Is twenty minutes enough??

  • I've read the BFL book and am doing it! However I do have a question. My ultimate goal is to compete in the ToughMudder next summer with my brothers. Right now my endurance is fairly low, mostly because I just don't like to run. Is running for more than twenty minutes going to hurt my training or help it? The ToughMudder is four to five hour thirteen mile event and I just don't see how doing 20 minutes of cardio three times a week is going to get me ready for a thirteen mile event. Any thoughts or tips would be appreciated!

  • I can speak from personal experience: When I started my first full Challenge this past February, I was barely clocking a total of 1.5 miles on the treadmill during my 20 minutes of cardio. Now, I am at 2.5 miles in the 20 minutes (just started Challenge #2) and when it comes to running outdoors, I can outpace friends who have been running for years.

    The 20 minutes DOES work. HIIT cardio puts your body in "active recovery" mode which will do more for endurance, and speed, than longer sessions of steady-state cardio. You are pushing your body into work ranges that usually aren't achieved with regular distance running. After the Challenge, you can look at doing some different HIIT sessions (there are lots of great resources online) or change up your routine, e.g. do 2 days of HIIT and 1 or 2 days of distance running. You have lots of time to train so treat this like the first stage in that process!

  • Steve, congratulations on making the first step. I PROMISE YOU this will be the best decision you've ever made!! I just completed the Body-for-Life program Jul 1. Cardio is just as important as weight training. I incorporated a lot of different aerobics during my 12 weeks. Anything from boxing, swimming, jump roping, treadmills, ect. I felt it was important throughout my journey to mix things up a bit, so I didn't get bored. After my expierence, I have found that short INTENSE aerobics is waaaay more productive then running for hours on end. Heck, after the first 4-6 weeks, my body told me so! The most effective aerobics workout I found was simply doing wind sprints. 10-15 at a level 10 and your burnt, done. I began this program running a 5.4 40 yard dash. I now run a 4.6 and my legs give before my lungs do. Im lighter on my feet, I have the confidence that I can run and go as far as I want. Endurance, speed, quickness, lungs.. they all go hand and hand. In fact this morning, I woke up on an empty stomach, drank a bottle of water and went out , warmed up with a light jog for 10 minutes and then immiedtley did 15 50 yards sprints and finished it off with a 100 yard dash. This afternoon, the sun was shinning, I had the energy, so I put on the headset and went for a run, well.. that run was prob a level 8 on a treadmill and I went for 50 minutes before I realized where did the time go LOL! I was bouncing around, shadow boxing, smiling, closed mouth. No problem. Throughout the entire program, I NEVER ONCE did aerobics for longer than 20 minutes, NEVER. Something else I noticed when using High Intense Interval Training such as sprints was that it also helped on a mental level. It built INNER STRENGTH, which also carried over into my weight training workouts.. or just handeling everyday situations that arise in life. When you use HIGH INTENSITY during your aerobic workouts, it doesn't just speed up your metabolism, but it keep your metabolic rate increased for hours after. I burn calories all day, even in my sleep. Something else that can't be overlooked is that it's more practical.. it takes 15-20 minutes. Your more likley to stick to it rather than having to do low intensity workouts for long periods of time. Im confident at this very moment that I could 13 miles. Remember to drink plenty of water too. Don't wait until your thirsty either. I litterly chug water aaaall day. the earth's surface is made up 70% water and so is your body. When I didn't drink enough water, I'd cramp, I couldn't break through my workouts or even sometimes finish. You'll get fatigued faster, set your muscles back. A good rule of thumb I followed was 1 ounce per 2 lbs of body weight. If your a coffee drinker like me, maybe it's hot and humid out, whatever the case... your gonna need even more.

    I hope this helps. Good luck and I hope you do well in the Tough Mudder. Be persistant, trust the formula they've layed out.. don't do more, just ask yourself "is that the very best 20 minutes" I can do? And that's it!


  • Thanks guys. I am doing the short high intensity training either on the stationary bike or the elliptical trainer. Go as hard as I can for 20 minutes and then I'm done. I'm also doing the weight training on opposite days. I'm not in bad shape, actually I'm in pretty good shape but doing the ToughMudder means I will have to push myself really hard. I can do it, but I'll be 48 next summer so it will be a challenge. Which is the whole point of doing it, lol.

  • "Short High Intensity Training"... Hmmm... Better throw another word in there somewhere :-)

    I too have been a skeptic of the HIIT method... but at this time... I am no way deviating from the plan... Tweaking here and there... but that is all.

    My Advice: Don't use the Stationary or Elliptical... You are not going to get what you need to compete in the Tough Mudder... Use the treadmill and do exactly this.

    1) Min 1-2, Incline @ 5, Speed @ 3

    2) Min 3, Incline @ 6, Speed @ 3

    3) Min 4, Incline @ 7, Speed @ 3

    4) Min 5, Incline @ 8, Speed @ 3

    5) Min 6, Incline @ 9, Speed @ 3

    6) Continue steps 2-5 until you reach minute 20... at minute 20 increase incline to 10 and speed to 4

    This is an intense HIIT Hill Climb... It is fantastic... BUT... once a week you need to do a long run if your goal is to be able to run the tough mudder... I know MANY long distance runners... and when they are training, they perform half their max distance once a week.... then as they get closer to the date... they increase to 75%.

    Therefore... I suggest a 5 mile run once a week no matter how long it takes you. HIIT is not going to help you build long distance running endurance. 

  • You are going to need to do some long-distance running to prepare for a long-distance run. Long distance running is not really in the BFL program because it can exhaust muscles that you're trying to grow. Most runners in the program do their long runs on free day -- you need to restock carbs and protein fast and during a long run or you risk losing some of the muscle you've been working to gain.

    The reason why you need to do some long distance running is twofold; the major reason is simply to learn the signals your body sends you when you are running low on carbs or electrolytes. You aren't familiarized with these by the short workouts in BFL; a 45 minute workout (weights) takes you right to the point where your body's free-floating carbs are exhausted. This is why you aren't supposed to do weights longer than 45 minutes. On a long run, though, you need to start taking carbs in some form at that point. You also need to learn when you need electrolyte salts (ie, what that feels like when you are running low). It's also a good idea to try out the various possibilities for handling these obstacles: you might like pretzels for the carbs, you might want to use sports beans, gu, etc.

    I am NOT saying that the BFL program needs more cardio in it. It does not. However, training for a 13 mile run requires something more than the BFL program, in terms of experience and also toughening ligaments for that kind of sustained impact.