong is also a big proponent of lifting weights, which he presumably does so as not to look like Matthew McConaughey's little brother when out picking up chicks at the bar.  He's recommended weightlifting to his legions of adoring fans, as well, and reportedly lifts three times a week.  For reasons I cannot fathom, his workouts consist of hang cleans (with form that truly makes mine look impeccable), step ups, dumbbell rows, and side lunges, all for sets of a commendable 5 reps.  Given Armstrong's credibility in endurance sports, perhaps his half-starved companions in lengthy, boring, and painful endurance athletics might take a page out of his book.
The people at the clinic told him no antiretrovirals unless he hit a sub 5 min mile.

Certainly, by now, a great many of you a silently screaming "Who fucking cares?" and considering throwing your laptop against the wall due to my acknowledgement of a seemingly irrelevant topic.  You'd be surprised, however, at the number of goofballs out there who actually train in both endurance sports and Olympic weightlifting, and who read this blog because they're quite obviously insane- birds of a feather, and all that.  Personally, I would rather trip and fall facefirst into Lil Kim's vagina during her period after she'd contracted ebola than run 10 miles, but to each their own.
Am I the only one singing "Cherry Pie" in my head right now?

Not surprisingly, science falls on the side of common sense, Karnazes, Armstrong, and anyone who doesn't want to look like they just wandered out of Auschwitz in this debate.  Clearly unbeknownst to triathletes and other endurance athletes, strength training has a wide array of positive effects for endurance athletes, not the least of which is improving their physical appearance.  Studies have shown fairly definitively that the faster a runner is anaerobically, the faster they are in endurance runs.  Although you would think that those two times would contraindicate, if you look at the times of Olympic milers, at this point, they run competitive 400s, which would put them competitive Division I 100m sprinters, as well.  Looked at that way, it makes sense that plyometric leap distance and the 50m sprint correlate very strongly with 10k times, and that the 5k and the 20m dash correlate strongly. (Paavolainen et al) Another well-respected study showed that those with the highest peak running speeds on a treadmill had the fastest distance times, and attributed that fact to greater "muscle contractility".  (Noakes)  

As such, it seems that at the very least, endurance athletes should be less worried about simply having the aerobic capacity to finish these races, and far more worried about increasing the contractile power of their muscles, which will in turn make them faster in sprints, and thus carry over into distance running.  In particular, endurance athletes should consider taking up Olympic lifting in particular, as it seems that explosive lifting correlates more strongly with improving times on endurance events.  Low repetitions with relatively high weights in the Olympic lifts should, according to these studies, produce far better distance times.  Thus, exercises like the high pull, clean and jerk, and snatch could prove extremely beneficial to distance athletes.  Additionally, quick lifts conducted with kettlebells could prove useful, as will plyometrics (and in particular depth jumps).  I would also caution distance athletes that they should absolutely not ignore their upper bodies in the belief that their lower bodies are the primary muscles involved.  A quick glance at nearly any sprinter will reveal pretty fucking good upper body development as well, particularly in the shoulders.  
Jon Drummond of the US 4x100 team.

Champion trainer of sprinters, Charlie Francis, believes that upper body strength is essential for powerful arms and fast hands, and that this will translate to faster foot strike time.  As multiple studies have shown that foot strike time contributes to faster distance times as well, you might as well make sure you've got ample upper body work in there.  Lastly, Prof. Michael Yessis asserted at one point that he had read in some uncited Soviet literature that Olympic weightlifters had, by virtue of their muscle contractility, the ability to beat Olympic sprinters over the first 10 meters of a sprint.(Yessis)  If that's true, it would suggest that the lot of you should get your asses in the gym and start moving heavy weight.  Even if it's bullshit, however, there exists enough evidence that heavy strength training will help that you might want to consider dropping some road work in favor of some good old-fashioned weightlifting, in the form of singles, doubles, and triples.  Lifts should be done as explosively as possible to enhance your contractility (which I'm not 100% sure is actually a word, but I pulled it directly from the Noakes study), so leave aside the traditional powerlifts in favor of the more explosive quick lifts and plyometrics, unless you're doing Westside-esque speed work.
I googled "Westside speed day" and got this.  Awesome pic though.

