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My goals, simply stated (in order of highest priority first)

  1. Improve overall health through fitness (for me this would include losing some weight, I hover around 190lbs as a 6'0" male, ~37 years of age).
  2. Maintain decent strength for a variety of activities.
  3. Become better at endurance athletics, in particular, running.

I don't think this goals are necessarily mutually exclusive so it was hard to order them. I'm not trying to look super buff; I'm more interested in health and performance results.

In the last year, I'd been subscribing to the ideas behind the Maffetone method and the Primal Endurance book. Before that, I'd finally gotten into decent shape with the P90x3, but still had some extra weight to shed (despite following it rather religiously; I would even attempt to do it while staying at hotels on road trips to visit family, and of course I would keep at it when on vacation).

The main idea behind the Maffetone method is that you train your aerobic system by avoiding any biological crosstalk with the anaerobic system. I think this is possible to be true, but I don't think I've seen any scientific evidence that it is so directly; the Primal Endurance book certainly includes many anecdotes, and I'm sure it works for some people. But it didn't seem to work for me. After about 6 months of skipping out on P90x3 or any sustained anaerobic exercise or jog, I just wasn't noticing improvements that seemed worthwhile. I could not maintain a jog or run for more than 10-30 paces without exceeding my estimated max-aerobic heart rate (depending on how it is estimated, mine is probably in the 135-144 bmp range). Yes, I could probably go a few more paces than that if I was running downhill (quite a few more) or if I hadn't warmed up yet, but that should give an idea of my frustration. If I had successfully completed the "aerobic base building" period, I could then cycle back to doing anaerobic stuff, but I feel I never really did. As discussed in the Primal Endurance book, I still did the odd set of strength exercises a few times a week (a set of pull-ups here, a couple 2-minute plank sessions there) to maintain some strength, but otherwise, I did not do any anaerobic exercise.

So now, I'm looking for something new to try. I recall seeing a talk (sadly I can't find it just at the moment, but will update if I do) that showed Olympic endurance athletes that were very successful often mixed high-intensity exercise with endurance exercise at about a 1:5 ratio (I can't recall if this was by workout-session or by time involved, but probably the former). Disclaimer: I'm a desk-jockey and not looking to be an olympic athlete or anything close, but I'd like to do a lot better than I'm currently doing.

I liked the P90x3 on the whole. I received few injuries (though the elite video was perhaps more likely to induce injuries), so I'd be happy to work those back in in some capacity, and hopefully obtain better aerobic-base-building results than I had with the Maffetone method.

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    I wasn't able to find your talk, but here are a couple nice studies and study reviews I came across: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4621419 and researchgate.net/publication/… – JohnP Oct 6 at 16:13
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    Thanks, that seems like a good article to jump off into and reminds me of the video I saw. Another post about AT vs ANT seems interesting, as it may indicate that the Maffetone method is too strict, though I'm not sure what my ANT heart rate yet is yet. This also led me to find this article (trailrunnermag.com/training/trail-tips/…) which introduces a somewhat more lax approach to aerobic base building, and some empirical approaches to get some alternative heart rate guidelines. – bbarker Oct 7 at 1:16
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Improve overall health through fitness (for me this would include losing some weight, I hover around 190lbs as a 6'0" male, ~37 years of age). Maintain decent strength for a variety of activities. Become better at endurance athletics, in particular, running.

I'll address these in a different order than you have posed.

Running

Simply put, the way to get better at running is to do more of it. Depending on your goals. you want to aim for 3-6 sessions of running a week, varying between probably 15 minutes on the short side to 25-30 minutes on the high side. Don't worry so much about heart rate, as that can vary wildly and 220-age is a myth anyway. Run most of your mileage at an easy, comfortable pace, and on your longer runs throw in bursts of high tempo, faster running. Lather rinse repeat. It's pretty much the same for any endurance event. However, there will be limited crossover. Just because you can bike for 200 miles doesn't necessarily mean you will be able to run for 5 right off the bat. There will be some crossover, but they all have specificity.

Strength

Here again, it's as simple as pick up a weight and put it down. Occasionally increase the amount of weight.

That being said, if you are doing endurance training, choose complementary exercises and exercises that enhance the sport you are doing. For example, if you really enjoy golf, then be sure to include exercises such as wood choppers (Up and down), torso rotations, tricep extensions, lat pulldowns. Add exercises to work the rest of the body to maintain well rounded development. If you are just starting out and looking for general strength, look at Stronglifts 5x5 or a similar beginner program. Once you have a baseline, you can start branching out.

There will be three main benefits from doing this. You will get performance benefits in your chosen sport, you will be stronger overall for daily living, and muscle burns more calories than fat to maintain on a pound for pound basis.

Improving overall health

This is a little vague, as the two things above will address a lot of your concerns. However, there are things that you can do that will add benefits to the above, as well as set you up for healthy living now and many years to come.

  1. Diet - Doesn't have to be 100% clean, but at least at first, keep a food diary. Track what you eat, when and how much. On days that you just feel wiped out or draggy, look at your workouts and diet for the past few days. See if there is a common cause. Figure out what foods you like and benefit your workouts, and work out an eating plan. Don't worry so much about cake, cookies, candy bars, whatever. They can all be a part of it, as long as you account for it and they aren't "extra". Shop the edges of the store for the most part. The less effort you have to put in for preparing your food, the more hidden calories, chemicals, additives you will take in.

  2. Mindfulness - By this I mean yoga, walks in the woods, reading a book, visiting a museum, whatever. Find activities that calm and soothe you and allow time for personal reflection. Way too often we never stop and just exist. You need this to allow your brain to rest and recharge. I build models (rockets, cars, whatever). Find things you like to do that give you enjoyment and ease.

  3. Stretch - Not for injury prevention or anything like that, but one of the things that really limits people as they age is they lose muscle mass and flexibility. If you didn't have much of either, it can really limit your activity and ADL (Activities of Daily Living) such as grocery shopping, gardening, whatever. Some sports (I do martial arts) require a greater level of flexibility, but in general a decent overall stretching program (See yoga under mindfulness, great activity) will help you age gracefully.

  4. Do new things - Variety is great. Have your routines, and the things you for sure want to do, but try new things. Plant an herb garden for your cooking. Keep fish. Make a parrot cage. Try a tai chi class. Go to a wine and paint class. Anything, but keep at least one thing new going. At worst, you spend a couple months discovering you hate painting. At best, you find something that really excites you. You like walks in the woods? Take a camera and try photography. Possibilities are endless.

Also, don't plan short term as in "I gotta get healthy in the next 5 days!". You have a lifetime. Make a 1 year, 3 year and 5 year plan. At various points in the year pull it out and assess. Every couple years do a full reassess of where you are.

It all really boils down to eat less, move more, and have fun. If you aren't enjoying what you are doing, what's the point?

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