Running Mt Whitney

Mt Whitney has been on my bucket list for 2 years now, ever since I got really into trail running. With a summit of 14505 feet (4421 meters) it’s highest summit in the contiguous United States and the Sierra Nevada. On June 17, 2015 Paul Sinclair and I made this epic trip happen. Here are the Strava details and below is a little recap of our adventure:

We wanted to run as much as possible so we decided to take the main Mt Whitney Trail, instead of the steeper Mountaineer Route or East Face Routes. The main trail is an 11 mile path to the summit. It starts at 8,360 ft and ends at 14,505 ft. The total elevation gain is 6,137 ft which is not that much, the hardest part for us would be running at high altitude and dealing with melting water and ice above 11k ft.

we had a blast running the mt whitney trailrunning the mt whitney trailhiking mt whitney trailamazing view from mt whitney summitrunning to the top of mt whitneysnow and ice on mt whitney top

We wanted to enjoy the day and not kill ourself, so we decided to keep our heart rate below 150 bpm. The first 4 miles were pretty runnable with about 500 ft climbs per mile at a pace of 14 – 17 min / mile. Then a lot of melting water covered the trail, followed by ice and less oxygen in the air so we had to slow down. We made it to the top in about 4 hours, chilled and ate some lunch for 40 minutes, then ran down in about 3 1/2 hours.

at the top of mt whitney is a little houseFloris Gierman and Paul Sinclair Mt Whitneymt whitney summit viewview from the top of mount whitneygarmin 310xt at high altitudeFloris Gierman and Paul Sinclair Runningjumping rocks in water mt whitneymt whitney got hot, cooling off with cold water

I highly recommend anyone in the area to plan your own trip to Mt Whitney. To plan your own trip, the most detailed info about Mt Whitney can be found on the Timberline Trails website. Make sure you buy a $15 permit a few months in advance or get lucky the day prior at the Visitor Center in Lone Pine. 

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Related Posts:
How I trained for my first 50 mile run on Catalina Island
• My first 100 mile attempt from Long Beach to San Diego

Mark Allen Interview on Training and Racing

A few years ago when I first started with Heart Rate Monitor training, I found out that 6 time Hawaii Ironman World Champion Mark Allen was able to run a 5:20 min mile pace aerobic, at a heart rate of only 155 beats per minute.

This blew my mind and inspired me to change my approach to training and racing in the years to come. Mark Allen has worked very close with Dr. Phil Maffetone, one of my other favorite authors and coaches. I really look up to Mark’s accomplishments with 66 career victories in 96 starts, he is arguably the most successful triathlete in the history of the sport. He was voted “The Greatest Endurance Athlete of All Time” in a worldwide poll by ESPN.

Mark Allen Wins Ironman 1995

Mark Allen wins his 6th Ironman Triathlon World Championship in Kona, Hawaii in 1995. Source: markallencoaching.com

I’m always very curious how top performers approach training and racing, especially if it’s in line with my own approach of training smarter, not harder, training with a heart rate monitor, improving your aerobic base and your fat burning abilities, working on the connection between your body and your mind, and much more.

Recently I sat down with Mark to dive into a variety of these subjects:
• Mark’s first introduction to heart rate monitor training [2:12]
• Seeing progression to a faster aerobic pace [3:00]
• What is a fit soul is and how can athletes work on this? [5:49]
• There is no perfect race, but you can race perfectly [10:40]
• How to stay motivated to keep trying to win Ironman Hawaii after 6 defeats [11:40]
• The battle to win first Ironman Hawaii in 1989 [13:24]
• The ability to quiet your mind [18:25]
• Switch in training from always hard to heart rate monitor [21:10]
• Developing your fat burning aerobic engine [22:45]
• Speedwork for different types of athletes [25:56] + [30:20]
• Recommendations for strength training [28:06]
• How to best spread workouts during your week?  [32:45]
• Mark Allen Coaching Programs [35:32]
• Fit Soul Fit Body book and workshops [37:30]
• Art of Competition book [38:00]
• Advice for athletes looking to improve their performance [39:47]

Links
Video of Mark Allen’s first win at Ironman Triathlon World Champion
Mark Allen Coaching
Fit Soul Fit Body, the book and seminars
Art of Competition, the book 
Calculating your Maximum Aerobic Heart Rate

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Related Posts:
Interview with Phil Maffetone about HRM training, nutrition and recovery
Training for my first 100 mile run from Long Beach to San Diego
• Running a Sub 3 Hour marathon with a Go Pro

Video Transcript
FG: Hello, I’m Floris Gierman and I’m super stoked because today I’m going to be interviewing Mark Allen. He’s a 6 time Hawaii Ironman World Champion and he was named the greatest triathlete of all times by Triathlete magazine. In 1997, Outside Magazine also named him the world fittest man, so he was, and still is, a very fit athlete.