... and for the love of all that's fucking holy- start eating.  If Karnazes can 135 miles through the fucking desert without eating a bagel, you can too.  Bring on the motherfucking steaks and heavy barbells!  Be more like Lee priest and less like the half starved douche in the middle of this article and you might find yourselves winning- at least with the opposite sex.


BISHOP D, JENKINS D, MACKINNON L, McENIERY M, CAREY M.  The effects of strength training on endurance performance and muscle characteristics.  Med Sci Sports Exerc 31(6) 886-891, 1999.
  --The present data suggest that increased leg strength does not improve cycle endurance performance in endurance-trained, female cyclists.

HICKSON, R. C.; ROSENKOETTER, M. A.; BROWN, M. M. Strength training effects on aerobic power and short-term endurance.
  --These findings provide evidence that HRT is capable of dramatically increasing short-term endurance, when the muscles involved in the training are used almost exclusively during the testing without an accompanying increase in Vo2max.  Med Sci Sports Exerc 12(5):336-339, 1980

Hickson RC,Dvorak BA, Gorostiaga EM, Kurowski TT, Foster C.  Potential for strength and endurance training to amplify endurance performance.  J Appl Physiol 65: 2285-2290, 1988
-- These data do not demonstrate any negative performance effects of adding heavy-resistance training to ongoing endurance-training regimens. They indicate that certain types of endurance performance, particularly those requiring fast-twitch fiber recruitment, can be improved by strength-training supplementation.

NOAKES, T. D.  Implications of exercise testing for prediction of athletic performance: a contemporary perspective.  Meet. Sci. Sports Exerc, Vol. 20, No. 4, pp. 319-330, 1988.
  --This review proposes that the factors limiting maximal exercise performance might be better explained in terms of a failure of muscle contractility ("muscle power"), which may be independent of tissue oxygen deficiency.

Paavolainen L, Häkkinen K, Hämäläinen I, Nummela A, and Rusko H.  Explosive-strength training improves 5-km running time by improving running economy and muscle power. J Appl Physiol 86: 1527-1533, 1999
  --In conclusion, the present simultaneous explosive-strength and endurance training improved the 5K time in well-trained endurance athletes without changes in their O2 max. This improvement was due to improved neuromuscular characteristics that were transferred into improved VMART and running economy.

Yessis, Michael.  Letter.  http://www.elitetrack.com/forums/viewthread/7841/


  1. Great post. I've run a good amount of 5k, 10ks and a few marathons so this really stuck with me.

    Also, I read this blog because even though I run these things, I don't want to look like a half starved ass. Thus I try to get the best from both worlds.

  2. Cool. I was probably as surprised to find that endurance athletes read this as I was that a bunch of chicks who do Crossfit read it. Half the time, I'm surprised anyone but me reads it, haha.

  3. good post man. as i swimmer i used to think it was good to be really light. then i realized all the guys who were beating me also had 50lbs on me haha. i started lifting seriously last year and it definitely makes a difference

  4. yeah those could war PWO camps were brutal

  5. Jamie,

    Do you not feel that you would get any benefits from running?

    You are happy to tell them why they are being daft for not including lifting in there plan.

    Yet you frequently bash running. I'm just starting running and i'm loving the benefits.

    *better cardio

    * can speed travel up with a easy jog - without any heavy breathing

    * Feel healthier

    * Runners high

    * My work capacity has improved, max effort lifting is not winding me nearly as much as before, and I feel I'm recovering faster.

    *I'm enjoying going from sucking to being half decent at it. Great kick in the face for the joggers I know who say muscles make you bad at running.

    I'm not suggesting massive runs - around 5km or 3miles.

    I'm sure actual runners can give you a much better list. It seems rather hypocritical to say what they can get from your training without applying the same mindset in reverse.

    This is not intentded as a dick head post incase anyone feels the need to remove there mouth from Jamie's ball sack to defend him.

