Would you like to crank up your endurance? Joining me on the show this week is Brian McClelland, Owner and Head Coach at BMC Performance Coaching and a client of Rebel Performance. At Rebel, we always harp on building very well-rounded, robust athletes to get them strong, jacked and well-conditioned. This is why I wanted to have Brian, an experienced triathlon coach, on to talk all things endurance training.
Brian and I first dive into how you can regain your athleticism by building a good foundation for your conditioning. A lot of our clients at Rebel were either athletes in high school, college, or even professionally, and once their sport ends, a lot of times, so does their conditioning. Our people come to us because they love being in the gym getting jacked and/or strong, but they don’t want to run out of breath when they walk up a flight of stairs. We unpack how often you should be training endurance and what modalities and strategies you should use (run vs. bike vs. swim vs. row). We then dive into how you can train yourself to hold a pace for an extended period of time; tracking your heart rate is going to be a great tactic in doing so. Listen in as Brian and I unpack the steps you need to follow to crank up your endurance full spectrum, whether you’re a beginner or an advanced athlete.
What You’ll Learn in This Episode:
- [03:42] Intro to Brian McClelland
- [09:20] The Iron Man race
- [12:35] Building a foundation to regain your athleticism
- [15:18] Other forms of conditioning
- [16:22] How to hold a pace for an extended period of time.
- [20:30] Why you should track your heart rate
- [24:30] Where the vast majority of your workload should be
- [26:42] What a training week looks like for a high-level endurance athlete
- [30:26] Combining cross-training and running in your training
- [34:02] What the total amount of mileage and volume looks like
- [37:36] Two big takeaways
- [38:02] Where to find Brian McClelland
James Cerbie: So without further Ado, let’s jump into the episode with Brian McClelland, lots of noises, things that are going on. So it’s like back here trying to do stuff in my office and he just loses his mind. So I’m going to go bark at this time, I’m all over the place.
And I’m like, Dang it, dude, just hang out, just chill. Just, like, relax on the couch for, like, an hour. Let me get some stuff done. He’s getting acquainted. He’s figuring it out.
Brian McClelland: Yeah, we’ve got a cat that’s doing the same thing. And so it’s really something new. Member of our family and my wife’s mental health therapist, and she does everything via telehealth right now. So it’s like if I’m in here doing this or something and she’s in there, that cat cannot figure out where she wants to go. And so it’s like, who gets the loudest Meow and then figures out where she stays.
James Cerbie: Yes, I can totally appreciate that. So, Brian McClellan, thank you so much for taking some time out of your day to come on and chat with me about endurance training in particular is what we’re going to be focusing on today. But before we dive into the episode, can you tell the listeners a little bit about yourself, who you are, what you do, just we can bring them up to speed on that if they have not heard of you or who you are and what you do for sure.
Intro to Brian McClelland
Brian McClelland: And first off, thank you for having me. I really appreciate being on. So a little bit about me. So I’m currently a personal trainer and Triathlon coach here in the city of Chicago. My background. I mean, I’ve been pretty much a sports and fitness enthusiast and participant pretty much my entire life. I was a swimmer in high school and College. I was a collegiate cheerleader at Texas Tech, nationally ranked Go Raiders, and I know that that is news to me.
James Cerbie: That’s something I did not know about you. Do you know I’m a Longhorn fan?
Brian McClelland: Oh, no.
James Cerbie: My mom’s from Austin originally. It’s been a long year, bro. It has been a long year. We are a hot mess.
Brian McClelland: How can y’all not finish games, man? Come on, dude.
James Cerbie: We’re a great two quarter team. I have no idea. I had this conversation with my dad the other day. Sorry for the curve fall out of we’re in the first five minutes, and we’re off on a tangent here already. People hang with me because it’s a long season. If you’re a Texas Longhorn football fan because I watch us play a great two quarters of football, and then we go into halftime and then we just take the second half.
Brian McClelland: I’m, like, just knows.
James Cerbie: Are your halftime adjustments that terrible? Are you just that poorly conditioned? Are you guys just running out of gas? Because it’s an embarrassing thing to watch.