For those of you who aren’t that familiar with Ironman distances, it’s a swim of 2.4 miles (3.8km), a bike ride of 110 miles (180km) and a marathon run, so 26.2 miles (42.2k). The distance of the event, combined with the very hot and windy conditions, make this one of the toughest single day athletic events in the world.

Mark has worked very closely with one of my other favorites, Dr. Phil Maffetone. In this video, Mark and I will dive into 3 different areas. We talk about training your mind, training your body and we’ll also touch base about Mark’s seminars, couching programs and his latest books, so lets jump right in. I hope you enjoy it!

FG: Is this your office in Santa Cruz?

MA:Yes, it is. Where are you located?

FG:I’m located in Costa Mesa, California, so we’re not that far apart.

MA: Yes

FG: I’m very excited first of all to have you on the show today. I first found out about your training approach from Dr. Phil Maffetone. There was a podcast about heart rate monitor training and he mentioned several athletes that he had worked with including yourself. When I first started training with a heart rate monitor I had to slow down my pace to about 9 min / mile to stay aerobic. What stood out to me, was that during your peak, you were able to run a pace of 5 minute 20 seconds per mile at an aerobic heart rate of 155. That honestly blew my mind and it motivated me to try this HRM approach, so thank you for the motivation and inspiration right there.

[2:12] MA: When I started, the first time Phil Maffetone took me to the track and had me put on a heart rate monitor, we timed a couple of miles, my pace was 8:45 min / mile. So I started almost at the same point you did when you put yours on that first time. It was a shock, because at the time I had been trying to go most of my runs under 5:30 min / mile pace, 5:15 – 5:10 even for a quarter mile, that was just the mentality back in the early 80’s, to go hard all the time. Clearly that was going to be a shift if I was going to follow that, it took patience, but in the end it did become one of the main ways of training that enabled me to actually keep progressing and get faster every year all the way through my 15 year career.

[3:00] FG: How long did that take you from running 8:45 pace to faster, how fast did you see a progression there?

MA: I got faster very consistently for about 3 years and then the very top speed slowed down. At some point you’re not going to get any faster. After about 3 years at the end of the season I was able to run 5:30 – 5:45 pace at 155 beats per minute. What continued to change over time was, some years I would get faster to almost a 5:20 min / mile aerobic pace. What did change is that the fall off from mile to mile became less over time. You might do your first mile on the track at 5:30 pace, then the next mile at 5:45, then 6:00, then 6:10, something like that. Over time that fall off became very small, so I could run 2, 3 or 4 miles and the fall off would only be 10 seconds total, so you start at 5:30, and by the 3rd mile you’re still running 5:35 – 5:40. There are different levels of fitness, there is speed and there is the ability to hold speed over time.

[4:23] FG I recognize the exact same thing of what you’re saying. When I first started with heart rate monitor training, my drop was pretty significant there as well. Mile after mile was sometimes a 30 second difference in pace with the same heart rate. One of my last MAF tests that I recently did before I ran the Boston Marathon was 6:12 average pace and that was just a few seconds difference each mile.

MA: That’s great

FG: Yes that made a lot of difference for sure.

FG: I wanted to jump into 3 different subjects in this conversation. The first is training your mind based on one of your books that I’ve read, the second is training your body and the third about the training program at markallencoaching.com that you’re currently working on. Does that sound ok to you?

MA: Yes, perfect

[5:18] FG: Perfect. I read your book Fit Soul, Fit Body and I’ve been absolutely fascinated by how you approached your training in more of a holistic way. Over the years you’ve worked closely together with Brant Secunda, he is a world renowned shaman, healer and a teacher in Mexico. In the book you explain that having a fit body is very important, but having a fit soul is important to reach happiness, fulfillment and inner piece. Can you explain what a fit soul is and how can athletes work on this in their training and racing?

