Saturday, August 11, 2007


Here is the theory to which the Bigun aspires to. First, though, you should know that my beliefs are a bit skewed - it's a poor man's belief. If I had the money, sure I'd train with a power meter, but I think I'd always rely more heavily on the Heart Rate Monitor. Second, I didn't come up with any of this - it's all stuff I've read, or an interpretation at least.

Each heart beat is like the striking of a match stick. And like a box of matches, you start the race with only so many, plus whatever you can add along the way in the form of food and liquid calories. You train your heart to burn more efficiently each time you exercise, and without complicating that too much, the heart will draw it's fuel - the wood of the matchstick - either from fat or from glycogen stores. There's lots more at work than that, but in the simple world of the Bigun, that's how it works for me.

When you train, you either train your heart to be more efficient at burning from fat stores or from glycogen stores (again, HIGHLY simplified - you always are burning a combination to some degree). Fat burns much more efficiently, but is utilized mostly at lower heart rates. At some point when the HR rises, the heart switches from burning (mostly) fat to burning (mostly) glycogen. It's been written that glycogen stores deplete in about 2 hrs. I don't think you could burn up all of your fat stores - well, at least the Bigun can't - in even a 17 hr Ironman race (oh yea, it gets deeper still, with intra-muscular fat being even more efficient...remember, Bigun like candy...).

Similarly, you stay in an aerobic (in the presence of oxygen) state at lower heart rates, while burning fat, and you go anaerobic - where you cannot process your lactate faster than you produce it, building it up and causing PAIN, at higher heart rates, also burning up your glycogen stores.

So the trick (for endurance events, at least) is to keep your heart burning (mostly) fat as long as possible. That requires keeping the HR low - for me, I've got to stay in the 140's or even under 140 to really be in the proper HR range. I think the goal is 70% - 80% of max HR - for a fit 42 year old, having never been tested, my max HR is probably around 182bmp. So my base range, or my aerobic heart rate range would be 127 - 145. My running pace at 140bpm is just under 11 min miles, and I can bike around 19mph. I'm sorry, but that's just not fast enough for the Bigun.

There is the theory that if you want to run fast, you gotta run FAST. There is also the theory that if you want to run fast, you have build a big base and run SLOW. I particularly like the added bonus from not running fast - I don't get injured as easily. So...I prescribe to the run slow, race fast theory - and mix in some speed work too.

I also believe that given the right conditions, one matchstick will burn brighter and longer than another. Give that match more oxygen, control how it burns, and capture the heat and light that it produces BETTER, and you'll get more out of each match. The same goes for the heart beat. The only way the heart will be more efficient at burning fat is to train, a lot, in an aerobic state. The more efficient the body becomes at processing energy in an aerobic state, the faster you will get at lower heart beat rates.

This would explain the 12 Base Training weeks I have scheduled in the beginning of '08 in preparation for IMCdA'08. But I also like to go fast. I enjoy a good sprint tri; going all out for an hour and a half or so. This requires specificity in training too - training the body to be good at processing glycogen stores and processing lactic acid. This is done in my "Build" and "Tempo" weeks - lots of intervals and Fartleks planned in those weeks.

Oh yea, so the big point, though, is the relationship between HR training and Power training - if I had access to only one, I'd surely take HR - ok, look at it this way....what all effects heart rate? Heat, humidity, sleep, rest, sickness or overall health, plus a bunch of others I'm sure I'm leaving out. If, then, my plan on race day is to pedal at an average of 170 watts, but it happens to be uber-hot or I've got a bug I don't know about - my plan is all messed up. 170 watts might be way too hard for the condition I'm in at that moment. 170 watts might take 160bpm today, because I'm having a bad day. If I used HR as my limiter, instead, if I"m sick or it's hot, I can still have the HR goal at say, 150bpm, I just won't be running or pedaling as hard. The difference is that in 3 hrs, I won't blow up if I keep my HR goals.

