Applying the Primal Blueprint Principles to Endurance Training

This is a guest post written by Brad Kearns, my long-time friend and integral member of the Primal Blueprint team. He’ll be speaking at this year’s PrimalCon, instructing athletes and non-athletes alike on how to properly train for endurance events the Primal Blueprint way.

Greetings MDA readers. It’s been a wonderful experience to work closely with Mark Sisson over the past two years on the Primal Blueprint book and the many ambitious projects we have announced for 2010. I look forward to meeting PrimalCon attendees in April and discussing the application of Primal Blueprint principles to endurance training. Mark and I go back over two decades, when we first crossed paths on the professional triathlon circuit in the 80’s. Mark was my coach and mentor for the majority of my professional career, helping guide me into training and lifestyle practices that were counter to Conventional Wisdom (sound familiar?) and basically save me from the extreme burnout risk that was (and still is) endemic to training and racing at the elite level.

What an amusing journey it’s been! Mark and I used to debate the intricacies of interval workouts and swim technique on 100-mile training rides. Today our workouts are beach sprints or quick, intense plyometric sessions, and debate is about the ingredients for our post-workout BAS (Big Ass Salad). Having both been through the hard-core endurance scene, spit out the other end, and catapulted headlong into the Primal world, we share a valuable perspective of both appreciation for the passion expressed by endurance athletes, and also a conviction that the Conventional Wisdom approach and mindset toward endurance training and racing is deeply and dangerously flawed.

As Mark has mentioned often on the blog and in the book, trying to apply the Primal Blueprint Fitness principles to a gung-ho endurance athlete with extreme and highly specialized goals is a challenge. As the landmark post, A Case Against Cardio explained in detail, serious endurance training is detrimental to your health, period. However, there is a way to do this stuff correctly, have fun, preserve your health, and enjoy all the benefits of the endurance experience which is so popular these days. Anyone who has browsed through the Primal Blueprint or read much of the blog is aware of Chronic Cardio‘s drawbacks, and the benefits of integrating the three Primal Blueprint exercise laws (Move Frequently at a Slow Pace, Lift Heavy Things, and Sprint Once in a While) to achieve well-balanced, functional fitness without compromising health. This stuff is all fine and dandy until you catch the fever and sign up for a marathon or half-ironman triathlon. Then, as most of the magazine articles, books and coaches will tell you, you have to get focused, put in the miles, be consistent and basically struggle and suffer in the name of preparing for your daunting fitness goal.

The promotion of this approach and mentality is a massive scam, preying upon the frailties of the Type A personality drawn to extreme challenges, and fed by the hype and marketing influences of those who stand to make a buck off of people struggling and suffering. For example, consider the “Ironman”, which today has evolved from a description of a triathlon race distance to a multimillion dollar global brand with dozens of events replicating the original Hawaii “product”. Let us not forget that Ironman is an arbitrary distance, entirely inconsiderate of the health, lifestyle factors and overall best interests of those who participate. What if the distance around Oahu was only 56 miles? (the derivative of the 112-mile Ironman bike ride is the 112-mile ‘Ride Around Oahu’ bike ride) Or what if the standard marathon distance (born from the legend of Pheidippides running from Marathon to Athens, Greece to announce a battle victory) was only 13 miles instead of 26, and thus the Ironman was actually a half-ironman? It might be a superior competitive event and would surely be a more sensible competitive and peak performance goal for the vast majority of the participants.

The contention I have is the media and corporate influence that have lured the masses to believe that running a marathon or finishing an Ironman is the ultimate endurance achievement. To me this seems backwards – to get persuaded by hype, mystique and peer pressure into an athletic goal and then re-arrange your lifestyle in order to pursue that goal. It makes better sense to make a careful analysis of your life circumstances, responsibilities, obligations and potential impact on your family, career and overall well-being, and then choose an appropriate competitive goal. Aspiring to a less challenging event that requires less training time and less physical stress might be a win/win situation all around. For comparison, look at the sensibility of a community soccer league, where field size, game length, and number of players escalate steadily as the kids get older and more competent. If instead we put Under-6 kids on an international 100-meter field for 90 minutes, what might happen? They’d probably become exhausted and burnt out, something that happens with alarming frequency in the endurance world. As an endurance athlete, you must take control of your destiny, choose appropriate goals, and train according to some simple guidelines that will allow you to protect health, moderate the stress of an extremely stressful endeavor, increase your enjoyment of the endurance experience, and finally, believe it or not, actually improve your competitive performances.