[5:49] MA That’s a great question. We all know what a fit body is. When you’re going faster and you’re feeling better and you’re stronger, you have less body fat. Those are the measurable markers that means you’re getting a fit body. A fit soul is more what’s going on in your internal landscape with your internal character. Are you focused on fear or doubt, or anger, or jealousy even. Or are you focused on positive qualities like feeling peaceful in the middle of whatever is going on, or are you able to quiet your mind when the challenges get tough and that voice starts to go off in your head that’s telling you “now it’s not worth it, I can’t do it, I should have never started this sport”

FG: Haha, yes we all know that voice!

MA: To be able to quiet your mind in those moments, is what enables you the get passed them and get through them quicker and that is what is having a fit soul. Also having a fit soul is really starting with a trust in life itself. A lot of times, it’s easier to set goals and feel like, “ok, if I can achieve that goal then I’ll be happy” or “if I can win an Iron Man, then my life will be worth living”. In 1989 was the first year I made a connection with Brant Secunda, then that whole dynamic shifted around and through studying with him, studying Huichol shamanism, which is what he teaches I saw that the real starting point is to have a true trust in life. That things are always going to work out they are suppose to, that I may not necessarily always be easy, but if you stay connected to that sense that everything really is in the right place in the right time, even if in the moment you don’t understand it, then you have this amazing trusting power that enables you to work at your best level.

At all times, whether it’s at an athletic event, or in your job or dealing with relationships, and that was a key switch in how I focused. To go into an Ironman feeling like “you know what, I’m the luckiest guy in the planet, because look what I get to do today” It’s not going to be easy, I know that, it will never go 100% the way I want but I have this chance to truly live and express a gratitude for being alive! That’s having a fit soul also, is having a real gratitude to having another day on this planet.

Even with all the problems, some days it’s hard to feel like gratitude. When I have a tough day that it seems like nothing is going right, I just stop for a second and say, ok what is one thing that I’m very thankful for right now. That totally shifts your focus and your mindset, and all of a sudden, you feel like you’re able to grasp the answers to how to manage all the things going on. That’s really important in an endurance event like an Ironman, because there are a thousand moments where you want to quit. There are a thousand moments you feel like you’re never going to have the day you had hoped for, but if you can have that trust in life and it brings you back to a center point that enables you to stay fully engaged in the moment at the end. That really is where your energy needs to be in an event like that. Take that next step, take that next peddle stroke, get to the next aid station. Look around and see this amazing place in nature that you’re able to compete in this event. That’s another element of having a fit soul, is to get outside, look around, see the flower, see the trees, smell the air, see a sunrise, see a sunset, swim in the ocean, run on a trail, look around and feel the gratitude. That’s a lot of what Brant thought me to do.

[9:50] FG: That’s really good to hear. Going on about what you mentioned earlier. One of the things that I’ve noticed that one of my running coaches Jimmy Dean actually thought me was that going into a race, know in advance that the race is never going to be perfect, there are always going to be obstacles. For one of my first races that I tried to run a sub 3 hour marathon, I was very nervous and focused, all of a sudden the race started 25 minutes late, because the course wasn’t ready yet, it was the Long Beach marathon. Then my Heart Rate Monitor broke. There were all these things that could completely mess with my mind, but knowing going into that race that it was going to be ok, you’ve trained hard for it, now it’s a matter of executing and staying calm, that right there helped significantly.

[10:40] MA: I always tell my athletes that I coach that there is no perfect race, but you can race perfectly. That’s a big shift in how you approach it and that’s exactly what you were talking about. The heart rate strap breaks, the race is delayed twenty minutes. Just managing it and dealing with everything that comes up in a very calm way as supposed to freaking out about it, that is racing perfectly.

[11:08] FG: That’s good to hear. Following up on your Ironman success, I’ve already mentioned some of the successes that you’ve had in the intro of this video. From 1982 to 1988 you placed you placed in the top 5 of the Ironman World Championship in Kona many times, then from 1989 to 1995 you won this race 6 times in total. How were you able to get the strength and motivation to keep trying to win this race after years of coming in 2nd, 3rd or 5th place?

