Vertical KM – Cardio Training

This is where it becomes interesting. When your body can handle long aerobic and short anaerobic sessions, day after day. Not just that, but all of these specialised for the VK. You already got stronger, your breathing and core muscles are at the right place, your head is focused too ! Nothing can stop you anymore to do a Maffetone, 80/20, Friel style training regime !

Periodisation and individualisation is key to success. You cannot follow a training regime prescribed for another runner and expect to be successful with it. Some runners can do 4 high intensity sessions a week on a 2by2 fashion and recover like a charm, while others would be thriving on submax training (MAF) with one single high intensity set every 10th day ! Both can be as beneficial, healthy and successful ! If you used strava for instance as a training tool, not as a bs motivation social media outlet, you should be seeing improvements.

You can create your own private segments on climbs or on fragments of climbs and each time you train on those sections, you’ll have a feedback on your splits, pace, vertical speed and heart rate. You might not even realise that you PRd on a lower heart rate, if it was not measured. As if it was measured, it can be improved. Planning ahead, getting instant feedback from your watch and analysing post workout are as important in case of future planned training sessions. The past, the present and the planned future are all part of your upcoming performances.

The most important thing at the beginning of each chaotic period, is understanding and knowing your body. For 2 to 3 weeks, you can play around with intensities. This is a great way to get in-tuned with your body. I find more and more that coaching as training goes is not as important as coaching to be able to be self-coached:

Sure, there are athletes who just want to be guided and others who do not understand themselves and general training methodology. I find that this is a problem and unless somebody is paying me tons, I am not gonna engage in a coach-athlete relationship, where the only outcome is physical performance of the athlete, but zero learning and zero understanding achieved about of what we were doing. I mean what is the point to coach/teach, if the runner/athlete is just not getting it! You run hard today, easy tomorrow, moderate afterwards, back off, run hard again. Why ? Cause you are tired now from yesterday, but in 2 days you’ll be fresh again and it worth to wait to have a breakthrough workout again ! 

So I said, 2-3 weeks of play. Why ? To see how many high intensity days, with what intensity, what duration, what gaps, what incline on which heart rate and so you can include in what fashion. How can you get to an experience like this ? Journalling. Write down a half page every day about your feelings, niggles and particularly sore, tired or painful areas. Handwriting is the best as without distractions you can go through your dairy and see what is the story and how to put together your next Macrocycle.

I encourage to keep on doing this ! As tolerance builds up, you can bear more ! Lot more !


There are no one type of training rules all. The most important is specificity ! Choose the angle, the type of terrain you train on, the length and so, appropriately. Add distraction free training too for pure aerobic benefits !

While going for a 10 x 2minutes uphill set on a zigzagging trail is a fantastic, for your pure aerobic development, try out for an uphill paved section every once in a while. Why ? Your focus can be switched to your cardio-vascular system, by turning down your attention from roots and rocks and by contracting your muscles on a less forceful way.

I compare the KV to a 10 km or 10mile race. Depending on length, angle and technicality, the training types and efforts should be similar, while training to the VK.

Start out slowly with 10 to 20 second vertical sprints. Slowly increase the duration to 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add 2 – 3 – 4 minute intervals. Split your goal time in 3 or 4, take off 2 to 5 minutes from each and go for it. Depending on intensity, your recovery time should be set accordingly. You get different benefits out of different intensities. You might have to do a certain number of race efforts to see what you are missing. When training on this increasing tactical fashion, try varying the terrain angle. Do not try getting into steeper and steeper terrain, but play with angles and progressively increase.

If your race starts great, but finishes slow with a deadslog:

  • Endurance
  • Starting out slower
  • Pacing
  • Nutrition
  • Sugar levels

In these cases, longer intervals should be on focus. Over distance with lower heart rates. Longer road ascents or even climbing multiple times 20 to 30 minutes on the bike. Adding straight away nutrition into the picture is a good option. Have your low sugar breakfast, choose a 90 minute climb and ride up on it, giving a 180-AGE heart rate (MAF) effort on a 4 x 20minute fashion.
Same thing can be done in slightly higher heart rates on the sections of your VK course on foot. Do not forget, that the VK is short. A long long outing is beneficial for your development, but one every 10th to 12th day is sufficient. If you had 3hours to spare each day, this doesn’t meant you must run or train specifically for 3 hours. It would deaden your body ! Get into a short and snappy 1h sessions in the morning and in the evening with appropriate warming up and cool-down and add 2 x 30min of yoga, breathing, stretching and mobility. Yes that counts as training too ! You can write it into your training log and add to your yearly volume. Everything dedicated towards your effort of getting a better runner counts as training !