Brian McClelland: I mean, I got to tell you, my Red Raiders almost did the exact same thing this past week against Iowa, stated at home we were cruising and then let them come all the way back. And luckily, in the last seconds, we won with a 62 yard field goal. So not a bad way to finish the game. But I was like, oh, we’re pulling a UT.
James Cerbie: Yes, it’s funny, because you look at some of the stats this year. We have Georgia, who is just on their own planet. They’ve given up. I think it’s eight touchdowns all season, all season. Yeah, we played ten games. They’ve given up eight touchdowns. Texas gives up eight touchdowns a half.
Brian McClelland: We can’t stop anybody Big Twelve football, man. Well, I’m actually originally from Alabama, so Crimson Tide is I’m sure you’ve seen in Texas. Alabama is my tried and true hometown, but Tech is my alma mater. So that’s where I lie. And Big Twelve and SEC all the way.
James Cerbie: Okay. Excellent. Please continue.
Brian McClelland: So yeah, I was a cheerleader for them for four years. I actually ended up coaching cheerleading early on in my career. So I teach students how to tumble, how to stunt and would also do choreography for anywhere from my juniors up to senior level of competition. And it was actually because of cheerleading, I ended up having a really bad neck injury to where years later, I ended up having two dissections and fusions in my neck. And I was probably a lot like many of the listeners that come on the podcast.
And I was always in the gym. And to be a collegiate cheerleader, you have to be able to lift. And I really do credit a lot of the Texas Tech athletic trainers for getting me to where I was, and I thoroughly enjoyed that. But when I had neck surgeries, the doctors were like, you cannot lift anything over 50 pounds overhead for quite a while. So my training in the gym went pretty far to the side. And then my question was, What’s next? And luckily, my mom has some history, some background in doing Triathlon.
And I also have a couple of buddies here in Chicago that told me about it. And I’ll be the first to admit, man, any kind of endurance was the furthest thing from what I wanted to do when I was in high school and even growing up, I tried to avoid anything higher than a 400 meters run. No, thank you. Anything longer than 100% miles long distance? Yeah, for sure. Like, we had to do miles. When I was cheering, I was like, I’m never going to run a mile.
But in a way, like when we had to cheer an entire game, stunting all the time, tumbling all that. That was in its own endurance sport. But yeah, I didn’t want to have anything to do with endurance. It was like a sprint, getting me in and out. And I’m good. So the thought of doing a Triathlon, it was exciting, but I just wasn’t sure I could do the distance. But having that swim background gave me just enough confidence to go for it. So that was about almost ten years ago, and I’ve done probably over two dozen triathlons.
The Iron Man Race
I finished the Iron Man in Madison, Wisconsin, in 2015 for those that don’t know the difference. Iron Man isn’t the only Triathlon. You have anything from sprints or super sprints all the way up to full Ironman. You even have some people like the Iron Cowboy. I don’t know if you guys are familiar, but this is a gentleman that’s done 50 Iron Man races in 50 days subsequently, which is, to me, insane. Bonkers, crazy, insane. There’s a great documentary on that. If you haven’t seen that.
James Cerbie: I think it’s on Netflix, right?
Brian McClelland: Yeah.
James Cerbie: It has been for a while. At one point, I thought it was funny in that process because I did watch it. It was really good. It was like the weather. Something happened and he did it inside. I think he’s an elliptical, right?
Brian McClelland: Yeah.
James Cerbie: And people lost their mind. Oh, it doesn’t count anymore. God, the Internet is brutal.
Brian McClelland: I was even looking at considering what he’s trying to do, cut him a little bit of slack, right?
James Cerbie: Yeah.
Brian McClelland: I mean, it all counts.
James Cerbie: It’s still impressive for sure.
Brian McClelland: So anyway, the Ironman Race is probably what many people have probably seen on NBC, and that’s your 2.4 miles swim, 112 miles bike and then a full marathon at the end. So you have something that can take anywhere from, like, 30 to 45 minutes all the way up to the Ironman, which you have up to 17 hours to complete. So there’s a very wide range. But yeah. So it was going on YouTube and getting inspired by the 50, 60, 80 year olds that have completed this race that got me inspired to do it and really to continue on.