1. Align Workout Efforts with Energy Level, Motivation Level and Health

Throw out the fancy log books, graphs, magazine articles, books and Internet coaches spitting out detailed 6-week or 12-week training plans designed to produce peak performance. Get a spiral notepad for 99 cents and start keeping score of these three markers with a simple 1-10 rating each day: 10 being outstanding, 5 being medium, and 1 being terrible. Conduct and rate your workouts similarly, with 1 being an easy recovery effort and 10 being a maximum effort. Strive to match up the energy/motivation/health numbers with the workout degree of difficulty scores, and realize the long-term negative repercussions of misaligning these markers. When you rate your workouts, include psychological components as well as physical. Cutting short sleep for a swim session on a brisk early morning, followed by a hurried drive to work while inhaling a processed snack for breakfast is far more stressful than the same workout on a more relaxed time schedule. Govern your workout decisions by asking yourself, “Is this healthy?” and be clear with your specific purpose for every workout: recovery/rejuvenation, fitness maintenance or fitness improvement.

2. Train Intuitively Instead of Robotically

The world’s foremost expert on your training program is you, even if you are a complete novice. No one will ever be as skilled at rating and aligning the numbers described in item #1 as you are right now. I counsel the endurance athletes I coach to make every workout feel effortless. I’m obviously taking license with the literal definition here, but the goal is to make training decisions based on gut instinct, biofeedback, even visualization – in order to promote physical and mental ease rather than struggle. Physically, workout pace and length should be dictated by factors discussed in #1 – energy, motivation, and health. Mentally, you want to nurture your passion and your will at all times, and never abuse these attributes in the name of your ego or insecurities. If you don’t feel like working out, this is a powerful message to reflect upon and honor. Sure, sometimes inertia is involved and you feel better once you get out the door and get moving, but often developing the discipline to hit the snooze button and sacrifice the instant gratification of logging more miles is what can take you to the next level as an athlete. Restraining your obsessive/compulsive tendencies and rejecting the unhealthy influences of Conventional Wisdom and peer pressure offers a tremendous growth experience that can translate to many other areas of life. Conversely, a lack of restraint and intuition will cause your athletics to become just another outlet to express your insecurities and obsessive/compulsive tendencies. The choice is yours!

3. Increase the Severity of Stress/Rest Fluctuation

The recommendation for consistency is the context of athletic training is deeply flawed. Extensive research suggests that your body will plateau and even regress unless you vary workload carefully. While most everyone agrees with this basic concept, I believe that we haven’t taken it far enough. Experts touting sage advice like “rest one day a week”; “build three weeks, then recover one week”: or “never increase your mileage more than 10% per week” are interpreting only a narrow slice of a very big picture. The balance between stress and rest is a constant challenge, represented best by our waking days and sleeping nights. When it comes to training, it’s difficult to predict the ideal stress/rest balance, and most people err on the stress side. Partly to blame are the elite athletes who serve as de facto role models and share their secrets with eager enthusiasts. An Olympian who eats, sleeps and runs 130 miles a week has little in common with someone immersed in busy family, career, school, and community life. While exercise is an excellent “stress release” from other forms of mental and emotional stress in your life, it’s merely a different form of stress, pulling on the very same adrenal glands that service your boardroom presentations, domestic arguments, and financial concerns.

Understanding the Primal Blueprint exercise laws, it makes sense to promote optimal gene expression by reducing the stress of your endurance workouts (by limiting heart rate to 75% of max or less), and reducing the frequency and duration (but possibly even increasing the difficulty) of high-intensity workouts. The body does not require a consistent application of stress to thrive, but rather a strategic balance between stress and rest. Make your easy-to-moderate workouts much easier and shorter, and make your hard workouts much less frequent and in many cases, harder. Don’t be afraid to spike that graph more than Conventional Wisdom suggests, and do everything you can to run screaming from the “flatline” approach that has produced widespread burnout.