[11:40] MA: The first six years that I was doing those Ironmans I was trying to win, clearly, I kept going back because I felt like I had the potential to win and eventually that focus changed to just trying to have my best race. I thought, you know what, I’ve come in 2nd, 3rd, 5th, I’ve been in the lead early, I’ve been in the lead in the middle of the race, even up towards the end, but I’ve never been able to put it together and come across the finish line first. But more importantly, I felt like I had fallen apart towards the end of any one of those Ironmans. There was this desire inside to go back until I actually had my best race and that was really my focus in 1989, my 7th Ironman. To just go there and see if I could pace it correctly, that I could prepare correctly so that I could go there and have a peaceful mindset in the event. To deal with, and manage, the difficult moments a little bit easier and smoother and see if I could have a really steady race all the way through. That ended up being one of the most amazing Ironmans of my career. I ended up racing side by side with Dave Scott until hour 8 and was able to pull away on the last uphill. More importantly, there was a moment in the race on the marathon, we were half way through it and Dave dropped his pace down to 6 min / mile.

[13:08] FG: That’s unbelievable after all that.

[13:10] MA: Yeh, I kept waiting for him to back off and I realized “he’s not going to back off, he’s going to hold 6 minute pace”. Closing the last 13 miles of this marathon and it completely blew my mind because nobody had done that before.

[13:22] FG: Not at that temperature either and that distance into the race.

[13:24] MA: Yeh, my mind was going nuts with stuff, it wasn’t helping much. It was so hard to stay with him that my mind went quiet. The instant my mind went quiet I remember this image that I had seen in a magazine 2 days prior for a workshop taking place in Mexico that Brant Secunda, adopted grandson of another shaman Don José, would be given in Mexico. In the ad they both had photos, they had this look in their face that was very peaceful and powerful, sort of like that sense that you’re happy just to be alive. In the moment my mind went quiet in the middle of that marathon Don’s face image came back to me and it was like I was seeing him just right there with me and I got this surge of strength. I was thinking, you know what, that old guy doesn’t need to win an Ironman to feel good about his life, he’s happy just to be alive. Suddenly, I looked around, and I was with Dave Scott, he was the best guy in the world in 1980, 1990, he won the race 6 times. Nobody else was giving the guy a run for his money, there was still 13 miles to go in the marathon, something might just change, and I just started to fill up with that trust in life and that gratitude. I was looking around going, wow, this is my office, the lava fields of Kona, how amazing is that! I got stronger and stronger from that point forward and then eventually being patient, being able to pull away on that last uphill, that was the move that stuck and I was able to win the first of six titles that year.

[15:06] FG: What I was most surprised by was when I see that moment in the race around mile 24 after you go past the aid station, you can see you guys are booking it, you’re going really fast, and still you’re able to pull away. But then if you look at the form between the two of you. In your eyes, you could see in your eyes it seemed you had already won, the way you were running at that point, even though it would have taken every little you left in your body, you were running very easy it looked like. It might come in there, the whole aerobic vs anaerobic, that you had been keeping some reserve for the end, that this time you did have the energy for the 6th hour, 7th hour and 8th hour that previously might have been missing. That was incredible to see.

[16:03] MA: I guess I’m a good actor, haha, because I did feel pretty good at that point, but it was very uncertain if I was going to be able to pull it off. I started pulling away from Dave, but he’s an incredible runner on the downhills, and when you get to the top of that last hill that we were going up, there is a long downhill on the other side and I just knew I had to get to the top before him otherwise he would be able to pull away from me. There was the thing inside that said, I have to make the race happen right here. If I wait until we get into town, he’s got it. I got to the top of the hill and I kept running, didn’t look back, I ran as fast as I could down the hill, hoping that my legs wouldn’t cramp, my quads wouldn’t cramp. I got to the bottom and then I looked back and I couldn’t see him, it was at that point that I knew I had him. I knew there was nothing that was going to happen and there was no way he was going to catch me. So I had about 1/2 a mile to really just saver it, knowing now all I had to do was finish it up. I came across the line and it was this amazing feeling of relief and complete ecstatic excitement of finally having that race I had hoped to have. Having it on Dave Scott’s best day ever at Kona, he broke his previous world record by almost 18 minutes and the difference in our times is only 58 seconds. I won, he was second, the real story of the day is what we were able to accomplish together. We pushed each other to this level that nobody had ever done before. Prior to that it seemed like Dave Scott was racing and everybody else was surviving. 1989 showed that you can have competitors racing each other to the very end of the event, it changed the mindset to how that race was approached.