I'm not sure if I explained it well or not - I get questions from time to time on why I trained a certain way - like a mixed workout, where I'll throw some speed work into a longer aerobic session. A workout like that trains the body to move in and out of one fuel source to another, like what would be necessary in a race with some hills or wind in one direction. Mixing up workouts really takes the boredom out of triathlon training and gives you a "release" of discipline when in pure base mode.

Shoot, I was a "2.0 and go" kinda student in College - so I could have all this bassackwards. But, it seems to be working for me, so I'll stick with it, until they write something new and revolutionary and different in Triathlete or Inside Tri.


Pat said...

I think you hit the nail on the head. Or some analogy with a matchstick. either way, I like this post. I've been running slower lately and have seen the benefits. Matter of fact, Wisconsin' favorite son, BigMike advised me to do so.

thanks for the great analogy.


Green Eyed Lady (aka GEL) said...

Ummm, Mr Bigun, didn't I just attend your 43rd birthday not too long ago? You know what though? I'm still 49...

bigmike600 said...

I totally like the way you worded that. I am by no means qualified to give anyone advice. As a matter of fact, I only pass on what I hear from people who are qualified. Especially about exercise. But I can say this...During my weight loss visits to the exercise physiologists (people who do have the qualifications to give advice and are paid well to do so) all told me the same thing that you described. Plus I have read it over and over. You must keep your heart rate in that low range to be able to exercise longer. Plus for guys losing weight like I was it was the only way and now I know why. No way did they want some 350 pound guy trying to run with my heart rate in the 180's. You my friend sometimes do not give yourself the credit you deserve when it comes to being smart about endurance sports and the whole science thing. You are one smart guy about this endurance stuff. I am not sure if this is good or bad, but I certainly use a lot of your training methods and think they work great for me. I am a bigger guy and I am not sure if I was a 170 pound twig if I would do the same things. Keep up the good work and keep the excellent info coming. See you in a couple weeks.
This IMCdA journey for you is going to be awesome to watch and read about.

S. Baboo said...

That bike workout looks fun. For the most part I also like my speed workouts to be sprint distance races and that's why I race so often. I know that's not so good for recovery, which should be considered a key workout in and of itself, but I'm no pro so whatever, I'm just out to have a good time.

I do seem to have far better overall benifit from long slow runs than I do long slow bikes. When I bike nothing changes much but my bike. When I run my bike tends to get better and when I can't run my bike begins to fade.

S. Baboo said...

Oh, and wealth can not be found in a bank account only in those you call friend, those you love and your personal character. I believe you are a rich man.

Unknown said...

What The Baboo said about wealth!

Tea said...

I think you did a great job of explaining it. I do alot of the same stuff but have never been able to explain why, but it keeps me healthy. So, I just go with it.

Do you create your own training plans?

FunFitandHappy said...

Well put...

Have you done any lt tests to zero in on your hr zones for biking and running?

All it takes is a 30 minute time trial (after a good warmup). Just hit the lap button after the first 10 minutes, and your average hr for the last 20 minutes should approximate your LT.

Fe-lady said...

Whatever works! If it's working don't "FIX" it...I train how I feel on that day. Don't like the "toys" particularly...I just mix it up, kinda like your strategy. But I think I will need SOME kind of plan here beginning in December...who/what are you going with?

Unknown said...

You sound like you know what you are talking about, so if you don't you fake it well. ( ;-) )
No really, well said.
I subscribe to the do what you feel like today school of thought myself.

The Stretch Doc said...

now thats a good bike workout!

I think you might be able to start Coach Bigun Triworkouts..!


Oly said...

Oh, and wealth can not be found in a bank account only in those you call friend, those you love and your personal character. I believe you are a rich man.

- S. Baboo

Well said.

as for the: until they write something new and revolutionary and different in Triathlete or Inside Tri.

Everything is new and revolutionary and...recycled.. how else would they sell mags?

You have to do what works for you bro, and you gots to be happy doing it, or whats the point.