Combine 80/20 Metabolic Training With 100% Neural Training
This is the optimal ratio of low aerobic intensity in proportion to moderate-high aerobic intensity training that optimizes your metabolic fitness and health as an endurance athlete. The 80/20 Method greatly simplifies the metabolic science of training – making it accessible to anyone, with or without monitors, meters or GPS. Beyond simplicity, this 80/20 ratio is the foundation of almost every successful elite and professional endurance athlete.
Optimizing aerobic fitness doesn’t have to be complicated or elaborate. Renowned author Matt Fitzgerald, in collaboration with David Warden, recently published “80/20 Triathlon” – a comprehensive training guide for the 80/20 Method. This book is invaluable for every multisport athlete – novice to elite – especially those who self-coach.
As C.E.W. of Kaizen-durance and as a lifelong endurance artist, I emphasize the pursuit of Kinetic Intelligence (KI) as the priority in your daily training for an engaging, empowering lifelong pursuit of mastery through endurance athletics.
Do you have to compromise aerobic fitness and focus exclusively on neural fitness to pursue Kinetic Intelligence – the wisdom of the master athlete? No!
80/20 Plus 100
If you really want to maximize return on your aerobic investment, you can and you should pursue both metabolic and neural fitness during each training session. It is possible and practical to successfully optimize both without complicating your training sessions, and without increasing your training load. The 80/20 Method actually supports our emphasis on neural fitness. And the patient pursuit of KI through mindful rigorous neural training supports 80/20.
80/20 Brief Overview
To illustrate this, let’s start with a brief overview of 80/20.
- The “80” in this method is the percentage of time (not distance) you should be training at low intensity – at or below your Ventilatory Threshold (VT). VT is slightly below Lactate Threshold (LT). This is your “base” training.
- The “20” in this method is the percentage of time you should be training at moderate-to-high intensity – at or above LT. (See Matt’s book for specifics on what delineates moderate- from high-intensity.)
- Most self-coached athletes habitually train in the “gray zone” between VT and LT when they are targeting base training: “Easy” is not really easy. This compromises aerobic fitness and performance. (Neural training is also less effective.)
- Most self-coached athletes either train too little or too much at moderate-to-high intensity. This too compromises fitness.
- Base training above VT, and excessive moderate-to-high intensity training at and above LT increase the risk of mechanical injury, as well as the hormonal imbalance of overtraining that leads to sickness, long-term burnout and steady fitness decline. I learned this the hard way when I first got into triathlon 20 years ago. It took me almost two years to recover from Chronic Adrenal Fatigue. The severe endocrine imbalance almost killed me.
This is a grossly simplified overview of the 80/20 Method. Read 80/20 Triathlon for a working knowledge and guidance.
- When athletes initially buy into and implement 80/20, they find that training at or below VT for 80% of the time feels very slow. Very slow leads to impatience and insecurity.
- Impatience leads to either disregard or boredom. Insecurity leads to either panic or abandonment. How can we stay engaged, confident and motivated as we patiently build that base?
- One alternative: Switch to auto-pilot and just put in the junk miles. Ho-hum. Face the boredom now and hope for the glory later.
- Another alternative: As you build that base, maximize return on your aerobic investment by simultaneously training the Four Vectors of Kaizen-durance Mastery. Improve your skill as an endurance artist beyond just aerobic fitness.
Four Vectors of Kaizen-durance Mastery
- Neural Training
- Kinetic Intelligence
- Alliance with Gravity
While your aerobic fitness is limited, your capacity for mindfulness, neural fitness, KI and the strength of your alliance with gravity are infinite: You can always improve.
- Training at or slightly below your VT is the perfect opportunity to cultivate and develop these four vectors. And they are the foundation of PAGES technique:
Why not invest in every stride and every stroke, regardless of your speed or aerobic intensity?
Why not strive continually for PAGES? Maximize return on your aerobic investment. If you are going to put in the time, go for the maximum return.
Optimal Operating Environment
In a previous blog, we explored the function of our metabolic system: It provides the working systems of body and brain with an operating environment:
- When that environment is hostile (hypoxic, acidic, etc) our muscles, nerves and brain struggle to function well.
- When that environment is optimal we perform well and we learn most effectively.
- If you enroll in a college class that is held in a cold dark lecture hall with no sound system for the professor’s lecture, you will struggle to learn. If you are chronically fatigued and inefficient at converting O2 and energy into movement, you will also struggle to improve.
During your low intensity 80 training, you are maintaining an optimal operating environment.
80 is Opportunity
During that (ho-hum) 80% of your training, when you are training with an optimal operating environment:
- Your metabolic system is gradually improving its ability to provide that optimal environment at faster speed, for longer duration. Gradually you perform better. However you can learn faster immediately.
- These are perfect conditions to hone your PAGES technique right now!! This is the learning part of training: Lots of time and opportunity to hone your craft as an endurance artist. You are acquiring Kinetic Intelligence – wisdom of the master athlete.
- As you improve your PAGES, you are more efficient. You begin to go faster at or below VT. This means you can sustain your pace for longer distances: Endurance!
- You reduce your risk of injury, illness and burnout.
- You also train mindfulness skills. These skills are your greatest asset, essential to your functionality and performance in every area of life.
20 is Also Opportunity
- Make the most out of your limited precious moderate- and high-intensity training. This too is an opportunity to pursue mastery:
- Learn to maintain PAGES even when the operating environment is sub-optimal.
- Learn how to adapt your PAGES technique to faster paces: efficient speed.
- Learn how to remain calm, relaxed, mindful and vigilant when you are experiencing discomfort and pain.
- High-intensity endurance training also trains mindfulness. It trains you to cope and function well during the high-stress moments of your life outside of sports.
You must build, strengthen and maintain your foundation: To invest well in your “80”, diligently pursue the Four Vectors of Mastery and the endless quest for PAGES technique. There is no limit to Precision, Alignment, Grace, Efficiency and Seamlessness: You can always improve your virtuosity.
As an artist, here is my advice during your 80: Be patient, curious, engaged and grateful every time you train, every time you practice.
We train three physiological systems:
The neural system is the one that improves the most. It will continue to improve far beyond your peak aerobic potential, as you (dare I say it) age. Neural training is the portal for mastery that transports you from endurance sports to endurance arts. Train neural fitness with each stroke, each stride. Experience and enjoy a sense of enduring mastery over a lifetime.
For over four decades, I have targeted neural fitness and KI during my daily training sessions. Using the 80/20 method, I have enjoyed now 18 years of great training and racing, with very few injuries, free from any recurrence of overtraining endocrine burnout. I continue to experience consistent improvement, and an ever deeper engagement in the craft of endurance arts.
Check out Zeman’s Bio for a summary of my race history.
- 80/20 Aerobic: Check out 80/20 Triathlon: “Discover the breakthrough elite-training formula of ultimate [metabolic] fitness and performance – at all levels”. This book is well-organized, easy-to-follow, clear and concise. I highly recommend this resource for those who self-coach, and those who may question or doubt the advice of the coach.
- 100 Neural: Check out Kaizen-durance, Your Aerobic Path to Mastery. This book series delves deeply into the seldom-explored phenomenon of neural training and fitness. This is your resource for the endurance arts.