It was the entire rest of the community that really kept driving me to want to continue up to the point where I wanted to do a career change and with the support of my wife and friends and family four years ago, I became a personal trainer and then became a full time Triathlon coach as well. So I work with people independently. But I also am the head coach for the Chicago Athletic Club’s TriClub. We typically have anywhere from, like, 20 to 30 members each year and again, train people that are newbies that are just starting out and hoping to finish their first sprint race all the way to people that are training for their next Iron Man.
James Cerbie: Excellent man. I love that. That’s wonderful. So I think the best place to start this conversation. We talked a little bit off air about this. We think about the people that we work with here at Rebel are people that were athletes in high school and/or College, maybe professionally. The common theme, though, is that along that athletic journey, they totally fell in love with the weight room, right? Like they got bit by the Iron Bug. They love the train, they want to mash weights, they want to be jacked all this fun stuff.
But our people also tend to want to be very well rounded and robust like, we’re not training one trick pony. We’re not training people who just want to be able to lift a lot of weight. It’s like, well, yeah, I want to deadlift a lot of weight. But then I would also love to be able to actually have some endurance, some air conditioning, some work capacity to go express that maybe it’s rocking in the mountains, going for a long trail, run, and mountain biking, whatever it is.
And so I think for a lot of our people, the trajectory is usually I play sports, fall in love with the weight room. Sports are over. So now I don’t have to do any conditioning. Thank God. So all I’m going to do is list all the time. And then after a few years of that, they come back around like, I think I want some of this conditioning athleticism back in my life. And so when we think about this population we can call them meat heads, meat monkeys, whatever.
It’s going to be people that just like to lift weight. I use that as a term of endearment for anyone who isn’t clear on that. What are some solid strategies to get these people going again in that direction? We’ve talked a lot on the podcast before about these low intensity conditioning methods, cardiac output, tempo, things along those lines. I can even use myself as an example. I always maintain my conditioning. I’ve been doing a ton of running. We just moved to Knoxville, Tennessee, and I’ve got miles of trails two minutes from my house.
So I want to actually kind of get back into running and push this a little bit more. Right. I haven’t been doing it for a while, though. So I think what’s a good way to get people back into this realm of, hey, let’s start building your conditioning. Let’s start building endurance. And then where can we take it from there once we have a foundation in place?
Building a Foundation to Regain Your Athleticism
Brian McClelland: Yeah. I think it’s a great question. And I think it’s more about letting people, like, when they make that decision and they’re focusing on the what next. And how is it really sitting down and thinking about what? And I think that’s really important because I think when people think of conditioning or they think of endurance, I think it immediately goes to I got to get on the treadmill and run. And I think because the treadmill is literally we took torture Chamber equipment and brought them to mainstream that people still feel that is what that is.
It’s just a torture Chamber of just endless just pounding on a treadmill for endless minutes, in some cases, hours. And that’s not really very appealing to want to get back into conditioning. So I know it was for me and for a lot of people I talked to. It’s really finding something, finding a what and it could be any number of things, right? It could be running. It could be cycling, it could be swimming, it could be getting on the rower, doing stairs. It could be going out for a hike.
I know one great thing, if there are any good things that came out of the pandemic is my wife and I started being able to go out on nice walks every day, right? And being able to enjoy our community going to the parks. We even bought cruiser bikes and started doing rides altogether. And it’s being able to find something that fits within what they’re already doing in terms of fitness in the gym. It’s kind of like what I tell my triathletes or other endurance athletes who only want to focus on the discipline.
Just going out for runs or just hitting those three disciplines is like strength training needs to fit somewhere within this. It has its place. It doesn’t necessarily mean that it has to take over or be the only thing, but it definitely can complement what it is that you’re currently doing. So I think it’s the same thing with being in the gym again. I’m one of those same people, man. I was always in the gym and all I wanted to do was just to lift weights and just part of my friendship.