Applying these three principles requires a skill set that, quite frankly, tends to be a little deficient amongst the masses of endurance enthusiasts. However, an evolved training program is well within your reach, and can pay great dividends starting immediately. Once you expand your horizons beyond the “struggle and suffer’ paradigm, and see how fun it is to train intuitively, healthily and Primally, there is no turning back, believe me!

Brad’s Bio

Brad Kearns is a noted speaker, author and coach in the health & fitness world for over two decades. Over the past two years, he has worked closely with Mark Sisson on Primal Blueprint projects, editing the Primal Blueprint book and DVD, and co-authoring the upcoming Primal Leap 30-day weight loss program Guidebook. Brad has written nine other books on health, fitness, and peak performance, including Breakthrough Triathlon Training (2006, McGraw-Hill), which offers a healthy, balanced approach to triathlon peak performance, and How Lance Does It (2007, McGraw-Hill), which details the attitude and behavior qualities of the Tour de France legend and how you can apply these attributes to your own goals. During his nine-year career as a professional triathlete, Brad was a 2-time national champion and ranked #3 in the world in 1991. Brad produces the Auburn, CA Triathlon annually, and is the Founder and Executive Director of a non-profit organization promoting cardiovascular fitness for kids called Running School. Brad graduated cum laude from UC Santa Barbara in 1985, majoring in Business/Economics and minoring in running injuries and surfing. He enjoys coaching youth sports and dominating sixth graders in both soccer and basketball. Brad’s offbeat competitive outlets include high jumping and Speed Golf. A 3.7 handicap, Brad placed 8th in the world Speed Golf championships, shooting 80 on a regulation 18-hole course in 40 minutes. In spring 2008, Brad attained a lifetime best high jump of 5’5”, which would rank him 13th in the USA Masters 40+ track and field list.

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37 thoughts on “Applying the Primal Blueprint Principles to Endurance Training”

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  1. Timely article – I hear this question asked all the time and how it may alter the carb intake.

  2. Good post. As my CV always says: there is no such thing as an over-trained athlete – just an under-rested athlete. There is always a delicate balance between rest and pushing through, and as Brad says, YOU are your best coach – not some 12 week excel spreadsheet promising peak performance. Life doesn’t always go according to plan, so training must adapt to real life. I am glad that Brad mentioned the concept of stress – in that exercise stress, and boardroom presentation stress, although aren’t the same, can have the same impact on the system (you). Stress is stress.

    Good stuff, thanks for posting.

  3. Hi there,

    I’ve been going Primal for almost a year and a half now and I have been reading the website ever since. I also read the Paleo Diet for Athletes.

    The thing is I’m a circus artist and am currently in my 3rd year of circus school. I train mostly acrobatics and I do an aerial discipline which requires a lot of strength. Next to that I also have daily dance classes of about 1 hour.

    This means that most of my days are spent doing explosive anaerobic exercises, coupled with a more aerobic workout from the dance classes. I start my days at 9.00 and usually leave at 18.00, sometimes a bit earlier but also often later, especially now as I’m creating my individual acts.
    I’ve learned to divide my energy throughout the day and week so that I don’t collapse after one day of training, but I’m still having trouble fitting the Primal blueprint into my lifestyle. Especially how many carbs I should take and from what sources.

    This website has given me a thing against grains and carbs so I’m daily struggling with myself as to what I should do/eat. The website is absolutely wonderful but for my case I thin I need a more specialized opinion or plan. Most athlete articles are about endurance training (as is the Paleo diet for Athletes)while I need something that focuses more on a sport like gymnastics (which did for 11 years)

    Is there anyone that can give me some advice? I would really, really appreciate it.

    Thanks in advance!

    1. I’d suggest you check out Robb Wolf’s blog and listen to a few of his podcasts if you haven’t already. He’s a disciple of Cordain and deals alot with folks in the Crossfit community so offers nutrition advice across the spectrum of endurance, to strength, to high intensity interval training. He’s also mentioned that cordain is coming out with a new book geared toward strenght/power athletes.

