Transitioning for more experienced athletes

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  • #6006

    I have some questions about transitioning for athletes who have been following the TftNA protocol for a couple of years or longer.

    I have been following TftNA training protocol/concepts for two years now, just started my third year. I have been working through some “injuries” (related to 16 years of sitting poorly at a desk, not training related injuries) and each summer after climbing season I have taken time off to focus entirely on these muscular/skeletal imbalance issues. This has meant the transition period outlined in the book has always been perfect for me to start training again in September.

    This year I had made enough progress with “injuries”, and squatting/deadlifting was helping the repair process so much, that I was able to focus on max strength twice a week all summer. I have continued to perform the core warm-up as well, it helps loosen me up as much as it helps with core strength.

    1) Transitioning Strength: At this point, while I’m no power lifter, I’m lifting more weight than I have ever before. Should I still transition with the General Strength Program? or Should I start with more of a Core/Max program this season?

    2) Transitioning Running: This year I needed to stop running to give a tight hamstring a break – “normal” transition was perfect. However, I can see it’s likely that I will be able to continue with alternating runs each week (Z1 or Z3 run) when not climbing, all next summer. My current annual average hours is about 8 hours a week. I start Transition week-1 at 4 hours a week and end Base week-20 at around 14 hours. Meaning my first Z1 run in week-1 is 1 hour, then ends at week-20 about 3.5 hours. If I were to move into maintenance mode when not climbing, running a 3 hour Z1 every other week, with a shorter Z3 on the off weeks, how does that translate to transitioning into training the following season? My thinking is assuming starting volume the next year would increase by 10% to 8.8 hours, or 4.4 hours my first transition week.

    Thanks for all the effort you have put into this project!

  • Inactive
    Anonymous on #6024

    Great to hear you have stuck with a consistent program for 3 years. I’m sure you’ve seen some good gains.

    As we mention in the book the Transition period can and should be adjusted according to your individual situation. You basic or non specific strength sounds like it is quite good right now so you do not need to start with a general strength program. However you might want to consider who much benefit you will see from increasing non-sport-specific strength much more. For instance: Going from a max deadlift of 50% of body weight to 100% is likely to help you in climbing, hiking, running, skiing. Going from 100% of BW to 150% is going to have a smaller transfer to your sport and going from 150% to 200% of BW is probably not going to transfer into improved sport performance and may even be detrimental to your performance. This is very individual and you will need to decide where you are on this spectrum. Just be advised and don’t get caught into the cycle we se so often where people (in gyms usually) get hooked on improving some non-specific strength as an end in itself.

    You will probably benefit from shifting to more sport specific strength training earlier in the training cycle and doing more of a max strength maintenance program 1x/7-10 days.

    As for the aerobic end of things: By now you have a good idea of the aerobic training load you can handle at the top end and one that you can comfortably manage to start. Our 50% rule that you are invoking here is not cast in stone. It is a relatively safe guideline that works for most folks and won’t overload them. Use you training logs from the past to see how you ramped up before and how you managed with that ramp rate.

    As you become fitter each one of the training cycles it will become increasingly difficult to move the fitness bar higher. It will take more time and more intensity training to increase aerobic endurance once you have a good base established. You may need to up the volume 10-15% this over last year but again, look back at your logs for feedback you were giving yourself as to how you handled last year.


    cramblda on #6027

    Thanks, Scott. I appreciate your comments about not over doing it on maximum strength capacity. It sounds like I’m close to where I need to be (about 100%) and could probably go into a maintenance mode around 130% capacity.

    You’re correct, I have seen wonderful gains following TftNA guidelines. It was confusing/hard my first Z1 run years ago. Then I dropped 2 minutes a mile on my Z1 and Z3 paces the first year (on a shortened five month cycle), and by the end of the cycle, I was starting my week with a 17 mile run that felt more like recovery then work. I was hooked and never looked back. I was training for Mt Rainier but probably arrived with CTL more in line with Denali requirements. My capacity was way beyond the need and thus the trip was a phenomenal experience. I’m sure you hear this kind of story often, but I hope you always feel rewarded for all your efforts.

    The community can’t tell you and Steve enough how incredible the work is that you have done, and are doing, with Uphill Athlete. Have you considered selling Hats and T-shirts? It would be a great way for a lot of us to financially support this platform you’ve created and a great way for us to represent the UA brand as well.

    Thanks again,


    Anonymous on #6034


    Congratulations on your Rainier climb. While we do hear a fair number of stories like your we also hear from too many climber how come to us after having suffered a humbling experience on climbs like that because they went into the climb without the base you had. As you can no doubt attest to now: Until you have experienced this kind of fitness personally you cannot understand what it will do for you in the mountains.

    Great job and keep it up.

    RPM on #6049

    Hi Scott:

    Can you elaborate a little on this statement? “going from 150% to 200% of BW is probably not going to transfer into improved sport performance and may even be detrimental to your performance.” I have fallen prey to strength training bug the last two years and wondered about this.

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