Follow us on


07976 306 494

Tag Archive: endurance

  1. Steve Magness on the Volume Trap

    Leave a Comment
    weekly mileage

    Steve his new book and me

    “How many miles should I run”?

    Is the question that endurance coach Steve Magness gets asked the most when presenting at workshops.  His seminar at this year’s GAIN covered volume and other training parameters which apply to many different sports.

    There is no difference between 99 miles and 100 miles, but people want to get to triple digits” (and therefore earn the right to wear the hair shirt and flail themselves). The same applies to team sports with soccer players trying to run 11km in one session because someone told them that’s what they do in a match.

    Steve gave two main reasons for this behaviour:

    1. It’s human nature to be obsessed with volume. It’s the simplest thing we can measure, so let’s measure it. (If people see me out for a run, the first thing they always ask is “How far did you go?” never “How fast did you run?”).
    2. We have a deep NEED for classification. It’s the downside to “what gets measured gets managed”. When we are categorised and accept a label we can then defend our label. “I’m a low mileage/ high intensity coach” etc.

    Training load calculation

    Training load is a commonly used form of measurement.

    Training load = training volume x intensity  But this is too simplistic. What type of load is it?

    • Metabolic
    • Biomechanical
    • Neural
    • Psychological

    How about when the load is applied?

    • Intensity
    • Density
    • Frequency
    • Rest Periods

    How does this relate to daily and weekly sessions?

    • Front Loaded
    • Back Loaded

    How can one number express all this accurately or in a meaningful fashion?

    Weekly Training Load

    Steve broke down the weekly training load of one of his runners.

    • 90 miles per week
    • 10.5 hours of training (I made the point that this is for good runners; recreational runners who tried to copy the miles would actually be on their feet for a lot longer).
    • 76550 calories burned
    • 25,920ml of Oxygen consumed.

    Volume has become a marker for “load” and has become a surrogate for physical stress. It is assumed the training “stimulus” leads to a kind of adaptation.

    Instead we should look at how much we NEED to do to get the positive adaptation.  For example in the weekly schedule above the loading on the achilles tendon may be the weakest link and therefore limit what another athlete can do.

    Common assumptions

    volume vs intensity graph

    Volume vs intensity expressed simplistically

    Steve gave us 3 common assumptions that may be less than certain in reality.

    Assumption 1: Volume and Intensity training interact in a simplistic fashion.

    Instead there is a constant interplay that changes within each session, each week and over the longer course of a year.

    Assumption 2: Volume = ONLY way of getting aerobic adaptation.

    This is simply incorrect there are many other ways of stimulating the aerobic system.

    training adaptation curve

    Training adaptation curve

    Assumption 3: Adaptation looks like this

    Instead, variability is the name of the game. There is a 10% rule of thumb for volume increases, but Steve gave examples from his younger self where increases were much more than this and he could adapt.

    The amount of training depends on:

    • The athlete perception of normal (a 120 mile a week runner given 90 miles would consider this light, a 50 mile a week runner may well panic!)
    • Physiological adaptations.
    • Tendon and muscle rate of adaptation: different from each other and also between athletes.
    • Bone Turnover (diet surely has an impact on this too?)

    Steve’s Old Man Strength

    weekly mileage

    Older man strength

    Steve then gave us examples of how he could train with his athletes using his “Old man strength” (Steve is only 32 and a middle distance runner, I really need to pull him aside next time I see him!)

    He can do the sessions thanks to an accumulated, consistent training load over time.  Younger athletes can indeed increase their volume with age, after that they can reduce it and preserve it by working on specific volumes.

    Steve talked about the psychology of volume which I have found to be true depending on the athlete. Sometimes you have to adapt the programme to what the athlete feels they “need” or at least swing the pendulum in that direction.

    He then asked us to “flip the switch” and that it’s not about

    Volume  to get adaptation

    It’s thinking about

    Adaptation and then how much volume is needed?

    Volume is not a master control switch

    Alternative ways of developing aerobic system to volume

    Steve then gave some examples and case studies of how the aerobic system can be developed in middle distance runners without just adding more weekly mileage.

