Over the past few years we have come across a lot of questions and confusion amongst individuals. In many cases people have heard a rumor or a fact which may or may not be true. These rumors grow and very quickly they become fact once you hear them multiple times. This has led to many individuals becoming confused or distracted. We have taken this opportunity to discuss some of these common myths and shed some light on the truth.
Lifting weights is bad for endurance.
This is completely incorrect. Resistance training helps strengthen ligaments and bones which reduces our susceptibility to damage. It also allows us to produce more force and it develops our neural patterns so that we have better motor control. These are all massively beneficial to endurance sports. It is true that a byproduct of heavy strength training is an increase in muscle size. With increased size there may be an increase in bodyweight. Weight can be a factor in running and cycling speed. An athlete carrying more muscle than required for their sport may see negative consequences. There is of course a balance and a tipping point where weight training goes from being beneficial to negative. For most endurance athletes they will struggle to hit this point. In the vast majority of endurance athletes strength training will actually help them stay healthy and strong.
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Endurance kills speed.
This is a very common myth in field sports. Doing extended runs or conditioning usually means it is done at a lower intensity or pace. Because of this it is assumed we will become slow from training slow. Speed or maximum velocity requires high force output and quick nerve transmissions for leg turnover etc. If we are in a fatigued state both force and nerve transmission is slowed. Chronic fatigue means we never get to go as fast as we can. Over time our exposure to high velocity work is too little and the ability to go fast diminishes. So while this myth may be true it can be easily avoided by managing chronic fatigue and ensuring there is a regular exposure to high velocity training in a fresh state.
Our VO2 is simply the amount of oxygen we absorb. It is not limited by our breathing or the air, but more so by oxygen’s ability to get to, and get absorbed into the muscle. The type of muscle will impact how much oxygen it can use. Power based athletes have muscle fibre types which need to contract so quickly that often oxygen is too slow in supply to get used consistently. While your maximum oxygen uptake is a very good indicator of aerobic ability it does not guarantee success in endurance events. In addition, daily fluctuations in VO2 can make it a tricky variable to use when prescribing training. It is a good assessment in gauging someone’s aerobic capacity but its practicality is limited. It is not the single measure of potential success for any athlete and it does not accurately reflect their conditioning for their sport.
You have to train hard.
This old myth has touched on every athlete at some point. The “no pain no gain” mantra is regularly abused. While high intensity training does have its benefits, over using it can have very detrimental effects. The recovery demands and potential muscle damage caused by extremely tough sessions can take days to recover from. Constantly completing these types of sessions will cause massive loss in performance. In addition, high intensity efforts are quite selective in the physiological adaptations they stimulate. Constantly training hard, even with recovery, will lead to holes in your fitness. Easy sessions have just as much benefit when used correctly. Consistency is far more important than intensity.
See how running slow can help you run faster by clicking here.
You can fuel entirely off of fat.
This is a very controversial topic in sport. While one can improve their ability to burn fat, and they can function on a diet which focuses on fat, they must do so carefully. At some point on the intensity scale your body will switch to carbohydrate. While some activities may be supported adequately on fats alone, high intensity will rely on carbohydrate. Those who neglect carbohydrates in competition will struggle at a certain intensity. So while becoming fat adaptive does have benefits, these benefits are usually related to preserving glycogen as it is critically important when racing at high intensity. While you can function on fats alone, it doesn’t mean it is the best option.
Training at altitude is good for endurance.
This myth has been disproven many times. Spending time at altitude puts our body in a mild state of hypoxia. This reduced oxygen level in the blood stimulates the release of erythropoietin (EPO). EPO stimulates the production of red blood cells which help us carry oxygen. This increased oxygen carrying capacity definitely helps our endurance. The problem is that if we train at altitude we are training at reduced ability. Over time our performance will diminish as we can’t train as well. A work around for this is living at altitude but training at sea level. This allows us reap the benefits of altitude on our blood without sacrificing our training quality.
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