      1. Sorry, the more I thought about it I realized I could have added a bit to the post. First, don’t fear carbs. If you are training a lot you have much more headroom for carbs than Joe Couchpotato. Just make the sources paleo: vegetables, fruits, yams and sweet potatoes are a great source of carbs. Avoid the grains because of the gut irritation, regardsless of the carb content. Get plenty of protein (you can start as high as 1gm per pound of total bodyweight–not lean body mass– and experiment from there).

        The great thing about Robb’s blog and podcasts is that he gives you some basic parameters and asks to you tinker on yourself because everyone responds very differently and you have to find what works for you given your physiology, your trianing, your stress level, etc.

  4. One under-appreciated benefit of the primal lifestyle appears to be a certain fluency and coherence of language- this article, like so many on MDA, is very well written.

    While the attitude of “listen to your body and limit long grueling training routines” advocated by this article is consistent with the primal premise and clearly is beneficial from a lifestyle and overall fitness point of view, is there any evidence (case studies, clinical trials, etc…) that it actually improves performance in endurance-type competition? I would love to see some statistics addressing improvements in typical measures of cardiovascular fitness such as race times, resting heart rate, VO2max etc…

    1. Thanks for the comment. As far as statistics, many of the world’s leading exercise physiologists have produced lab studies that indicate less is better than more. MDA has referenced some of these studies relating to interval training being more productive than sustained chronic cardio training.

      Some other stats that are interesting to me is the attrition rate of participants in group marathon training programs, where people of various fitness levels are trained systematically for 6 months to complete a marathon – no matter what. The finishing success rate is very high…and so is the attrition rate.

      The anecdotal evidence from both amateur and elite athletes is also pretty compelling. Mike Pigg and Mark Allen, arguably the two greatest triathletes of all time, experienced better and more consistent results when they reduced the overall stress load of their training my monitoring aerobic heart rates and keeping most workouts under 80% of maximum heart rate.

      Nevertheless, there is widespread fear that being intuitive instead of robotic with training actually works. People even have their own evidence (I train poorly when I’m fighting a cold; I experience performance breakthroughs after rest periods) that they repeatedly ignore in favor of following Conventional Wisdom and striving for consistency. This type of collective behavior caused me to wonder what the athlete’s true purpose for participation is: is it to pursue peak performance and experience personal growth as a consequence? Or is it to express yet another outlet for obessive/compulsive behavior?

  5. I really enjoyed and appreciate this article. I tend to stick to my marathon schedule regardless of how I feel (energy level, motivation). Though I have learned to back down on days when I really feel awful, I don’t think I back off enough. I am going to try your 99 cent journal a try and see how it goes!

      1. There are few things more rewarding than running through the Back Bay, with thousands of people cheering you on, knowing that you have just conquered a mental and physical challenge. I am not an elite athlete by any stretch of the imagination, but I find that events (e.g., marathons, half marathons, triathlons) inspire my continued drive to be fit.

      2. Running a marathon is (for me anyway) not about fitness, but pushing myself. Its fun and rewarding for me. It is not primal per se, but I think that accepting challenges and daring to do the amazing (or at least impressive) is one of the things that helped our species survive. That being said, if you don’t feel that way, that’s a-okay with me. No one should feel that if they can’t or choose not to attempt a certain sport, they are automatically less fit or less of an athlete.

  6. Thank you, Brad! What a well written and useful article. I look forward to your PrimalCon presentation.

    Turning down the intensity is such an odd habit to learn when you’re not used to it. I used to feel like it would be despicable cheating to slow to a walk before I had finished my morning five-mile run.

    Now, I no longer track distances. I never get too out of breath when I run — when I feel my VO2 dropping too far, I just walk and enjoy the birdsong, or do a few stretches, until I feel like picking up the pace again. With this paradoxically relaxed training regimen, I swiftly outperformed my expectations at a recent 10K.

    Brad’s most trenchant point is that only YOU are qualified to know where you are in health, motivation, recovery, and the stress/rest equilibrium. Inside us all is a set of sensitive gauges displaying this information, but it takes time and practice to learn to read them.

