Impact of accidental ME on Aerobic Training effect

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  • #36496

    I’m training for a may expedition right now and am working up to weekly hikes with more than my expedition weight for more than my expedition vertical. I’ve been conceiving of these as long aerobic workouts, since I’m going to start doing gym-based ME next month after I finish my current max-strength cycle. This morning I added 8 pounds to my pack from last week, putting my pack at about 55 pounds. I hiked the same trail (which climbs about 850 feet/mile) as last week 500 feet higher than last time, but it felt like a very different workout. My HR was still below AET, but I felt more burning in my legs and my respiration rate and sweat output was a lot higher. I think by adding weight I bumped myself into more of an ME zone. Did whatever ME effect that was going on undermine the aerobic training effect from the workout, or is it possible to get an aerobic training effect while also having that classic burning leg feeling? For the future should I lower my pack weight back down to what it was if I want these to be zone 2 workouts?

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    Anonymous on #36501

    I think there’s some confusion around how much ME to use and when to use it.

    1. We usually only prescribe ME work for mountaineering in the late-Base-early-Specific period. For a May expedition, that wouldn’t be until late March;
    2. Whether the weight is 55# or 63#, neither would be a Zone 2 workout. ME work can’t be judged by heart rate. What appears as Z1/2 by heart rate is actually a Zone 3 workout in the legs.
    3. The gym-based ME program is intended for runners and skiers as a separate program. For them, it’s more effective in the early Base period.

    I would back off on ME right now and focus on building your aerobic capacity. The bigger the base you have by late-March, the better response you’ll have to the ME work done at that time. Doing ME work for months on end is too much, and it will likely backfire.

    WillB on #36513

    Interesting, so last week’s analogous workout with a ~47 pound pack would also have had an ME rather than aerobic training effect? The custom plan I did last year from Sam Naney had long Z2 uphill hiking days with a weighted pack as the centerpiece of the base-building. At 6’3” and 180 the 20% of bw they called for wasn’t far off from the pack I used last week. How much lighter do you think I’d need to go to get back to an aerobic effect?

    Anonymous on #36521

    Good question. It’s best to think of it as a dial, not a switch.

    Any time you add extra weight there will be a greater ME effect. I can’t say for certain what weight would be more centrally aerobic than peripherally ME. That depends on the athlete. Even just going uphill at bodyweight will have more of an ME effect than moving across flat ground.

    In our coaching, to account for ME effects, we start manually adjusting the TSS of client workouts when extra weight is only 10% of body weight. So it doesn’t take very much weight to have an effect, especially when going uphill.

    Don’t make the mistake of assuming that more effort means more fatigue means more fitness. That’s similar to ski tourers that set skin tracks that are too steep, thinking they’re making more upward progress because it feels more difficult. (The climb rate is actually slower.)

    If I were you, I would focus on increasing my bodyweight aerobic threshold speed as much as possible. That way, when you add weighted ME work before your trip, you’ll get a bigger benefit from that work. Even at 180#, a ~50# pack is significant.

    WillB on #36523

    Thanks, that’s really helpful.

    derekosborne22 on #36546

    Hi Scott,

    Useful input to this question which has raised a question from me.

    I’ve started to add 10-15% bw to some of my treadmill sessions as I was finding it increasing difficult to walk at a 15% gradient (max I can get from treadmill) at the pace required to get into upper Z2 HR, and indeed found it almost impossible to walk sufficiently fast to get my weekly 10×3 Z3 session without hanging on to maintain balance which I feel reduces the secondary benefits to core and balance. The added weight reduces the pace for same HR making it easier to do the Z2/Z3 sessions and maintain form. Legs are working but are no way close to a limiting factor. I’m still classifying these as aerobic and not ME – am I wrong to do this. I’m also still doing 2-3 bw Z1 sessions a week.

    One other reason I’m doing this is specificity. My winter days on the hill have a pack that is minimum 10% of BW, higher if ski touring, higher still if it has glacier or climbing element and considerably higher if it multi-day self-sufficient. Am I wrong to start adding weight to some treadmill sessions to closer replicate hill days? Note that this is on the back of 4 month bw only Z2 sessions.

    Thanks for your thoughts,

    PS – I don’t want to introduce running due to a long term achilles problem which I’m worried will tear again if I start running.

    Anonymous on #36561

    Good question. That speed that’s in-between walking and running is always awkward at first. I think part of the awkward feeling is that it requires a different technique that is neither walking nor running and rarely practiced.

    One thing to try is dictating your pace from your arms rather than your legs. Trying to walk faster feels harder than swinging my arms faster, but my feet always follow along.

    Is it “wrong” to add weight? In this case, probably not. It doesn’t escape a minor ME effect, but that may not matter if running isn’t an option.

    derekosborne22 on #36581

    Thanks Scott – good tip re walking faster – will try it but not this week re Scott J’s advice on my other post. Good to know my option of adding a bit of weight isn’t materially impacting the aerobic benefits, but I do need to be carefully it doesn’t become too much of an ME session.

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