The UA Approach to Cross training

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  • #28254

    I’ve been reading on the site long enough to get a decent handle on the UA approach to cross training, which is not to value it too much as sport-specificity rules.

    However, I’ve had difficulty accepting that as it doesn’t agree with my general experience. I’ve typically gotten into PR shape for my running (road and mountain/uphill) with a strategy consisting of the following.

    Focus on Running – 67-75% of the weekly volume is running. Almost all high-intensity workouts done via running (exception described below).

    Cross training supplements the remaining 25-33% – Consisting of cycling, stand-up-cycling, uphill treadmill (12-15%) walking, Stairmill. All done at low zones (I generally did them according to MAF HR which translates roughly to Zone 1 in UA methodology), except for some higher intensity work done on uphill treadmill to prepare for climbing races.

    I’m injury prone (and on the older side) so this strategy helps me do a tremendous amount of volume while lowering my injury risk. I’ve managed upwards of 16 hour weeks using this method. I am familiar with tracking load/fitness, I just use a different tool (sporttracks) than the TrainingPeaks recommended here.

    So I’m having to balance what has worked for me in the past with what is espoused in my UA book and here. Or is there nothing generally wrong with my strategy described above?

    Appreciate all thoughts and discussion, thanks.

  • Participant
    OwenFW on #28256

    I’m curious about what distances you are racing.

    briguy on #28257

    Sorry, should’ve clarified. I typically race marathons and up. Usually use modified Jack Daniels methodology, which has often meant lots of threshold work at what he calls T pace. By “modified” I mean I that I do MAF for base building and the easy runs in my plans, which is close to Z1 in UA parlance.

    Jan on #28279

    I would say that uphill treadmill and stairmill are still pretty/very sport-specific, so should be fine according to the UA-philosophy.
    Also, if you think you would get an injury by doing 16 hours of running, you obviously shouldn’t do it. If you still want (and are able) to do that much volume, cross-training is totally fine, especially if you do it in zone 1. It will still have a positive effect, though not as big as weight-bearing exercise (have you tried roller skiing?).

    That’s how I got the take on cross-training.

    Anonymous on #28293


    There is reason top cyclists only cycle, top runners only run, top swimmers only swim. You won’t see them doing much cross training other than supplementary strength work or some light recovery cross training. The reason is that specificity does have a great impact on the overall training effectiveness. Especially when time and energy are limited. Some of your cross training activities are not very non specific, see below.

    All that being said however: If running more miles will likely injure you then there is nothing wrong with adding base volume the way you have been doing. Your stand up cycling is a very effective specific muscular endurance training tool for uphills. Your steep treadmill hikes are also very effective specific aerobic base work for uphill racing.

    I am not surprised that you have found good results with limiting your running and doing more of it at Anaerobic threshold and above. Especially as you age and find it hard to accumulate high miles. As stated in both our books, AnT training is a powerful training stimulus. Seductively so and many people default to it for that reason. However, you will never maximize your genetic potential without layering this higher intensity upon a big aerobic base of Z1-2 training. We like to say that high intensity training is supplement to, not a replacement for the base training.


    briguy on #28295

    I haven’t tried roller skiing, would that be more sport-specific to mountain running than stand-up-cycling?

    Looking back, I think I got most of my crosstraining ideas (and methodology) from Matt Fitzgerald. In one of his books, he ranked many of the common cross training types according to their sport-specificity to running (not necessarily mountain running). Incline treadmill work, even at walking speeds, translated very well to running in his estimation. Certainly my experience with it supported his assertion, and it also helped that most of the mountain races I do usually involve a significant amount of grades so steep that mere-mortals can *only* walk anyway.

    Fitzgerald was also a big proponent of stand-up-cycling, and while not quite as sport-specific as the uphill treadmill stuff, it does significantly work the quads which I’d *think* should translate to uphill sport.

    The problem with “alot” of cross training, or at least the way I’ve done it, is that it forces 3-4 “double days” into the weekly plan. That’s why I’ve always done them as Recovery/Z1, because I’ve already done an AM run on the day I’m doing the PM cross training work.

    I just continually wonder if there is something simply wrong with my approach that I’m failing to see, especially since the training plans described in the UA book (and the attitude towards cross training I see here) don’t agree with my previous stance on it.

    briguy on #28296

    Scott – I think we just posted at the same time. (or at least close enough that I didn’t see your post until after posting mine above)

    Thanks for the info. Just a note of clarification, I definitely wouldn’t say I do a lot of anaerobic work. Quite the opposite, I think I’ve traditionally been on the lower end of the spectrum, following MAF for the most part but doing 2 high(er) intensity sessions a week when prepping for a race. In Jack Daniels plans, that means a couple of runs with “cruise intervals” at what he calls “T” pace, which is right near Lactate Threshold pace for most.

    Again, thanks for the info. I’m still reconciling what has worked for me in the past, with the UA methodology and understanding the differences and the similarities.

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