  7. Excellent article. While I don’t necessarily do endurance running, I LOVE to compete in 5Ks and may consider doing 10K’s someday. So these tips will definitely help me. A 20-40 minute run is long enough for me and what seems to be perfect for anyone.

  8. Very good article. Brad Kearns was the person who taught my wife and I to be more cautious about things like High Fructose Corn Syrup and hydrogenated oils.

    I find it interesting that some stalwarts in the triathlon/endurance camp are turning toward a Primal/Paleo lifestyle. I was very surprised when I picked up Paleo Diet for Atletes to see that Joe Friel co-authored it.

    Having said that, it doesn’t appear that Mr. Kearns preaches a totally primal dietary plan. A quick cruise through his Bradventures site shows that he promotes consumption of oatmeal, whole grain toast, sandwiches and granola. I’m not trying to bash Mr. Kearns, just find it interesting that he is included in the PrimalCon speaker list given these dietary recommendations. I still would absolutely love to be in Malibu in April, but can’t make it happen.

    1. Thanks Dan! I’ve been Primal for nearly two years now, when I started working with Mark on his book. Time to update some of those old stories on my web site!

      Indeed, I fueled my endurance training and competition and everyday life on a whole grain based diet for several decades. Thought I was healthy until I made the overhaul cold-turkey in June of 2008. Can I still go to PrimalCon?

      1. Brad,

        Thanks for your response. Yes, please, update your site. So glad to hear that you are a convert. We need more people in the tri camp preaching the Primal ways. Also, thank you for giving my wife and I our kickstart in really thinking about nutrition. I won a copy of your Power Month from a Triathlon Club of San Diego event several years ago and it had a very positive impact on us. I’m still a bona fide coffee fiend though 🙂

        Go forth and do great things at PrimalCon. Just wish I could be there to partake in what is sure to be an awesome weekend.

  9. Thank you so much for this one – just exactly what I needed to read, and more importantly, just exactly what I needed to direct some of my friends to who think I’ve completely lost the plot since early February when I walked away from my coach who had just driven me through a programme into overtraining oblivion.

    I so wish I could be at PrimalCon, maybe you can come to Europe next! I had just blogged earlier today talking again about stress and the effect it has on your body, regardless of whether it was induced through sporting endeavour.

    Yesterday, I proved (at least to myself) that my new system, based on PB for training myself had worked spectatularly well, and unexpectedly so.

    Since the beginning of February, when I stepped off the mad programme I’d been on, I’ve only been to the pool a couple of times a week, and I’ve really only played around, enjoyed using fins (because I go really fast!), tried bits and bobs and done easily less than half the volume and certainly none of the intensity of before (was doing 10k plus in 4 sessions nearly all threshold work).

    And do you know what, when I put in a few timed 100s yesterday, just for curiosty, I was swimming easy 5 seconds quicker than I’d been struggling for 7 weeks before – QED.

    Same’s true on the bike, and boy do I love sprinting on the treadmill in my Vibrams and walking away after 30 mins, job done – compare that to the three sessions a week, 60, 85 and 95 min sweating buckets, getting sore feet, being bored senseless and working my poor heart for mile after mile (I daren’t think how hard – in fact when I wore my HR monitor recently to work out the best pace for 75% I was shocked and scared to see how much slower it was than I had been training).

    Grok on and safe training to everyone.

  10. Thanks for the great article! Timely, too. I just committed to one of my clients to run a marathon with her in October and I’ve been trying to reconcile the prospect of long and arduous training with my natural inclination towards short, high intensity workouts.

    Guess it always just comes down to paying attention to your body!