  6. Hahaha. I used to run, when I wrestled in high school. I detest it. I've always detested it. When I bash running, I always state that it's because I don't want to, not because people shouldn't. Insofar as having good cardio, I can't really think of anything I'd try to run from- anything that scary could likely run me down, and as we all know, bears climb trees faster than humans can run. As for benefits from running, I would obtain none that I want:
    Concurrent strength and endurance training appears to inhibit strength development when compared with strength training alone. Leveritt M, Abernethy P.J., Barry B.K., Logan P.A. Concurrent Strength and Endurance Training: A Review . Sports Med 28(6) 413-427, 1999. I know that from personal experience- doing cardio has always fucked my squat.

  7. When I feel like I get winded too easily, I just do more of the Bear, or I cut my rest times, or both.

  8. Good post.

    David Goggins is another dude that does a ton of ultra marathon stuff and yet doesn't look like a bag of shit.


    Guy is a Navy SEAL as well. Pretty bad ass.

  9. there was a point a half a year ago where I would bike 2 hours on non-lifting days. While I did enjoy it, and it did my heart nothing but good, it was a bitch and a half for the first hour and I saw very little carryover to my lifts.

    I preffer barbell complexes with five reps per motion and at least 10 movements. Thats 50 reps per set, with a minute and a half rest inbetween sets. I repeat until the lactic acid makes me puke. Done daily, I saw improved cardio, carryover and mental fucking toughness.

  10. I think it's hilarious how many wannabes online would never be caught dead doing a curl because they "don't care what they look like and just want to perform better (as if their shitty 5x5 program that they pulled off of stronglifts dot com is anything even remotely close to a high performance workout)" but are afraid to run any farther than 400 metres because they don't want to look like a marathon runner.

  11. Yo Jamie instead of doing "cardio" for GPP you should have a couple of xfit workouts and bust them out for time and you will reap all the benefits without getting bored. Just food for thought.

  12. It's also funny that I started working out earlier this year to lose some fat. I was running. Quit cigarettes, and after that I could actually run 400 meters without a pause. Added in some body weight training, chin ups etc.

    Now fast forward a couple of times, and I'm running a 6 km run without pause. Eating paleo.

    After that, more serious weight training, my own blend of 5 x 5 starting strength, coupled with the anabolic diet. Only been doing sprints. Yet I was out running the other day and the 4 km jog was just a breeze - easier than ever. Could easily have topped the 6 km run even though I've only been doing fullbody weight training x 3 a week and sprint/walk sessions.

  13. Oh yeah fuck all the people only doing jogging and shit for weight loss, at best they get skinny fat or anorexic skinny yay. I swear, just after a lil bit of heavy weight training the body really starts looking DIFFERENT. A lot of fat, overweight fucks refuse to understand this shit.

  14. Jamie, you probably saw this already, but here it is anyway. I guess some football players got tired of looking like fat fucks http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?id=5021601

  15. Good post Jamie - I'm always trying to tell the lads this.

    Although I want to be massive and still be stronger than I look, I would still class myself as an endurance athlete (Im currently 200lbs) - now I do C&P type workouts - 1-2 lifts (or usually just PC+PP) for high sets of low reps, followed by a high intensity finisher

    Even though I'm not always the best runner, once strength is bought into it, I'd like to think I'm well up there

    In regards to looking like a marathon runner: Marathons usually take at least 3hrs (more like 5 for most people) - If you stick to 6miles maximum (~40min at a decent pace) then you wont look like a marathon runner, but will still have a respectable 10mile time

  16. I used to hate running. A friend told me to read "born to run By Christopher McDougall"

    This book changed my view of running from something I should fight through to something fun that I now look forward too. Highly recommend it Jamie.

  17. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chris_Solinsky

    Just to throw in another runner who doesn't look like a Halloween decoration. US record for 10k, only non-African under 27 minutes, with a build of a fighter rather than a runway model.

  18. I suggestion for a post. Would be pretty cool if you made a selection of lifting standards for people to aim for. The standard ones are already known: 2x Bench, 2.5 Squat, 3x Deadlift, 20pullups, 100 pushups, 500 Bw squats, Pullup +BW ect..

    I would like to know how I hold up against folk on 1 handed cleans, rows, cheat curls ect..

  19. Thought it was interesting that Steve Reeves invented Power Walking and even wrote a book about it in the early 80s. He felt it was a good way to burn fat without potentially losing muscle, jarring joints, etc. I will say that when I lived in Italy all I did was lift but did a shitload of walking for transportation and I was 5% bodyfat even with all the bread and pasta.