Just lift heavy shit. What my wife would say. A lot of people ask her. It’s like, do you do Triathlon too? She’s like, no, I just go into the gym and lift heavy shit. But we also know that conditioning can help complement that. And again, it doesn’t have to be anything that I just mentioned. It could be even just getting in there and just doing good long reps of kettlebell swings or kettlebell complexes. That could be another form of conditioning where you’re getting your heart rate up to a certain percentage.
It doesn’t mean that you have to redline and kill yourself doing those things. It’s being able to get yourself to a certain heart rate for a certain duration of time, and that’s going to be different for everybody. But if you find something and you really enjoy it and then you’re able to stick with it, then it’s going to really find a good complement to your fitness training, for sure.
James Cerbie: Let’s maybe drill in and let’s just use running, right? It’s probably the most popular example. And I think it is something that’s really gained in popularity over the last few years as this concept of a hybrid athlete continues to become more and more popular. Right. You see people who are like, yes, well, I’m going to go deadlift 500 to £600. And then I’m going to go run a ten K and actually do it at a relatively respectable time. So with running, when we’re going to start getting people back into running longer distances, right?
How to Hold a Pace for an Extended Period of Time
We’re not talking about going out and running. Repeat, sprints. We’re talking about your capacity to hold a pace for an extended period of time. What are some ways that we can bring people back into that world. So I’ll use myself as an example really quickly, because when I work with athletes that want this outcome, or if I’m doing this for myself, like I am right now when I’m first getting started into what we’ll call air, quote, longer distance running, right. Because people run 200 miles now.
So I’m not really sure how to categorize this, but extended running for me on the front end. If I haven’t been doing it consistently, it’s like, okay, I just need to get my legs back underneath me. I just need some actual technical work here. And so I’ll just go out and say, okay, we’re going to run for 15 minutes a day. There’s no pacing. There’s no objective. All I’m going to do, I’m just going to run casually. I’m going to breathe for 15 minutes. And then next time, when I come back to do this, I’m going to go for 16 minutes and then maybe the next time I’ll do 17 minutes.
And I’ll probably do that for like a month. Just like, really small adjustments and changes, maybe increase volume by 1 minute every week. There’s no pacing concerns. There’s nothing. I’m just trying to run and get a feel for this again. The mistake I think people make is that they go from I have not been running to. Okay, I’m going to go try to hold a 145, 400 pace. And it’s just like I was thinking about this in my run today, right? The human body is incredibly plastic and adaptable when given appropriate small change over time.
It hates large, acute changes. I think running is like the worst culprit of where people go from. I’ve been doing very little to minimal to no running. I’m going to go run for 30 minutes today, right?
Other Forms of Conditioning
And that’s just not a way to be successful. And so I would love to know, let’s talk with our people here about how we can get you building some miles and we’ll just use running as an example. Right. But you could bike, you could swim. There are a lot of options here. You could row. Where is the use running? As an example. I’ll let you take it from here. Yeah.
Brian McClelland: And I remember I think it was on one of your episodes ADEA, I believe where you made that comment. Your aerobic system is the most adaptable system that we have physiologically.
James Cerbie: It is the most fun. Everybody can get good at it.
Brian McClelland: Yes, you can. But I think the number one thing is as you just alluded to take your time, pace yourself, right. One of the most prevalent data that’s out there. And this is probably the hardest thing for me. Even as a coach with some of my long distance runners, I’ve got some that they love the gym and they love going in and hammered out. And they love things like hit sessions or going into a spin class. And just like hammer putting the hammer down, getting that heart rate up to, like, 80% 90% and almost like a red line.
And sometimes that’s our default position, right. And I think one thing that steers people away early on is that same sort of ideas, like, I’m going from zero to 100 because I don’t have an inbetween.
So I think for those that are looking to get back into it, my number one recommendation is to start slow, and I know that’s probably the hardest thing for people to do. The hardest thing for me to do as a coach is to pull people back and just don’t even worry about cadence. Don’t worry about your form necessarily. Don’t worry about mileage. Just have a time in mind. Just start out 15 minutes, 20 minutes, right? You’re not trying to go out and win a five K right out of the gate, go out and just go to what feels comfortable.