    Recreational runners please take note: you do not have the time to do the mileage if you are running slower than 5-6 minute miles. If you try and copy the mileage plans of faster runners you will be spending a lot more time training than they do!

    Some session examples include:

    • Pre fatigue: do a shorter “long run” the day after an intense workout.
    • Doubles: do 2 shorter runs in a day, helps with lifestyle too.
    • Strength session followed by endurance work. You are forced to train in this fatigued state.
    • Ending the session or cool downs with “stuff”. For example an 800m “cruise” to work at the high end of aerobic system and get used to preserving strength at the end of a race.

    Steve then gave some examples of sessions which he has done with his athletes including the sets/ reps and different ideas. All of these worked with his athletes and in their context.

    (I often see endurance coaches trotting out a session like “Oregon circuits” or such like and inflicting it upon their athletes year after year without understanding why. So I won’t post the details here to avoid feeding the monster, but I will use some of the ideas with Excelsior ADC athletes).

    Measuring for measuring sake

    measuring weekly mileage

    Forget the tech sometimes

    Steve finished his seminar with some questions about measuring sessions and how these questions can then shape what we do as coaches.

    If athletes are constantly looking at technology, how can they “feel” what they are doing?  (Luke destroyed the Death Star by using the Force remember,  not by looking at his Garmin).

    This is even assuming you are measuring the right thing. I have written elsewhere about the addiction to measuring technology and how that can then alter the design of sessions. The tail wags the dog. Bryan Fisher summed it up a few years ago at GAIN

    Heart rate should be an indicator not a dictator”.

    Ask yourself these questions when developing a middle distance running plan (or any other plan for that matter) for an athlete:

    • In what direction are we trying to adapt?
    • Where have they been in the past?
    • Are they still adapting?
    • What is their injury history and adaptability?
    • What is the risk: benefit ratio of your programme will it cause adaptation or maladaptation/ injury?
    • Are we measuring the right thing?
    • Is that measurement what you think it is?

    Is the answer to any of these questions “You should run X miles per week” ?

    The answer isn’t to be anti-volume or pro-volume, it is to sit down and think about the athlete in front of you and work out what is right for them.  How many coaches take the time to do that?


    how many miles should i run

    Sharing ideas with Steve at GAIN

    I have known Steve for 5 years now and used many of his principles with our athletes. Until I met him, much of the endurance coaching I had seen or read was very patchy and full of mystical secrets or folklore.

    Much like when I first saw Frans Bosch present on sprinting in 2009, I had an “Aha” moment and thought this makes sense (although Frans didn’t make any sense the first 3 times I saw him, but I could see it worked). Steve is very good at expressing complex ideas simply.

    Further reading:

    Next up: Dr Mike Joyner “Sport Science: Servant or Master?”

    Previous:  Steve Myrland “Coaching better every day”

  2. Middle distance running: science, myths & practice

    Leave a Comment

    “Why get obsessed with details if they don’t matter yet?”

    Steve Magness, at GAIN 2016 presenting on “Current concepts of endurance training“. I have been priviliged to meet up with Steve for 3 GAIN conferences, and his thoughts have greatly shaped the work I do with our Middle Distance Running group.

    Here are some of the key principles that underpin the work we do. Steve has had considerable success with his athletes (he does have a better gene pool!) both at professional and collegiate level. But, success can be defined as knocking off 2 minutes from your 5km Park Run time at 53 years old like Martin Baxter has done.

    What actually matters?

    middle distance running

    Focus on what matters & is controllable

    This is very important to understand. It is easy to get caught up in the latest fad, or copying someone elses’s workout they posted on facebook. This applies at all levels!

    That could be “stuff” like  Garmin watches, altitude masks, compression socks, beetroot tablets. Or it could be training plans: High Intensity Interval Training (HITT), Training Zones, High Volume or Cross Training.

    It is perhaps the biggest reason to get a decent coach. Too many athletes (speaking from experience) come to me from other clubs without any idea of why they do sessions.

    Steve emphasised the importance of “Developing your why“.

    It is important to listen to people who “Have skin in the game” rather than “some Professor telling you to do it“. This means learning from coaches who are producing athletes with results regularly.

