ADS and Strength Training for Older Athletes

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  • #20827

    To what extent should older athletes incorporate or eschew strength training if they also are facing ADS? Maffetone states fairly categorically that anaerobic training and strength training should be avoided until a solid aerobic base is restored, but is this realistic? As an aging mountain runner I feel like my strength training is key to keeping me in the game. Any harm/benefit to maintaining it while I work on rectifying my ADS?

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    Anonymous on #20832

    Thanks for writing in about this question. Maffetone is right and Maffetone is wrong. Here’s why.

    He’s right that doing anaerobic endurance training will be counterproductive to curing ADS. That is because extensive aerobic work (say 10x400m running repeats at 5km race pace or 30min steady uphill with HR at your personal AnT/LT) will have a very powerful training stimulus on the glycolytic metabolic pathway. That stimulus will also down regulate the signaling that causes aerobic adaptation (primarily the pathway known as AMPK that causes an increase in mitochondria. So, stay away from extensive (longer than 10-15 sec) work above your AnT/LT during the aerobic base build phase if you have ADS.

    He’s also right that doing some forms of strength training fires up a completely different signaling pathway called mTOR. mTOR and AMPK tend to counteract each other’s effect. Doing a long run on the heels of a strength workout seems to down regulate the mTOR path. This is why body builders do not do extensive aerobic work. It would make the smaller. The opposite seems also to be true. These things are debated in sports science but the results seem to indicate these effects.

    But……. lots of endurance athletes use strength training as key part of their training. So, in practice there is probably a balance that needs to be attained. Clearly, doing either body building type strength training where the whole point is hypertrophy (caused by mTOR) or doing muscular endurance training sessions during the aerobic base building period will probably have a pretty big negative impact on curing ADS. This is why we advocate the approach to strength training we do in print and on this site. We eschew body building methods entirely and we use the ME workout late in the programs we design.

    Where I think Maffetone (who opened my eye to ADS in a personal discussion in 1983) might come across as too dogmatic about this topic is that all endurance athletes we have dealt with seem to benefit from some strength training. We recommend a “general conditioning” sort of strength training in the early stages and then moving to a max strength phase where the training effect is largely neurologic. Endurance athletes need some forms of strength training, at the very least, for injury prevention. Keep in mind that “strength training” can take place in a gym (the simplest, safest and easiest to regulate and progress but also tends to be more general and less event specific) or it can take place on your local steep hill with hill sprints which is a more sport specific form than can be accomplished in the gym. We favor an approach that first builds General Strength before moving to the more Event Specific.

    As an aging athlete you face a bigger challenge than the youngsters. You are losing strength so need to do something to maintain if not increase it. I work with a lot of middle aged mountain athletes who benefit from regular strength training. We proscribe general strength for even our most basic coached clients with severe ADS and have seen great results.

    I recommend that you include 2 appropriate (Non-Bodybuilding or ME format) workouts into your plan.


    mike on #20880

    A minimum, general kettlebell strength program like Simple and Sinister may suit your needs. I am 58 (next month) and have found this is a good program for me, especially in the middle of a “season”. Warmup is generally 3 sets of 5 goblet squats, and halos. Work session is 10×10 of kettlebell swings. Especially with ADS, each set of swings should be started on the minute OR once your HR returns to a Zone 1 level (easy nose breathing). Once swings are completed, TGU for 1 set of 5 (each side). Generally done as 1 per side, then a short break, repeat until completed.

    DARTMOUTH92 on #20980

    Thanks so much for this thoughtful and detailed reply, Scott. I’m really enjoying the book. The clearest and most straight foward explanation of training I have ever read. Oh, if I’d only had it when I was younger!

    DARTMOUTH92 on #20981

    Mike – How did you know that Simple & Sinister is my go to general strength program? I love your idea of letting the HR drift down into Zone 1 between sets. Not only have I found S&S to be good for me as a mountain runner, it’s also a great way to counteract spending too much time behind a desk at work.

    hafjell on #20989

    We favor an approach that first builds General Strength before moving to the more Event Specific.

    Is this sentiment incorporated into the training plans’ transition and base weeks?

    Anonymous on #20996


    Yes. the general to specific is baked into every training plan we sell and is laid out very clearly in the 2 books we have written.


    mdrichardson on #25196

    +1 for Simple & Sinister as a daily strength program. I’ve been doing it for a couple months now and absolutely love it. Warmup of goblet squats/hip bridges/halos followed by workout (“practice” in strongfirst speak) of swings/get-ups leaves me feeling healthier, more mobile, and, well, stronger. Takes less than 30 minutes per day.

    I am very curious, however, about how best to integrate S&S with UA endurance work. So far I’ve felt great doing S&S and shorter Z1 runs on the same day (usually split AM/PM or at least separated by a few hours and meal). I have not done S&S on longer run days yet, but doing so doesn’t seem entirely crazy…

    S&S is designed as a daily strength program of sub-maximal efforts that leave you refreshed and ready to go again the next day. The training plans in TftNA (as well as the custom UA plans I did for a 50k ultra) all include strength work twice per week. Any thoughts on doing daily (or almost daily) strength work of the S&S variety while simultaneously building/maintaining a good aerobic base in the transition/base period (not in specific training for a climb or race)? What would a structured training plan of this sort actually look like?

    I’m aware of the risks of trying to do too much. But it seems like there might be a happy medium here for those who want to do a bit more strength training while still sticking to the UA principles of aerobic base building…

    brandon.eric.berg on #55935

    I’ve also been doing the Simple & Sinister program for 2 months now. While I am doing minimal organized aerobic activity. I walk the dog 3-5x a week for a mile. Sometimes I’ll incorporate loaded carries into this activity. With a monthly overnight backpacking trip usually thrown in.

    I have added a bit of specific glute and core work (2-3x/week) to this as well as Dan John’s Armor Building Complex 1x or so a week.

    My plan to be spring skiing mountaineer strong and fast come April of 2022 is to do Simple and Sinister until I feel completely comfortable with the 24kg bell. Then transition over to the Right of Passage to get my press up. Somewhere in the Nov/Dec timeframe incorporate the preseason ice climbing training into the mix. Then in Dec switch over to 16/24 week mountaineering training plan.

    I’ve been deficient in strength for quite some time with too much focus on just running for training for running. It turns out lifting heavy things is very fun and rewarding. A slower more methodic approach to training is a nice reprieve from the just go faster mentality. Kettle bells seems to fill that role pretty well. Barbells are awesome but sporadic for me.

    My biggest learning of late is an imperfect training plan executed consistently is better than an ideal training plan executed sporadically.

    I heard Scott mention in a podcast of Uphill Athlete that you want to train speed before increasing endurance. This has always been my issue. I can go a long ways at a very slow speed. So with this underlying strength period of a few months hopefully I can use that as a foundation to get my ADS down finally get where I want to be.



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