It’s comfortable and conversational. I mean, it may even help to have somebody to go out there with you that might be in the same mindset and go out there and just go for 15 minutes and still have a conversation while you’re out there doing that run. And that, I think, is going to make a big difference, because once you start off slow, start off comfortable, not worrying about what your pace is, right as you get better at the distances, as the amount of time that you’re out there doing, it improves.
Why You Should Track Your Heart Rate
You’re really going to enjoy the process. And you’re not going to feel like it’s taxing every single time. And maybe for some, it’s going to be including a walk run strategy, and professionals will be out there doing that. That’s part of their training regimen is a lot of these people that you see that are sub 3 hours, close to, like, two and a half hour marathoners all the way to your sprinters, some of their conditioning efforts are just going out for a run walk. And if you do have the ability to track heart rate, whether that’s via, watch your Garmin there James or Garmin or heart rate monitor around the chest, like, go out there.
And just the only focus you might have is just keep it at a certain heart rate and below. And it’s going to be hard because you’re probably right out of the gate. It’s going to probably jump up to, let’s say, on average, we’re trying to keep it under 140. Right. So if your goal is to keep it under 140, that might get up
there pretty quick right out of the gate, start walking and allow that heart rate to come back down to that 121 ten and then build it back up.
And then over the course of time, the new goal becomes, how long can you sustain this pace at that same heart rate level? And more often than not, that alone is going to help improve your overall cardiovascular. It’s going to help in every other area and aspect of your training life. And it’s going to get that run faster. So you’re going to be able to go farther in a shorter amount of time just by just focusing on keeping a consistent, steady state heart rate. It sounds counterintuitive, but going slower to go faster.
James Cerbie: Yeah. That’s a strategy that I’ve used with a lot of clients in the past. If we’re doing more of this cardiac output style training where it’s like, hey, we’re going to cap that heart rate pretty low, and I always get a message pretty much day one when they do it, they’re like, so I went to run and made it ten yards, and my heart rate was over 140. I was like, yeah, like, decrease the pace. It’s literally just a jog walk. You’re going to jog it up, you’re going to walk it down.
We’re going to jog it up. We’re going to walk it down. Like you mentioned, as we do this over time, we can change the game because now I can actually sustain it. And it’s okay. Well, how long can I sustain this pace before my heart rate starts to go up again? Right. And then another way to think about tracking these lower intensity sessions that are so important is to say, okay, let’s say I’m doing it for 30 minutes, and I know my heart rate range has to stay here.
Well, how much distance do I cover in those 30 minutes? Because if my heart rate is staying the same, but I’m covering more distance, we’ve made improvements. And so that’s one thing I think that’s important is when you’re first getting started, find a way to measure it, because otherwise it can get really boring if you don’t have that what. And that is why it can get really monotonous. Right. But it matters. It’s important. I think people will be blown away, and maybe we transition here.
Let’s talk about maybe some of the more advanced athletes that you work with. I think people will be blown away with the number of sessions that they’re probably doing that are this low intensity, really long duration type activity, right. And I don’t have as much experience in that realm. So I’ll defer to you there and correct me if I’m wrong. Obviously.
Brian McClelland: No, you’re 100%, right? I mean, a lot of the advanced is the same thing as we’re trying to impart and those elite athletes that we’re trying to impart on these for folks that are just coming back into it or starting for the first time again, you guys just came back from a workshop and training with some of the other trainers and coaches amongst the community. And a lot of it was just getting back to basics, right? A lot of times, even some of the elite athletes and some of my Ironman athletes, part of it is holding them true.
Where the Vast Majority of Your Workload Should Be
To do some of the easier, less sexy workouts, right? I mean, you can see workout programs that go really into the weeds with the type of hard effort cycling or swim efforts, or even like your Fort Lex when it comes to running. And yes, those look cool. Those are interesting, but at the same time, those are going to be a very small percentage, like probably only at best 15% of their total output during the week. Right. The vast majority of your workload should be in that zone one, zone two area, so your heart rate at 75%
or less whatever that zone is in one zone two is for people, and that’s obviously going to vary, but it’s doing that where you’re at a steady state cadence and pace and over the course of time.
