don't train like it's 1985 [please]

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a question

Since ranting against long drawn out cardiovascular exercise (L-doc) may not be the best way to inspire change, my serious question is this: can you afford to spend that much of your valuable time and energy doing L-doc?

The repetitive, mind-numbing exercises like jogging or that elliptical thing at 60 to 80% of your maximal heart rate for at least 40 minutes costs you something. There are many factors, but you must consider the possibility that random cardio is easily and often over done.

But first the disclaimer.

Who am I to tell someone not to engage in physical activity that they enjoy? When well below 40% of adults exercise at all? Whatever the age, if you're up and moving away from the work desk, TV, and computer, great for you.  I'll admit that L-doc does have some value as a component of many athletic and fitness goals, though less than you would think. If cardio workouts are compatible toward your sport- or activity-specific training goals, then certainly, have at it.

split squats - always worthwhile

But with your hectic work week, your limited days of summer break, your finite physiological ability to adapt, can you afford to devote the majority of your training time to random cardio? Are you stuck in the 1980s cardio overkill mindset where if a little is good, then a whole lot must me better for all things?

what say you?

You, 160-pound forward who wants dunk by next basketball season? You, middle aged mom, hoping to avoid achilles tears and rotator cuff impingement while playing softball, tennis, or freeze tag with the kids? You, old timer, wielding exercise in the fight against the many tired heads of frailty?

And you...YOU coach or parent of a female athlete? My next exhibit in the case for less L-doc is a lunge for the jugular. I must drag out the dreaded anterior cruciate ligament because women suffer about 8 times more ACL tears than men, and about 1 in 100 high school and 1 in 10 collegiate female athletes tear an ACL.

that moment

Imagine that it's the fourth quarter of an intense soccer match-up. Every player on the field is suffering some degree of neuromuscular fatigue (certainly not for lack of cardiovascular conditioning). Our female athlete lunges off her left leg to avoid a defender, recovers with the right leg, redirects her body, accelerating to the ball.

What happens internally at the knee in that moment ? Do the quadriceps have enough power to decelerate the forward glide of the femur on the tibia? Do the hip and trunk muscles sufficiently hold the femur from buckling and twisting into the knock-kneed position? Has the athlete ingrained correct movement patterns beyond consciousness; summer time training memories of how the hips, knees, and feet should feel and react during leaps and cuts?

An off season 7-mile jog does virtually nothing to address the neuromuscular and biomechanical patterns of an at-risk female athlete caught in that moment. (I also suspect that various balance exercises on unstable surfaces do little to prevent ACL tears, though the literature is mixed, and that can of worms is hereby reserved for another writing.)

how now shall we train?

ACL and weekend warrior sprain/strain prevention is simply just    plain   smart   training.

The details depend upon the individual, but the weekly routine should include a day or two of plyos and/or form sprints. A day or two of full body resistance training with emphasis on the legs and "core." Maybe a day or two of L-doc for some, but certainly not all athletes.

And of course, intervals for a relatively healthy grandma look a lot different than our teenage soccer player. 

Intelligent training is structured with a few individualized goals in mind; goals beyond "stay toned" or "maintain an 8-minute pace over 5 miles." Even if distance running is your main end, rather than thousands upon thousands of linear, mid-range ploddings, why not mix it up with just a little whole body, multidirectional movements that address aspects of both strength and coordination?

Swap a day or two of the same old thing for something different now and again. Emphasize power over efficiency as the brain is tuned into a progression of pre-stretch/counter-movements. Do it now, before I'm tempted to bust out some Jane Fonda lyrics.

sprinters aren't happy about all that L-doc

Evidence that a little less L-doc does help endurance athletes, especially from an injury-prevention perspective:

Improvement in Running Economy After 6 Weeks of Plyometric Training

Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. 17(1):60-67, February 2003.

Maximal Strength Training Improves Cycling Economy in Competitive Cyclists

Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. 24(8):2157-2165, August 2010.

Hewett GD, Myer TD, Ford KR, et al. Biomechanical measures of neuromuscular control predict anterior cruciate injury risk in female athletes: a prospective study. Am J Sports Med. 2005;33:492-501.

Meeuwisse WH, Tyreman H, Hagel BD, Emery C. A dynamic model of etiology in sports injury: the recursive nature of risk and causation. Clin J Sport Med. 2007;17:215-219.

Ekegran CL, Miller CM, Celebrini RG, Eng JJ. Reliability and validity of observational risk screening in evaluating dynamic knee valgus. J Ortho Sports Phys Ther. 2009;39:665-674.

Myer GD, Brent JL, Ford KR, Real-time assessment and neuromuscular training feedback techniques to prevent anterior cruciate ligament injury in female athletes. J Strength Cond Res 2011;33:21-35.

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