    Developing a Middle Distance Running Philosophy

    Percy wells cerutty

    Learn from the past

    However, Steve is far from being a “Luddite flat-earther”. His coaching his based around 3 areas:

    • Art (Coaching, trial, error, experience)
    • Science (Research, results)
    • History (Learning from previous coaches such as Fred Wilt, Herb Elliott, Percy Wells Cerutty)

    Note the breadth and depth of these areas. This has helped ground Steve and be less resistant to fads or “folklore“(Ken Doherty phrase) than some other endurance coaches.

    For example one of the Middle Distance Running tenets is “Mileage wins medals“. It is common to hear runners at all levels talking about how many miles they have run. Steve gave the example of coaching one runner recovering from illness who had no idea how many miles she was running , but still managed to train effectively (for her).

    Steve had to adapt his coaching (science and art) to this runner, despite being unable to get so called essential information (mileage). All her runs were based on time and effort.

    If your only coaching plan is run (X miles +1) every week, then you are only working on one aspect of middle distance running: Volume. The same thoughts apply to those who only do “intervals” or any other single parameter of training.


    middle distance running

    Sharing ideas with Steve

    Here are some key points I picked up from Steve this year and previously.

    • If your results are continuing to improve, there is no need to change for change sake. “Don’t go somewhere until you need to go somewhere.

    If your 1 mile time is continuing to drop on your current plan, keep going. When it plateaus it is time to adjust.

    • Don’t do workouts to prove something to yourself: do them to create an adaptation. Sometimes you will have “see God days” (lying down on the track exhausted) but that is part of a process, rather than the goal.
    • There is a time to train and a time to rest. No such thing as half way rest. Don’t force yourself if its not in the plan.
    • It’s not about recovery, it’s about adaptation. You are trying to get fitter, your recovery should be helping you to adapt to your training session.
    • Performance is a consequence of good training. Therefore make the training good and relevant to performance: take away the watches and split times and train like you race. Change your usual environment.
    • There is a big difference between creating workouts for newcomers (anything is a stimulus, so easy to make improvements) versus runners with 10 years+ of experience. So beginners trying to copy experienced runners is often unnecessary, and experienced runners need specific direction.
    • High Intensity vs Low Intensity: this should be a redundant discussion. You have EVERY intensity at your disposal, so use them. There is a continuum between sprinting to slow steady running (even hill walking); finding the right mix depends on your event and your athlete, and the stage they are at.

    Important points for our athletes

    middle distance devon

    Excelsior athletes training

    One of the key things that has come up is consistency of training. It is more important that you have a lot of good, average days than you trying to thrash yourself all the time. Your training has to be sustainable over 3-4 months.

    The next thing is to find out what stimulus you are trying to create to adapt in the direction you want. About half of Steve’s athletes need more fitness to race at the next level. Other athletes may need more speed, more endurance, or more pacing strategy. Each workout should then be planned around this.

    You plan training above and below what is necessary for your race. For example 3 sessions may look like this:

    1. 1 mile at 4:22 (3 mins rest) 4 sets total
    2. 20 minutes at 5min pace, then a 3 minute jog
    3. 400m at 60 second pace (1 min rest) 6 sets total. (Steve’s sessions, our athletes run slower than that!)

    Steve said that whilst many average runners can do a good workout, or run a good part of a race, the best runners can put the whole plan together and execute it on race day.

    One way I facilitate this is to make the training resemble the race. We do run times/ splits, but we also race in training and we definitely create adverse situations for our runners to overcome. They have to think and adapt to what is being thrown at them.


    middle distance running book

    Steve’s excellent coaching book

    I have briefly touched on what has been hours of listening to Steve, then talking with him, plus reading his book. What I like is that Steve has studied the history, science and art of coaching middle distance running, plus applied it in his own training and with his athletes.

    I have managed to apply many of these lessons into our running sessions, alongside the technique work gained from Frans Bosch/ Gary Winckler and it is great to see the improvement (and reduced injuries) of our club runners in Willand.