[18:00] FG: So quieting the mind was a good thing in that race?

[18:02] MA: Absolutely!

[18:05] FG: I’ve been meditating for about 3 months now and I’ve notice many benefits in my performance and my personal life, with reduced stress, increased attention and really living more in the ‘now’. My question to you, do you meditate and if so, what form of meditation works well for you?

[18:25] MA: In Huichol Shamanism they don’t use the word meditate, but one of the main in that tradition is you’re trying to develop is the ability to quiet your mind. So at any point in the day, in anything you’re doing, you can try to find that quiet place. As an athlete for example, any training session that I was in, when I started to get into the part of the workout that it was starting to get tough, it’s starting to get long, I’m not starting to feel as good as I had hoped, that little voice starts to go off in my head, that’s when I’d try to pull everything back, that that one breath, ok, there is the quiet place, and then keep going again.

It just takes an instant to do it, the more you practice, the place you almost go with every breath that you take. I didn’t wait until the race to practice it. A lot of athletes don’t pay any attention to what’s going on with their thoughts, with their minds. It’s one thing to be quiet when nothing is going on and that’s a starting point of how to be quiet. You can meditate, you can watch a sunrise or a sunset, you can sit in the woods, watch the ocean, emerging yourself in nature is the easiest way to quiet yourself. Then start the translate that sensation, that feeling, into finding that place when you’re actually in motion, in action, that’s the real test. To see if you can do it when you’re in the tough moments, when things aren’t going the way you had hoped. When it’s not ideal, when you’re not sitting on your couch.

[20:15] MA: That’s why I love the Ironman, it really was a test of not only getting your body ready, but also of if you were able to develop that ability to find that quiet inside and utilize it during a race. Then you taped into this energy, this life force, that just gets blocked if you’re noisy or if you’re paying attention to fair, or if you’re worried, or have too much doubt.

[20:42] FG: I can totally see that. Then switching subjects to training your body. You came from a background in swimming with a lot of heavy workouts. That’s initially how you approached triathlon training as well with all your training at a very high heart rate. Can you explain how you used to train and how this changed after you started training with Dr. Phil Maffetone around 1984?

[21:10] MA: I started racing in 1982, I was 24, had been out of college for 2 years and I had a swimming background. I swam from when I was 10 until all the way when I finished university. Back in the 70’s and 80’s the coaches had us do hard workouts all the time, there was no aerobic easy stuff, just throw us in the pool, dream up the toughest workout they could come up with

[21:33] FG: Get to work! haha

[21:35] MA: Yeh and go as hard as you could, somebody is going to do well off it, better than others. I was very disciplined and did very lousy of it because I went too hard all the time. That was my framework of how I thought you had to train for everything, so when I started training for the triathlon in 1982, I did hard bike all the time, I did hard runs all the time. Sometimes I did have good results in those races, because you get a certain type of fitness out of that. Long term it was burning me out and I was getting some minor injury things that I’d have to take a few days off. After almost every race I ended up getting sick.

[22:20] When I finally met Phil and was introduced to that concept of developing that aerobic system, the fat burning system, which is low stress on the body as supposed to anaerobic high stress, all of a sudden I saw that my workouts were more steady and my race results were more steady. It took less time to recover after the races were done and it just clicked.

[22:42] FG: It was probably more pleasant than as well, right?

[22:45] MA: Yes, definitely pleasant. At the beginning I thought I don’t know if this is working, because whenever I’d come back from workouts, in the past I would be completely trashed. Now I’d come back and actually feel good. That was a shift in paradigm, a shift in mindset to realize that you can come back from a workout and actually feel better than when you left.