  20. Interesting suggestion. I'll see what I can do on that- I'll probably just be pulling the benchmarks out of my ass, but I'll give it some thought.

    Stas- That's pretty cool. Who would have thought a Pole could compete with Kenyans in their bread and butter sport?

    Anon- I'll check out Born To Run.

    Pete- I hadn't heard that. It's a bit weird that he's trying to sort of proselytize a diet, but people do weird shit.

    Lewis- If it wasn't so expensive, I'd be all over it for my first workout of the day. I'm not dropping an extra $60-$100 a month to lift light, though.

  21. Just so you know, Lance pics was taken during his 'retirement' from cycling during which he ran marathons but did not race in the tour de France. When he came back to the tour he had a really hard time losing all that upper body muscle mass. Carmichael, his coach, wrote something on how he had to be in calorie deficit to lose the muscles gradually. Back at the tour, he looked anorexic again which is necessary to climb well.

  22. I've seen a few pics of ultra runners who didn't fit the super skinny runner profile, I wonder if the demands of ultra's are better served by a greater amount of muscle mass?

    For a regular marathon or 10k runner, I can't imagine that bigger will ever equal faster though. The first person to run under 2 hours for a marathon probably isn't gonna have the build of Tyson Gay or Michael Johnson.

  23. Now you're giving ednurance athletes advice? You just seem to know what's good for everyone don't? What's your sport C&P besides being the pied piper of douchebags?

  24. Don't kid yourself C&P I think most people come here for the laughs at your expense. What a pompous ass you are C&P!

  25. Feel free to ignore the fact that the entire blog was based on studies over which I'd stumbled, Rant. You're the single dumbest motherfucker to ever turn on a computer.

  26. I've find about your blog a couple weeks ago and i've become really interested in using your methods.

    But i'm a novice in terms of lifting (Just came back from an injury, didn't weight-train for 6 months more or less.) and I train in Muay Thai/boxing 3 times a week.

    Do you think it would be possible to implement your methods into my training schedule ?

  27. Jamie- Do you own a jumprope? Can you do a pushup, we all have already seen you do some pullups? The gym you go to already has bumperplates I assume, so there you go you don't need to fork out that to hit your metcon. haha

  28. XS- Check out this entry: http://chaosandpain.blogspot.com/2010/07/b-in-beginner-doesnt-stand-for-bitch.html

  29. I remember flipping through this issue of "Triathlete" at the gym...and how I thought they should change the name of the mag to "Skinny Guys with Awkward Bulges". I too was horribly mislead by the hot chick on the cover.

    I've always thought bodybuilding mags were kinda homo-gay, but it seemed like every page in "Triathlete" was dude after dude in a skin-tight body-glove with his package flipped up onto his stomach.

    That was the last time I looked through a running mag, and it pretty much extinguished any small spark of interest I had in distance running from that point on.

  30. This blog is cool. I´m tired of reading retarded "muscle" web pages like t-nation. Keep up the good work

  31. Rant-

    Your newest blog entry is badass! Did you decide you loved Jamie so much that you wanted to be him, or what? Is that some kind of monument? Whichever it is, it ruled.

  32. I remember the days when cardio was king, i did 10k 2x a day, morning on empty and at night after my supersetted workouts. I loved it at the time but saw little strength carry over 9 months and i went at least 12-14 workouts a week and eating clean bodybuilding diet aka non-paleo high pro high carb low fat.

    Fast forward i went and got a job as an reinforcing ironworker and did that for 6 months without working out and eating mc'ds everyday. The 8 hours working provided not only more strength but allowed me to run faster 10k (i thought i couldnt do it cause it been so long). Aswell a leaner physique. 32 not a 34.

    I'll never look at a treadmill again waste of time, sprints seem fun, maybe chase a bear up a tree after a couple more months of CnP show him whos boss.

    If anyones done rebar packin is the shit like doing cleans all day long. Than your foreman yell at you to hurry the f up and get the steel in concrete is on its way so fuck him pack more!! woot woot local 725.