  3. What is the difference between the Yo Yo Tests?


    Happy National Yo-Yo Day

    yo yo dayThe Yo-Yo may have been around for nearly 1000 years, but today a new form of Yo-Yo is a regular fixture in Sport’s coaches’ fitness testing toolbox.

    To celebrate National Yo-Yo Day, Matt Durber looks at the 3 different variations of the yo-yo test.

    The Yo-Yo Fitness Tests were designed as a specific means of testing fitness for sports which are intermittent in nature such as football.

     Yo-Yo Endurance Test

    A continuous running test similar to the beep test, designed to estimate an individual’s maximum oxygen uptake (VO2 max). Players run continuously between two cones 20m apart at increasingly faster speeds.

    Due to the continuous nature of the test, it is best suited to endurance athletes such as long distance runners.yo yo endurance test

    There are two versions of this test: The Level 1 test is effectively the same as the standard beep test with speeds ranging from 8kph-18.5kph.

    The Level 2 test starts at a higher running speed (11.5kph) and has different increments in speed and is therefore more suited to elite levels athletes.

    The athlete’s score is the total distance covered before they were unable to keep up with the recording. The Yo-Yo endurance test usually takes between 6-20 minutes for level 1 and between 2-10 minutes for level 2.

    Yo-Yo Intermittent Tests

    The Yo-Yo Intermittent Test is designed to replicate the demands of sports such as football where game play is not continuous.

    There are two variations of the intermittent test: The Intermittent Endurance Test and the Intermittent Recovery Test each with two levels of varying intensity.

    The Intermittent Endurance Test consists of similar running speeds to the endurance test but includes an additional 5 seconds (5m) active recovery period in between each 20m shuttle. yoyointermittentednurance

    Recently, a group of Excelsior Athletes completed the Intermittent Endurance test and all reached the benchmark level set by the England and Wales Cricket Board.

    The young cricketers had done no running fitness, only foundation strength and agility work, focussing on braking and turning mechanics.

    The Intermittent Recovery Test is more intense with running speeds beginning at 10kph (level 1) and 13kph (level 2).

    In contrast, there is a longer active recovery of 10 seconds (10m) between shuttles to allow more recovery. The nature of this test would suit itself to sports with many high intensity efforts and short breaks such as Rugby Union or Tennis.



    Yo Yo tests

    Start of a yo yo test.

    These Tests are good indicators of fitness for team sports, as they replicate the demands of many sports.

    The inclusion of shuttle runs within the tests assesses the ability to change direction in addition to running ability.

    They have become more popular in recent years, as the continuous bleep test has fallen out of favour. However, it is important to know what you are testing and why before you start any fitness testing programme.

    Rather than think “beep test vs yo-yo test” think “Do I need  to fitness test my team ?” That is something we emphasise on our coaching courses.

    Matt Durber 

    Further reading

    • Reference

    Bangsbo, J. (1994) Fitness Training in Football: A Scientific Approach. August Krogh Institute: Copenhagen University

  4. Heart rates, wattage and VO2 max testing.

    1 Comment

    “Heart rate should be an indicator not a dictator”

    Bryan Fish ski coachsays Bryan Fish the Development Coach for the US cross country ski team.

    This nugget of information came out at a breakfast conversation at GAIN. I know very little about the long endurance sports, so was fascinated to hear what Bryan had to say.

    He expands further here.

    Using Heart Rates

    We have gone up and down through the trials and tribulations of heart rate, lactate, and RPE testing.

    Our challenge is that our sport is so dynamic that we can’t use pace like running and swimming.  The stop watch is ultimately the “tool” best utilized if we could but variability is too great from one day to the next.

    The wattage meter in cycling is ultimately where our sport would like to go.

    The cool thing about wattage is it demonstrates a consistent physical output that is effective in the direction of travel.  I can put forth a lot of energy but that doesn’t necessarily mean it is down the track or down the road. Output plus pace provides that.

    GPS has become popular because of that.  As you know our mantra for tools – “indicate not dictate” is key.  We encourage athletes to use and NOT use them at times.  The goal is to learn pacing and energy output without having a monitoring unit all the time.

    Some workouts are about speed and need not be monitored, since the neural system is the target.  Other times we want athletes “individually controlled” but the heart rate still remains a guideline and remain in a general output.