[23.12] FG: Yes, that was one of the biggest differences for me as well. Even though the first few months the whole patience thing was pretty tricky for me. Some of my other running buddies would run way faster than I would and I had to slow down because my heart rate monitor alarm would be going off. Over time as you get faster at your aerobic pace, that definitely gets easier.

[22:45] MA: Yes, with the guys I trained with at the time on the bike, every hill they would pull away and I’d catch them on the downhills and they’d pull away on the next hill and they’d say: “you’re not fun to train with anymore”. It definitely took patience, especially running since it’s weight bearing, your perceived effort at an aerobic effort if you don’t have a well developed aerobic system that pace can seem really slow and perceived effort can seem very low. Physiologically you’re stimulating the development of that fat burning aerobic engine. The bigger that is, the better you’re going to do in an endurance event. Physiologically any event that is over 4 minutes is technically endurance. So if your Ironman is going to take you less than 4 minutes, you’re not going to have to worry about developing your aerobic system. Obviously for a triathlete, cyclist, runner that aerobic system is what determines the size of your athletic engine.

[24:40] MA: Then if you fine tune it with the speedwork, which you definitely have to do if you want to race well, then you get these incredible results.

[24:50] FG: That brings up my next question. I’ve read Dr. Phil Maffetone’s books and I’ve spoken to him, now I’m talking to you after reading your materials. There are a lot of similarities, but I’ve also noticed a few differences. Where Dr. Phil Maffetone was saying a 3 to 6 months base building period, then eventually if you slow down in your progress, you add 1 to 2 times a week interval training of 15 to 30 minutes, only for about 3 to 4 weeks. Then back to aerobic exercise only. Then when I was looking at your advanced training programs, I saw a 6 to 12 week building period, then after than almost always 2 x a week speedwork. When an athlete is healthy and fit, is two times speedwork a week still good to help improve the body, or do some people already struggle with 2 x a week speedwork, that it’s just too much for their body?

[25:56] MA: It depends on your overall life stress. People who are younger can handle more speedwork than people who are older, they can absorb it. People who are younger can handle more weeks in a row of speedwork than somebody who is older. The reverse is true for developing your aerobic system, so somebody who is 20, 22, 24, they might sort of plateau aerobically in 1 or 2 months, but they can handle speedwork for 6, 8, 10, 12 weeks and still continue to absorb it. Somebody who is older, when they train aerobically, they might see that they continue to get faster and faster for 3, 4, 5 months without any kind of speedwork. Then they’ll plateau and add the speedwork but they might see they can only absorb that for 3, 4, 5 weeks, so part of it is age dependent.

At Mark Allen Coaching I take that into consideration, so I don’t give someone who is sixty the same number of weeks of speedwork as I would somebody of twenty.

[27:05] FG: That’s really good it’s all individualized that way.

FG: One thing about getting older, when you turned 33 you started noticing and some of your muscles becoming  a little weaker so you started going to the gym to preserve muscle strength, to maximize your agility and your power. To be honest with you, I’ve been running 40 – 80 miles a week for the past 2 years and I haven’t done much strength training at all outside of some hill repeats and stairs. I know there are several other guys that I run with who do much strength training at all. What are your recommendations to implement this into someone’s training schedule, how many days a week works best, are you more into a lot of repeats with light weights or less repeats with heavier weights? I’m curious to hear your thoughts about strength training.

[28:06] MA: Like you said, I started implementing strength training around the time I was 33, because I saw that I didn’t matter how much I swam, biked or ran, that I just didn’t have the same snap and strength than in prior years. So I knew that it was time to add it in if I’m going to continue building my performance.

The program I suggest for endurance athletes is 2 days a week, doing a program that works all of the main muscle groups in the body. You can do that in 30 to 45 minutes, it doesn’t have to be long. I think it’s good to do slightly lower number of reps than a higher amount. If you do over 15 reps in a set, you’re generally having to lighten up the weight to a point that if you do 30 or 40 reps in a set, it doesn’t give you the same strength response that you get if you do a set of 8, 10, 12, 15 with a weight that challenges you by the end of that set. If you go more than that, you lighten the weight up and it starts to become more of an endurance stimulation than an strength stimulation.

Runners, cyclists and swimmers, we already do enough endurance work, we don’t need that if we get into the gym. So I think everybody over 35, everybody could benefit from 2 days a week, but especially once you hit your mid thirties and going forward from there. Without strength training I just don’t think you can truly maximize your performance.