  33. In regards to that football article:


    So I don't think it was the paleo diet alone that made him 300lbs 8%

  34. Does CnP have a facebook page yet?

  35. Rants like the village idiot Kings used to keep around for a good laugh when impregnating legions of women got too stressful. Thank you for your fucktardedness, it's always good for a laugh.

  36. This comment has been removed by the author.

  37. What good would a facebook page be to any of you chickenshits? You all post anonymously because your dicks are too small to handle even the miniscule responsibility and accountability that would come with using your name on the Internet.

  38. Hey, fuck you Glen, my name is on the forum.

    Good god this entire comment thread is all over the place.

  39. It wouldn't matter who read this or who reads it regularly, anyone bent on becoming something should read this. Just from the non lifting topics and just on the life topics alone. Not being a lazy fat retard, and general topics on how to be a fucking man. All athletes should read this as well, I am pretty sure that a tennis player could find something in here useful. lol

  40. Or you can be like Simon and use a fake name:

    "Simon Adebisi is a fictional character played by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje on the HBO dramatic series Oz, set in an experimental prison unit."

  41. Glenn, could you start your own blog? Then, you'd have a place to go on endlessly about how wonderful you are, in comparison to the rest of us, and how much of a man you are. Heck, you could even recount the tale of your mommy losing her virginity or how you and three other addicts couldn't beat up the homeless guy.
    If you put all this writing in one place, then I could entirely avoid it. Win-Win, huh?

  42. I'm sorry, what? Did you type that in gay? Because I don't speak gay.

  43. Jamie - what are your thoughts on this? Derek Poundstone posted it on FB. Obviously he isn't suffering from estrogenic effects. Do you think he really uses soy protein?


  44. 1) That mag is the former in-house mag for Vitamin Shoppe and is now only sold in GNC. Taking advice from it is like taking advice on avoiding VD from a ghetto pimp.
    2)Derek Poundstone is sponsored by DuPont, who just built a massive soy processing plant.

    Therefore, I think soy is the goddamned devil.

  45. Confirms my suspicions (didn't know about your first point). Thanks.

  46. Jamie - trying to order a shirt but the "buy now" button dosen't work...and I want my fucking PR or ER shirt! Thanks for the wicked blog.


  47. Hi,

    This is a good article.

    I'm one of those guys who runs ultramarathons and also does Olympic weightlifting. I'm not great at either but I do enjoy them both.

    The only thing I would point out is that when you said Dean Karnazes does low carb, that is not exactly true. From what I understand, he eats clean paleo-esque on days that he's not training long. I believe his favorite food is salmon. However on the days he runs long, he eats a lot of junk food. He's been known to have pizzas delivered to him while running.

    Another thing, you should also look at elite trail runners. Unlike triathletes and road runners, quite a few trail runners have quite a bit of muscle on them for an endurance athlete, usually in their calves, quads, and even back/shoulders.


  48. Ha Ha.. SCS, I combed this entire ridiculous comment section to drop that same info about Karnazes, and here you are at the bottom beating me too it!


  49. Interesting about Karnazes. I was pretty much just reporting what I'd read about him, so good to know. As for the trail runners, that makes sense- free runners also carry far more muscle than other athletes, so it make sense that trail runners would, too.

  50. I realize that I'm a year late with this post, but I just managed to stumble across your blog recently.

    I myself am a huge fan of lifting some heavy ass shit, and like you I used to despise running. Although recently I hurt my shoulder and all I could do was run. Somehow I managed to get into it. Now I love it, and now that my shoulder is healing I plan on keeping distance running in my program.

    In regards to this post have you checked out Shane Skowrons blog? He is a great example of an Oly lifter with some impressive numbers who ALSO runs ultras..


  51. PS I love your blog. I noticed you live or used to live in philly. I'm going to be transferring to temple University next year. Any gym recommendations in or around the city with decent equipment? Hopefully bumpers haha.

  52. If you have ever heard of the rule of exercise specificity, you would know that the idea of olympic weightlifting transferring positively to the performance of endurance athletes is fucking retarded... I ran a 5k in 15:51 (cross country) and 1500m in 4:00 in highschool. The most efficient way to train for running is to run, the best way to train for lifting is to lift.