Training, Racing & LCHF Fueling For Skating And Endurance Sports
The Big book of Endurance Training & Racing… aka TBBOETAR, aka The Yellow book, aka The Bible…. mention the name of this book or the its author – the incomparable Phil Maffetone – into a casual conversation amongst a group of endurance athletes of any discipline and you will be sure to elicit some interesting debate… well you certainly will if I’m in that group.
Maffetone is quite some character; as well as being a world-renowned sports physiologist he has also forged himself a career as a singer/songwriter and is highly knowledgeable on a multitude of other subjects. He’s quite regular on the podcast circuit and his interviews are always highly intelligent and informative.
The Big Book is much more than just a reference for endurance athletes – it can best be described as a manual for maximizing one’s personal health. Health and fitness are not the same thing, and just because you are fit it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are healthy – but in order to maximize sporting performance you need both excellent heath AND fitness. Maffetone’s philosophy has always been to look at the whole rather than just any individual aspect of human physiology. He recognises that each athlete is an individual, and doesn’t believe in any cookie-cutter approaches to training and racing. Treat the patient, not the symptom.
The book is written in an easy to read style – he explains things precisely and simply, and there are plenty of case studies and anecdotes that back up the main text. Some may argue that the essence of the book can be compressed down into about half the volume, but I don’t see this as a criticism.
The book is focussed on 3 main sections:
The section on exercise and training is itself an education on the importance of the body’s aerobic system. There are no training plans, but the heart of the method is the famous 180 MAF (Maximum Aerobic Function) formula which can be applied almost universally to any endurance sport to build aerobic fitness. By properly describing and educating on the importance of the aerobic system, it empowers the reader to be able to write their own training schedule according to their own lives and degree of commitment to their sport. I have already written a detailed synopsis of the MAF training method.
The second section is on Diet and Nutrition. I have to say that Maffetone has been ahead of the game on this subject for a long time, and has been preaching the importance of fat burning for a couple of decades. The advice here reads much like the diet & nutrition section from other books I’ve recently read from Tim Noakes, Volek & Phinney or Ben Greenfield – they pretty much say the same thing. The point is NOT to be ketogenic (although this may be where you end up), it’s to restrict processed carbohydrates, eat natural nutrient dense foods, and to positively embrace healthy saturated fats and recognise that they are a supreme source of energy.
The 3rd and final section is on wellbeing, and how to minimize and diagnose injuries and maximize health. The message in this chapter is that the name of an ailment is not important – indeed many common complaints do not have a medical name – but to understand the biomechanical, dietary or psychological stresses that contribute to it. A couple of particularly interesting topics he goes into are importance of brain health, the anatomy of the foot (which speed skaters will no doubt appreciate), and the importance of Vitamin D. Material for future blog posts, no doubt.
You can already get 90-95% of the wisdom that this book has to offer if you go onto i-tunes and search for “Phil Maffetone” in podcasts (you’ll uncover most of the podcasts that I regularly listen to in the process). If you would rather digest what he has to say by the written pen, then the Big Book should be your first stop.. or you can go to his website and read all the articles he has published on there, and this too will give you almost everything that constitutes Maffetone’s philosophy. Whichever option you choose (or if you’re as anal as I am you can do all three), you will be glad that you have familiarized yourself with the Maffetone approach to training and health. It may be the only training manual that you need – which is not bad at all for a book that is non-sport specific and barely mentions the words “training plan”.
Maffetone’s influence is widespread and his disciples are numerous, but their message is often drowned out by the fashions of the day, where expectations are high, patience is low, and results are expected far too quickly. As more people choose to discard or overlook his style in favour of “quality” work (whatever that means) then those who do stick to his tried and tested methods become ever more empowered.