If you lost intensity, still feeling great but not advancing:

  • Power
  • Speed
  • Leg strength
  • Health / Bodyweight

Bodyweight is the very first enemy of any vertical runner. If you were over your race weight, regardless that it was pure muscle or some thin layer of fat, it is going to hold you back. Getting into a periodic vegan diet, fasting, riding your bike, post workout fasting has all it’s benefits. Of course, you need to be sure in your health and mental fortitude. Some people can have a 2hour hard effort at 8am and next time they re-feed would be the 2pm lunch. Others would be fainting in 45minutes if did not get sugar. Some can perform superbly well on short distances and explosive tasks after 4 days of complete fasting, while others cannot go through a very short intermittent fasting period of 12hours. There are a lot of training+nutritional tactics, supplements use like citruline-malate and L-Carnitine with green tea and so, what can be implemented.

Power and speed. You have to build up strength and resistance first, than add explosiveness. You’ll gain a spring in your stride. Your forward lunge sets will develop into jump lunges, your squats and skipping roping will transform into burpees. Consequently your 30second uphill intervals will be a lot more dynamic and explosive too !

Light headedness, no force, total loss of control:

  • Acclimatisation to altitude
  • Heat adaptation
  • Breathing practice
  • Lack of overall preparation

All of these can be practiced. Box breathing, Wim Hof Style breathing, Firebreathing, O2 and CO2 free diving tables.
Sauna and heat runs, sun runs. (Slowly but progressivley)
Altitude is the best training for altitude !
Finally, maybe your are missing out on the big picture and you just need more training ! Or on the contrary ! Less but more specific run efforts !

Individualised Periodisation

This is the key to coaching. All of what we talked about, should be implemented into a plan for you. This is why I did not include a downloadable training plan ! You cannot just get it and go for the same workouts, that I gave to an athlete who works only 25hours from home per week, has no family, lives at 1800m altitude, have the perfect diet, goes to sleep at 9pm every single night, drinks only spring water and breathes only mountain air and so. You might be able to train 35 hours a week, but at low altitude, sleep only 6hours a night and have pressure from your family, your boss, your daily commute and drink 3-4 beers a week to relax, while eating out with friends in questionable restaurants.

All facets of life are relevant to training and performance. A coach is looking at everything and trying to cope with anything thrown at him. Sprained ankle, a cold, a pregnant wife, a week of work travel, obligatory train commute as car broke down and more.

How to know what to do ? Well, there are two type of athletes. One completely in-tuned with his body and the other not.
The one knowing himself is the one who trains most likely with no coach and is very succesful.
An athlete who doesn’t understand his bodily signs, aches and pains and symptoms, has two choices. One is to learn how to react and understand his body. The second option is to learn how to periodise and how to put together a training program adapted to his level of preparedness. Of course there is a third option, what is hiring a coach, but it will take a long time till your new coach will figure you out, as you don’t even know yourself !

While you can learn a lot from these articles I am writing, you must understand that these are not exclusive guides or perfect practices. Some practices are completely unnecessary for certain individuals and others should be start from zero and all impacts would benefit their fitness.

You got questions on specific situations ? Use the comments section at the end!!!

Here are a few books to understand what I am talking about:

  • Bompa: Periodization: Theory and Methodology of Training
  • Friel: Triathlete’s training bible
  • P. Maffetone: The big book of endurance training and racing
  • Daniel’s Running Formula
  • Joe Friel : Total Heart rate training
  • Wim Hof: Iceman
  • B. Mackenzie: Power Speed Endurance & Unbreakable runner
  • K. Starett: Becoming a supple leopard
Categories: running, Sports Science, Training, UncategorizedTags: , , , , , , , , ,

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