For $1000 Alex! Gorillas and Running Marathons…

What is the next special on Fox?  A few years ago they had on “Man versus Beast”.  A terrible show where they pitted animals versus humans in athlete or strength based feats.  They had a race between an elephant and its equivalent weight in “little people” pull a cargo plane a specific distance.  Funny, I would rather watch that then “The Bachelor”.   I wish they would have had a Gorilla squatting or bench pressing, I would be curious to see how much they can bench.  I have also thought of testing the VO₂ of squirrels, but we would need really small Douglas bags (lame ex phys joke).

You don’t see gorillas running long slow distance, and you do not see a jacked up squirrel.

What I am getting at is the idea behind concurrent training.  According to Levitte et al. (1999), “Athletes involved in many sports often perform strength and endurance training concurrently in an effort to achieve adaptations specific to both forms of training.  To date, research investigating the neuromuscular adaptations and performance improvements associated with concurrent strength and endurance training (subsequently referred to as concurrent training) has produced inconsistent results. Some studies have shown that concurrent training inhibits the development of strength and power but does not affect the development of aerobic fitness when compared with either mode of training alone.  Other studies have shown that concurrent training has no inhibitory effect on the development of strength or endurance.  However, it has also been shown that the development of aerobic fitness is compromised by concurrent training.”

So I am not going to say that I am an endurance guru.  There are many people in Calgary who are great at it.  Jack VanDyk of Endurance Training Systems at the Talisman Centre is one of those guys.  My buddy and fellow classmates, Mike Patton and John Sasso are also guys I would trust with an athlete for endurance training.  I could take a non competitive client and train them for their first marathon or distance bike ride, bloody hell; I am doing that for myself.  I will hang my hat on the fact that I can test these athletes and analyze the test with some of the best around.  But I have a lot of work to do if I ever decided to take on a competitive endurance athlete.  My job, my specialty is getting athletes stable, strong and powerful.  In some cased one, two or all three of those for an individual athlete.   And here is where things disconnect.

I spent the summer as the assistant strength coach for the Canadian Cross Country Ski Team.  I loved the job, the staff and the athletes.  I hope that I can renew it again for another year.  This team is full of aerobic machines.  I would love to have half the fitness of any of them. Now would I look at making an athlete of that fitness caliber bulky by training for strength?  I have written programs for a friend of mine who is now on the National Triathlon team.  I would not go and try to get him “jacked”.   The biggest fear of any endurance athlete is a decrease in performance and from the literature there is that possibility that strength training will decrease performance… if the strength coach does not know what he/ she is doing.

This is the way I look at it.  Strength training for an endurance athlete is absolutely necessary, but it is not about size.  It is about stabilization, building a structural tolerance to with stand the event that they are competing in.  My job in developing a strength training program for an endurance athlete is based around developing strength in the associated joints so that that athlete can develop optimal power and transfer that into the ground (for upright athletes) or pedals (for seated athletes) as a simplistic example.  Therefore that transfer of power leads to a greater ground reaction force and ease of propelling themselves forward at a greater speed.  Couple that with the appropriate cardiovascular training and you have an athlete who can run or cycle at a great percentage of their VO₂ max with great efficiency.

General clients and weekend warriors, guess what?  Concurrent training is not going to decrease your performance.  You are not a specialist, you are a generalist.  A well rounded fitness program for a majority of the population as discussed in my last post includes mobility work, resistance work, endurance exercise and rest/ recovery/ regeneration.

Once again, yours in health and performance,

Jeff Osadec, MKin CEP CSCS


Applied physiology of marathon running. B Sjoedin, J Svedenhag Sports Medicine 2:22, 83-99, 1985

Factors affecting running economy in trained distance runners – Saunders

Running economy of elite male and elite female athletes – Daniels

Concurrent Strength and Endurance Training (Leveritt SportMed 1999)

Incompatability of endurance and strength training modes of exercise

Strength and conditioning training for runners

2 thoughts on “For $1000 Alex! Gorillas and Running Marathons…

  1. Chandra

    Hi Jeff! I just came across your blog…nice! I wanted to mention, in response to your joke about VO2 testing squirrels, that I know of some crazy people that have measured the VO2 of beetles…

    As a more relevant note, I can say (anecdotally)that when I started strength training it significantly improved my running performance. I’m a fan of smallish weights, and lots of functional, whole body movements.


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