[29:48] FG: It’s definitely something I’m going to be working on myself as well.

[29:58] FG: Then a question about speedwork, what are some of your favorite speed workouts for swimming, biking and running. For me personally for running, 400’s and 800’s I think are good, but I’m very curious to hear what your thoughts are.

[30:20] MA: When I race, one of the main workouts was 8 x 400’s with a half lab recovery in between. People would say, that’s not very much! Yes, I know, but if you do it right, it’s a very intense workout and it works that whole range of anaerobic… there is a bunch of different ranges in anaerobic, it’s not just all lumped into one thing. There is kinda like a lower, middle, upper part of your physiology that gets worked and 400’s will do that. At the first 400 you might not be able to get your heart rate up so high, but each one as you progress you keep going faster and you push it a little more, you can approach you max heart rate on that last one.

MA: Anyway, there is no magic formula for what’s the most ideal for cycling, running or swimming. When someone is doing anaerobic work, I recommend they don’t do more than 15 to 30 minutes of hard stuff, so the workout might take you an hour, hour and a half, but the amount that you’re going anaerobic, that you’re going above your max aerobic heart rate shouldn’t really exceed more than 15 to 30 minutes.

[31:30] FG: So there is the warm up, cool down, time in between sets.

[31:34] MA: Yes, you can do longer stuff, that’s not quiet as intense but still anaerobic, more like a traditional tempo style workout that is moderately anaerobic. That will help develop that sustainable speed that you need in a race. Then you also need to do true speed workouts, where at the end of the main set, you’re starting to approach your max heart rate. Running you’ll have to get a little higher to get the same results as cycling, and cycling a bit higher than swimming, but that’s the general theme of how I like to structure.

[32:10] FG: That’s very good information to know.

[32:15] FG: Most athletes have a very busy personal and work life and occasionally they have to miss a workout. I read that 20 minutes of aerobic activity a day already helps all the fat burning activity phycology ignited. For competitive athletes, do you feel that spreading out their workouts over 6 or 7 days is better than trying to fit everything into 4 or 5 longer days, or do you feel that 4 or 5 longer days if that works best for an athletes schedule, that could work as well?

[32:45] MA: That’s a good question. The key workout for a triathlete or a runner is their long endurance workout, your long run, your long bike, your long swim. That builds about 80% of what you’re going to need for the race, you get that in that one workout. Then the second workout that’s really key or critical is going to be that workout that’s a little bit faster pace and then eventually when you’re moving into the speed part of your training, that will transition into being your speed session. Then there is your third workout that I think is very key, it’s going to be your 2 strength sessions each week.

Anything you do above and beyond that, some medium length rides, medium length runs and recovery stuff, anything extra is only going to be beneficial if it’s not pushing your body over the edge. If you’re still needing more recovery and you’re still going out and working out and you’re really tired, you have a job and you’re getting up really early, to many times in the week to squeeze these workouts in, then they are not doing you any good. So you have to look at the benefits of the training vs the stress it puts on your body, or the stress it’s putting on your family, your work and your schedule. You figure that all out and ask yourself, is it really going to do anything for me, or is it going to exhaust me even more.

Then the second thing I’d like to have people keep in mind, is lets say you do 2 swims, 2 bikes and 2 runs in a week. It’s good to sort of spread them out so you only have 2 days off of training between any workouts in a sport. So let’s say you swim on Monday, then you take Tuesday, Wednesday off, it’s good to also swim again on Thursday if you can. Once you take 3 days off in a sport, your fitness starts to drop a little bit. So if you can fit in a workout, even if it is a 20 minute or 30 minute short session on that 3rd day, it will help to keep all that sport specific physiology active and going. That’s something else to keep in mind when you structure your week.

[35:06] FG: Are those 3 different types of fitness?

[35:10] MA: Yes

[35:12  ] FG: Ok. Then I wanted to jump into the 3rd subject and that would be what you’re currently working on, because that is very exciting as well. You’re currently coaching a variety of athletes from beginners to pros. Can you explain how you work together through your coaching and training program on markallencoaching.com ?