    An athlete needs to push, hold back and explore pacing strategies and technique modifications to become ever more efficient.  The heart rate monitor can mindlessly dictate a session OR be a mindful tool to make an athlete more independent and more efficient.  The devil is in the details.

    VO2 Max Testing for skiiers

    ski fitness testsWe have a high tech facility with 2 skiing treadmills and the ability to provide athletes oxygen supplementation to simulate a variety of altitudes.  We do all max VO2 tests at sea level conditions.  We test our athletes rollerskiing for specificity.

    That being said – our coaches and athletes look at how long they last on the treadmill as probably the most significant factor of success from the test.  Why – because the length of the test means you are going the fastest.  Our athletes have high VO2’s.  There is a baseline amount of capacity that is necessary to be a World class endurance athlete.

    Our sports science coined it the “cloud of success.”  Many of our developing athletes are in this “cloud.”  That being said, you wouldn’t be able to point out the most successful to lesser success by looking merely at VO2 results.  This is true both with our World Cup & development athletes.  There are many capacities that make up an athlete.  

    Another important point is that VO2 CAN and DOES change slightly throughout the year and it CAN improve like any physical capacity.  There is certainly diminishing return with World class athletes.  It takes A LOT to move a LITTLE, but we can all improve.

    I have been involved with or personally administered over 450 VO2 tests.  I am suspicious with anyone who uses averages.  Each athlete is unique and responds in a unique way.  I could explain this but my fingers would be bloody from typing so long.  Bottom line – if you are going to test then make it personalized and repeat it looking at the personal results from the past tests.

    Other fitness tests for skiiers

    heart rateWe have tests that compliment and verify one another.  For example, we have VO2, hemoglobin mass and blood testing.  A low VO2 might be due to low ferretin.

    The hemoglobin and blood testing will catch that and a lowering VO2 will likely result in lowering performance in this specific situation.

    The basic premise is, like the heart rate monitor, VO2 testing is a tool that can be effectively used or grossly abused.  The latter is often the case unfortunately.  There is no ONE validating test.  The test should be utilized to track and steer training for the individual.  FMS, strength, etc testing should not be substituted for VO2 testing.  They are different tests and should be considered important factors as well.  Secondly, testing is limited in its capacity, so know what it tests and know what it does NOT test.

    Vern’s presentation nailed in on the head.  What is your objective for the test? Bryan Fish.

    (More on fitness testing here)

  5. 10 Rebounder exercises for lower limb control


    Improve Strength, Proprioception, Control and Ultimate Stability of the Lower Limb using a rebounder.

    There are many physical benefits from using a trampette or rebounder e.g. improving cardiovascular fitness and core control.

    As a Physiotherapist, I prefer to use a rebounder specifically to improve a client’s strength, proprioception, control and ultimate stability of the lower limb.

    The exercises listed below are suitable for any person who wishes to improve the stability of their lower limb joints. I have included easy, intermediate and advanced exercises for guidance.

    Part of the Solution

    rebounderIt is recommended that the more difficult tasks are perfected on a stable surface before progressing to a rebounder or unstable surface.

    These drills are especially useful for our clients who are recovering from a hip/knee/ankle injury or surgery (most ACL conservative or post-op protocols will include rebounder work).

    Athletes without injury will also find these exercises of benefit to help prevent injury and improve performance, in conjunction with their stable surface training. The rebounder adds a new stimulus which can then lead to adaptation.

    On the other hand, those with osteoarthritis will favour the use of a rebounder for gentle and functional movements as it reduces the joint impact forces.



    1 Heel raises rebounder

    2 Jogging

    3 Jumping

    4 Single leg stands


    5 single leg squatrebounder

    6 Hopping/alternate leg hopping

    7 Jog/balance

    8 Directional squat jumps


    9 Jump on/off (straight or multi-directional)

    10 Hop on/off (straight or multi-directional)

    Check the video here: 

    Remember progress from:

    • Stable to Unstable
    • Single reps to multiple reps
    • 2 feet to one foot
    • Single plane to multi directions

     Sarah Marshall 

    Chartered Physiotherapist