Obviously, as I train more people, like the more data that we have, we really can then Hone in to what your heart rate is, what your pace needs to be. Also, what your perceived rate of exertion is, because sometimes you’re just not going to know the data and you really just need to find, like, where is that sort of easy zone for you and stay there? We can still make it interesting and look for ways to really stay focused and not get so monotonous. But you’re going to want those two runs.
You’re going to want those easy recovery runs, and then you also want those longer, steady state runs to start building up that volume slowly but surely. And then during the week, that’s when we have a shorter duration of time, 30 to 45 minutes sessions. That’s where we can kind of kick up the intensity a little bit where we’re either doing Hill repeats, sprints things like that. But even those rest intervals in between those hard efforts still count for that 15% of your hard efforts, because the goal is that that heart rate is going to stay up the entire time or the vast majority of time during those sessions.
But in order for everybody to improve and also have enough time to recover, then we really need to make sure that the vast majority of the workload is being done in those low energy efforts.
What a Training Week Looks Like for a High-Level Endurance Athlete
James Cerbie: I’m curious, what does an actual training week from an organization standpoint look like for the higher level endurance athletes? Because I’ve never done a program like that. I don’t have never coached people like that. So I’m just curious if we take ourselves to the fore of that extreme with these high level, advanced endurance athletes, we can probably pull and learn some things that we can. Then we the listeners can take and utilize it in their own training. Hopefully, what does a training week look like? How is it laid out?
How is it organized? When we’re thinking about balancing this balancing act? We always talk about the podcast of these high sessions and these low sessions, right? Maybe if you just have an idea or could walk us through what a week will look like for an athlete like that in the off season, an off season.
Brian McClelland: And actually this is great because this is going to be more. I proposed to some of our folks listening in that are still wanting to incorporate good hard strength training efforts. I would say let’s say it’s three days a week that we’re lifting. That’s part of the program that I’m on. And then I’ll give you one example. Right now I’ve got an athlete that is looking to train for another 70.3, so that’s a half Ironman. So that’s half of all the other distances I just mentioned earlier and looking to compete right with his effort.
This past year, he was top 20 in his age group in his age group is one of the most competitive. He was in the 25 to 29 year old age group. He’ll be actually graduating. He’ll be getting the next year up. He’ll actually be in the 30 to 34, which is an even more competitive group. So times have got to be able to improve. So the one area of his training that he wants to improve the most on is running. So we have brought him back three days a week.
Full body strength training. Primary focus is in our big three, so it’s still good compound moves and good accessory work each cycle. But when it comes to his endurance training, we still have a way to improve a little bit, even more on his bike. So that’s still going to be a part of it, but still fitting in some of those runs. So what we’ll do is on his easy efforts we’ll have him do something like this and this is something I did with Toby early on.
Another one of my clients that you’re familiar with is we did allow him to do an easy, very simple warm up run before his workout and then do a little easy, cool down run at the back end of his workout.
James Cerbie: Like, ten to 20 minutes, something like that.
Brian McClelland: Yeah. Something like that. And just make sure that this should feel like the easiest thing in the world. You may feel like you’re just jogging. You could even do the same, sort of like run and walk. But then that way it’s already anywhere from, like, 30 to 40 minutes per day, already built in over the course of the week. And then we can also add some other segments of some of his other disciplines, swims and bikes the other two days, where it’s also like, kind of zone work, where it’s just easy to moderate efforts, just going for endurance.
Right. Just going for distance and not worrying about output, not trying to get strong, not to get hard. We’re just working on form and consistency and good cadence and pace. Right. So we’re just focusing on those little things. And then towards the end of the week is where we can actually add in some higher intensity stuff, like on that Saturday. We will then have that Saturday be where it’s like his hardest efforts on the run. Going into it, it could be any combination of, like, mile repeats, half mile repeats, quarter mile repeats.