  11. Thank you for this. I train more intuitively than I do according to someone else’s plan. I have been criticized by peers because of it, but my results are hard to argue with (compared to their expectations – not mine). Going Primal and being an endurance athlete (for the love of it) is an interesting, but fun challenge. I can’t say at all that it’s been a struggle yet, or that I’ve experienced any kind of drawback, but heading into the 2010 season, and attempting to go more Primal than ever has me wondering about in-race nutrition…

    1. At the moment I’m using water on long rides (75% mhr and less) plus eating small bars which are gluten, wheat and dairy free (see – nakd bars), basically just dried fruit and nuts combined. It’s working really well. When racing I’m looking at these bars plus perhaps half and half water with a good pure orange juice plus a little salt. In theory with all the PB style training we should be very fat burn efficient so need less carbs than the conventional bunch! At least, that’s how I understand it. Mark has a piece on adapting PB for endurance training on the site (, has guidance on how many extra carbs to take on board etc.

    2. This may appear as a duplication, for some reason my first attempt to post is being moderated.

      I’ve been using water whilst on long (75% and below mhr) rides and eating small bars which are made from dried fruit and nuts – no dairy, gluten etc, it’s working really well.

      Mark has a post about adapting the PB and endurance training where he talks about adding carbs, try the search box above.

      My understanding is that by trainig lower out of the high carb burn zone we are better utilising/training our fat burning facility so should need less carbs than ‘conventional’ racers. I’m looking to use diluted pure orange juice with a little salt when actually racing.

  12. Brad, glad to see your article. If it weren’t for you, I would have probably never found out about this website/lifestyle. I met you at a local running group in Rocklin where you spoke to us about PB and I picked up the book. I thought what you were saying made sense. Plus you were wearing VFFs like me and I know you were smart then! But seriously, I must admit, as I was reading the book, I was angry. I figured out that nobody wants to admit they are doing things wrong by following conventional wisdom. I have slowly adapted and now my wife is coming on board as well. She won’t read any of the stuff (I have read all of Michael Pollan as well) but at least we are now getting a local delivery of organic produce every week from a CSA. I am trying to come to an agreement with my training and eating. I have cut out my grains and so far so good. I even lost two pounds (I didn’t think I had any to lose. 5’9″ 128 lbs now, male.) Thanks again for your contribution. Great story about your golf as well, I’m a member of the PGA.

  13. I don’t exercise at all, and as long as I don’t eat processed food, I feel awesome. Is there something wrong with me?

  14. WOW, how I needed this article. I’ll give this a go to help me get through those grueling Kung Fu physicals!

  15. Excellent article. I need consistent reminders to back off my training program, as time and again the little Type A voice in my head tells me to push a little harder and do a little more. Occasionally that would be fine, but the drive to train more-more-more accumulates- and the little pushes add up to over-training. Been Primal for nine weeks. Wonderful.

  16. Brad–very timely as I just finished your book not two weeks ago. To be honest I’ve been struggling with how to reconcile it with the PB. When you mentioned Mark was your coach (that guy keeps popping up everywhere!) I assumed it was way back during his chronic cardio days before the PB.

    The points about training intuitively and enjoy yourself, which seemed to be the thrust of the book, are easy enough to do but you also recommended structuring your training around regular (not to be confused with frequent) very long training sessions that could be confused with chronic cardio. Could these overlong sessions be considered “moving frequently at a slow pace”? It seems like it might as Mark recommends an intensity of 50-75 of max HR and you recommend 80 or so.

  17. It has been shown that the more aerobic work you do, the more your brain is subject to oxidative stress and cortisol damage. If brain degeneration leading to Alzheimers was an olympic sport, rowers and cross-country skiers would win gold and silver respectively from all the aerobic work and the damage it does.
    Research also shows that the more lower body aerobic work you do, the worse your vertical jump gets. The more upper body work you do, the worse your medicine ball throw gets. Essentially, you are losing power. And you don’t look that great either!

  18. It seems to me that a very primal act is connection with one’s geographic environment and one’s community. In that spirit, I, a native Angeleno ran my first marathon yesterday, here in L.A. I did it without pasta or bread or any carbs. My pre-race meal was fish and roasted beets. In the four months of training, I found that it got easier and easier to use protein and vegetables as my fuel source. I tend to think it really is about calories and less about having to eat “carbs”. This, is, of course what worked for me and may not work for everyone, but I was really happy to discover, I could train for and run a marathon with very little processed (or unprocessed, for that matter) carbs. The best part is that I felt great the entire race and was smiling the whole time – I was having fun! For me, that is the best endorsement of primal training/nutrition.