[35:32] MA: Yes. People go online and they answer questions about their current fitness, their past training history, their age, their main goal race they have coming up in the next whatever 10 to 20 weeks, or something like that. They also put down the days they want to do their key workouts and the number of workouts a week they’d like to do. I have a backend software that generates training plans based around all that information.

It’s really good because if you look, when people say, it’s not that customized, it is very customized, because there is no template, there is no schedule they’re getting shoved into thats the closest thing to what they’ve input. They actually get it based on what they want. They want to do their long run on Friday, they’re going to get that, they want Thursday’s off, they’re going to get that. Most coaches end up cutting and pasting anyway.

There are certain things that you just kind of have to do to get fit, so there are some similarities obviously between the different programs for people, but it’s customized for them. Then they also get unlimited email support, so anytime somebody has questions, they email me and I can write back with my thoughts of what’s going on.

[36:55] FG: They can move their days around as well?

[37:00] MA: Yes, they can move things around. I retooled all the programming over the past year and it’s finally worked very well now and we have plans for a lot of features that are going to be implemented in there for the clients in the next 6 months orso to make it really something nobody else has. I’ll just leave it with that!

[37:20] FG: Haha, I’ll definitely have to keep an eye on that! That’s exciting! Where can people find more about you and your work, your videos and your books?

[37:30] MA: Great question, thank you. The coaching is at markallencoaching.com, if you’re interested in more about the Fit Soul Fit Body, you can go to fitsoul-fitbody.com and there is information about the book that Brant and I wrote together and also upcoming workshops that we have. You can also always email us if you have any questions about the content in that book. There is also a book I came out with just about a year ago called The Art of Competition.

[38:00] FG: Yes, can you explain a little bit about that, because I saw the combination of quotes with photography from nature, it was beautiful.

[38:08] MA: The backbone of the book are 90 quotes that I wrote that bring a real though provoking look at competing and personal challenge, overcoming obstacles and achieving personal excellence. Each one of those quotes is paired with a photo from nature. I did that to give people more sort of that fit soul, fit body feel to the content within the book. There are 6 chapters that I wrote about change and fear, and what you do when you get stuck. The final chapter is called Art and it describes my book in Ironman victories, my first in 1989 and my last in 1995. How I was able to change something that could be just an athletic event into something I truly feel is art. Art is really when you go to that point of personal perfection, whatever level that is. You can see that book on art-of-competition.com and I have 2 versions, 1 is the standard edition, it’s hardback a coffee table book, and then there is a limited edition book available with only 600 copies in print, they’re all signed and numbered. There is a 48 page bonus section in the back where I expand on 24 of the main quotes in the body of the book. That comes in a boxed sleeve, that’s pretty cool, it’s a collectors piece.

[39:35] FG: That’s awesome, I’ll make sure to put a link to all these materials in the show notes as well.

[39:40] MA: Great, thank you.

[39:41] FG: Do you have any parting advice for athletes looking to improve their performance, any last advice on your mind?

[39:47] MA: The best advice I can give is be patient. Give yourself a timeline that’s realistic. Everything nowadays is happening at the speed of Twitter and our genetics were set up thousands of years ago so our bodies changes gradually, slowly over time. When we create those slow changes, those are the significant changes. Whether that is fitness or how we approach the world, or how our minds set so be patient, enjoy the process.

Hook into a community of people who try to focus on the same things as you are. It’s great to do this kind of work of training and changing yourself with other people. If you need help, reach out. There are a lot of people who have gone through the same things that you’re trying to attempt to do who can guide you. That’s what I know I like to do and it’s what Brant does at his work at shamanism.com. He has retreats all over the world. We just taught a Fit Soul Fit Body retreat at Kripalu institute in Massachusetts last weekend.

[40:48] FG: How did that go?

[40:51] MA: It was really great. We ran with the people. Brant did ceremonies. We discussed the nine keys that are in our book. A lot of people came who had no idea what to expect and they went away with a smile on their face.

[41:05] FG: That’s great, perfect. Thank you so much for taking the time. This was very helpful and I know that the readers from my website will really enjoy it as well. I want to wish you all the best with your coaching programs and training.

[41:19] MA: Great, thank you for having me on, I appreciate it.

[41:22] FG: Ok thank you.