He’ll work on the treadmill because unfortunately, here in Chicago, A, we don’t have any Hills and B, it’s about to be the dead of winter for the next five months. So we gotta get them on a treadmill and try to get some good elevation, get some good hard efforts going up and then ease off or maybe do a minute on three or 4% grade and then a minute or two rest and then just keep those things going. And then over the course of time, we’ll continue to increase that elevation and that grade.
Combining Cross-Training and Running in Your Training
But make sure that those Saturdays are those hard efforts. But when we come back into those easier efforts, it’s just again back to easy pace, back to good, easy conditioning. That way it mixes up. It’s not just solely focused on run. There’s a lot of other good cross training in there. And I think that’s something else that people should be able to think through is that if you’re wanting to get improvement in one specific area and I know we’ve been talking specifically about running right now, allow yourself to do additional cross training because it all accumulates.
Right. So get on the spin bike for a minute, get on a rower for a few minutes and just kind of mix it up a little bit. And then it’s going to just help your overall cardiovascular system improve. And then it’s also going to translate to that run as well. And that way you’re also minimizing a lot of the impact that you’re getting. That is most indicative of running.
James Cerbie: Yeah, I like that a lot. So I’m just going to say it back to you to make sure that I followed you. Okay. So off season for an endurance athlete, and again, people listening, make sure you qualify yourself correctly within this schema lift. Monday, Wednesday, Friday. Right. Lift routine centered around big compound movements. Let’s get strong, let’s get powerful. Let’s use accessories to put on some muscle if we need to or just more to keep the gears greased. On those lift days, we’re going to have probably, like, ten, maybe 20 minutes on the bookends where we’re going to do just really low intensity, easy aerobic activity.
It can be on a treadmill. It could be on a bike. It could be on a rower. It could really kind of like, choose your weapon of choice there. Saturday is where we’re putting our absolute hardest, most miserable conditioning session. This is where we’re going through gas pedal down intervals, et cetera. What do Tuesdays and Thursdays look like that are sandwiched in between.
Brian McClelland: So, yeah, if we’re working specifically on that run, so that’s like that Monday was a Friday Saturday. And then in between is thinking of it as another low intensity cross training day. Right. And then you might be able to fit in a few small intervals where on, say, like a Tuesday, we can do a little bit of hard effort, but we’re still getting that heart rate up. But the vast majority of it is like an easy warm up. Cool down, maybe 15 minutes, ten to 15 minutes warm up, ten to 15 minutes cool down.
And right in the middle there is just going to be a little bit of like, say, we’re just doing, like 32nd sprints, 32nd sprints, like a two minute recovery. So that way we’re building on, in this case, like, good cadence and then just good total output. But the vast majority of that, you still get a little bit of that intensity. But still the majority of that is good conditioning and a lower conditioning effort. And then on a Thursday would just be like a zone, too. Right.
So it’s not just recovery. It’s maybe just a little bit above, but we’re still below that sort of mid-range. I still want to work the bookends, right. I want to stay down here on the low end, and I want to help increase capacity and output on the bookends. It’s like that area in the middle where it’s like, it’s not enough to really get gains. And it’s also not easy enough to recover. So I want to stay out of the Gray zone, right.
That’s sort of like a mid-level. So I want to stay here. So in that zone, too, I’m going to still be below my 75% effort. But it could be something that I can sustain. So this could be where I’m just doing steady state efforts, whether that’s on a bike, on the treadmill, on the road, on a rower, if I find a good pace where I can maintain a good steady heart rate, I want to just be able to sustain that for as long as I can for about 20 to 30 minutes.
For some, we may start gradually increasing that right before we get into our main season, and they slowly start adding five to ten minutes here to start building up their volume a little bit more during the week so that they’re prepared for it. Once we get into their primary season of training.
James Cerbie: How does the total amount of mileage work or volume? Look, if we’re thinking difference between what we’re talking about right now, which is off season, which probably falls, I think pretty tightly with a lot of people listening like that schema and plan is something a lot of our athletes would probably run and be successful with sure, how high would you actually push that time domain on that Tuesday or Thursday? We’re talking 30 minutes, 45 an hour, 90 minutes, like, do you kind of cut off there?