  19. That is great! Brad is awesome and his book Breakthrough Triathlon Training is the best there is on triathlon training. He is actually how I learned about Primal Blueprint!

  20. I just ran a marathon. I applied primal principals to my training techniques and it turned out just fine! I wasn’t competitive (I’m not at that level), but I completed my first marathon in a reasonable time! Yay! It works!

  21. As an aging (54) amatuer Cat 3 bike racer even our short events of 20 miles are primarily aerobic endurance events.Due to a heavy work schedule I had to greatly reduce my training this past winter. I generally do two interval sessions of 45m (on Mon and Wed). Then the weekends will be a longer ride or a longer (60m) indoor session at 70% – 75%. One of the interval sessions will be extremely hard. And I go strictly by feel. If it ain’t there; I back it down. Other nights I rip it all out. I was concerned when race season started if I would be able to keep from getting dropped. With five races in so far my results have been pretty decent (7th, 8th, 12th, 13th, 19th). No, I’m not tearin’ the legs off anybody and I’m not winning (yet). But I’m pretty happy that I was able to maintain a competitive level of fitness on about 4 hours a week of total training. And I feel fantastic mentally and physically.

    The hardest part is for an endurance athlete to break the psychological need for mileage.

  22. I quite agree with you, the biggest shift is psychological.

    I’m now recovered from my stint of severe over-training and have been adopting PB training philosophy, my long rides are 75% or less and twice a week I’m hopping on the turbo and hitting intervals hard, short and sweet, job done. Applying the same in the pool and today just took another 25 seconds off my 400m swim time.

    And I too feel fantastic mentally and physically, I can’t believe I’m going this well. I reckon it has taken about eight weeks for the system to really kick in as I switched from huge amounts of chronic cardio to PB.

    Athletes are impatient people and it’s hard to convince them this works. I’m hoping that my results will encourage others to give it a go because it’s certainly a much healthier way to live and train.

  23. Great article, great site – only just discovered it from a link on Robb Wolf’s site. I’m just getting back to fitness after a year of treatment for cancer so need more than ever now to follow my instinct with training rather than my head. Already I am getting myself on the treadmill of training and the feelings of guilt for either not training hard enough or missing sessions. Like many more have said, for me reading this article has been a timely reminder. I will be reading a lot more from this site.

    Regarding endurance training and keeping the intensity in a range where overtraining will not be an issue, I have found the nasal breathing techniques recommended by John Douillard in his book Mind, Body and Sport of great help. They allowed me to complete 2 long hikes on consecutive days over strenuous terrain with no ill effect. Normally I would have been pushing hard up the hills trying to keep up with everyone. Using nasal breathing I kept to my own comfortable pace. Some of his recommendations align really well with the stuff I have seen on here.

  24. I’ve just had the best weekend of my life after running my first ever Marathon.

    Sub 3-hours and I’m now engaged:

    I may have to keep up endurance events now and again. They are great fun (as long as you can stay injury free and keep a primal’esque lifestyle)

    Thanks again for your tips on MDA. I saw copies of the Primal Blueprint being sold by Vibrim at the London Marathon Expo 🙂


  25. I am considering incorporating the chia drink that is outlined in Born to Run. The concoction included chia seed, water, lime and honey. I have made it and found it quite tasty and satieting but have yet to apply to my longer training runs.

    Any opinions?

  26. Great article Brad. I think one of the challenges people face is that there is some reassurance when you are following a structured plan that you are doing the right thing (enough) to accomplish your goal. Unstructured, intuitive training does not necessarily provide that. You are forced to gauge your own readiness. This can undermine confidence which is critical for success in these events. It feels a bit like walking a high wire without a net. Even if the “net” is an illusion. 🙂

  27. Great article. After going primal about 2 years ago I’ve been trying to align the new lifestyle with the requirements of endurance training and asking myself the very questions addressed here.
    While it is probably true that extreme endurance training may be detrimental to our health and that marketing is the ultimate evil in this world, there are other reasons to keep doing it.
    The 3 guidelines provided here are absolutely priceless. Thanks!