Brian McClelland: It just depends how the athletes feel. It really does depend on how the athletes feel. I think it also just depends on the athlete that you have in front of you, right. For this particular athlete that’s looking for a 70.3, I probably want to keep them, like somewhere around the 45 minutes to an hour range. But I think for a lot of people that are just starting out, kind of coming back to that initial focus of 20 to 30 minutes is just fine. Right. And then over the course of time 20 to 30 minutes just becomes a little bit easier than just slowly adding about 5% to 10% every week, and then I would probably cap it for most.
There’s really no need to necessarily have to go any more than 45 minutes to an hour. I think it’s only when I really get into season where the during the week program should ever go above probably an hour and 15 hours and a half, just because we need to get some specific efforts in on some of those days. But considering people’s livelihoods and time commitments, I think that’s going to be the top thing that we want to be able to work around. And just being able to get a good 20 to 40 minutes and range is more than enough.
James Cerbie: Excellent. Okay. Beautiful. Brian, this has been fantastic. I’m trying to think if there’s anything else, like really, any other big rocks that we should head on, but I’m thinking we’ve done a pretty good job here of helping people listening, have a good idea of both of the structure and how to think about building this endurance, whether or not you’re more in the beginner side, you’re getting back into it, or even for the people that are a little bit more advanced in the crowd.
Brian McClelland: Yes.
James Cerbie: Because there is a lot of crossover within that schema.
Brian McClelland: It seems for sure. And yeah, I think it’s just that kind of summarizes just to make sure that especially for those that are just starting out and trying to find how this fits for what they’re currently doing side on the wet first. And maybe that will take a little bit of time of just discovery, trying different things. And who knows, maybe it’s something that you haven’t tried in a while or something you’ve never done and that you are just part of the pine, but like a fish to water that you’re going to just really enjoy it.
I know for a lot of people that get back into swimming, sometimes it’s less about the condition, it’s about just their mental health, right. And just being able to zone out and just not worry about metrics and how much and the time and the intensity is just going in and just getting a good relaxed effort. And sometimes that is as important, if not more in some cases. So find the thing that you’re going to enjoy. And maybe it is a combination of a mixture of things. And if it’s a mixture of things.
Who knows? Maybe you’re a triathlete and maybe we will work together in the future.
James Cerbie: But yeah, triathlete and hiding that’s right.
Brian McClelland: And then start small and start slow, right. Don’t try to think you got to jump into the Jeep and right out of the gates or match the intensity of how hard you’re going and how high that heart rate goes up when you’re Max, lifting on deadlift or on squats or doing bench, pull back a little bit, take the ego out of it. And don’t worry about what other people are doing around you or in the gym. Never worry about what the person next to you is doing.
Do your own race or do your own event and just go out there and ease into it. Enjoy the process. And then that way, if you’re enjoying it and you’re noticing that your overall cardiovascular improves and it’s translating to your output in the gym, it’s going to be a lot easier for you to be able to sustain than being able to get burned out real quick.
Two Big Takeaways
James Cerbie: Yeah. I love that. I think two really big takeaways in this realm, which is run your own race, start slow and play the long game. There are so many gains to be had in that low intensity realm. I think people would be blown away by how much progress they can make there if they just stayed patient and gave themselves time as opposed to trying to rush it and jump the gun. But Brian, this has been fantastic for people that want to find you. Where can they go to find you if you would like to be found?
Where to Find Brian McClelland
Brian McClelland: Sure. Yeah. So my business is BMC performance coaching. I am on Instagram at that same handle @bmcperformancecoaching and also online at bmcperformancecoaching.com. If there’s anybody out there, some of those like untapped triathletes that are out there that are interested in giving this sport a shot. I obviously work with a lot of people here in Chicago locally, but also work with a lot of people remotely. Just also know that if you want to get into that sport, Iron Man doesn’t have to be the first thing. There’s a lot of other distances before that.
Again to kind of get you into the community. And if you’re out there and you’re interested, I’d love to talk to you and see if we can work together.
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