Incorporating the Cybex Arc Trainer into an ultramarathon training program
Replacing two running workouts per week with Arc Trainer workouts allowed for improved recovery rates during ultramarathon training. Incorporation of the Cybex Arc Trainer as cross training during running programs may help improve recovery rates amongst high mileage runners.
Chip Gosewisch, CSCS
Fischer Sports Physical Therapy and Conditioning
Marathon training programs often incorporate cross-training days as a way to improve or maintain fitness while giving the body an opportunity to recover from the significant demands on the musculoskeletal system associated with increased running volume. It is unclear, however, what the effects are of replacing multiple runs per week with cross-training workouts. In addition, there is little information related to similar alterations in training programs related to ultramarathon races.
Training for endurance events increases risk of overuse and repetitive stress injuries; replacing two higher-intensity running days per week with intervals on the Arc Trainer may be a way of gaining the benefits of interval training while at the same time reducing the impact associated with a high running volume. Therefore, this case study sought to assess this change in ultramarathon training on perceived recovery rates and race performance.
This case study involved a single volunteer subject who was recreationally competitive in 50 and 100 mile trail races. The male subject was 5’8” tall and weighed 162 pounds. The previous race the subject ran was a 50 mile trail race, about 6.5 months prior to this study. The subject was training to run for the fourth consecutive year the Zane Grey 50 mile race in Payson, Arizona. Times of completion for this race varied over the years from 12:45, 10:45 and 11:36 in order of participation.
The subject started this study healthy and injury free, although he did mention that recovery was becoming increasingly difficult on the days after high intensity training. The subject had been running trail races for 5 years and could see an increased difficulty of recovery following high intensity training days on the mountain and more difficulty getting his legs “warmed up” to start the next training day run.
During this case study, the participant replaced 2 days per week of doing interval work on the trails of South Mountain, Arizona with intervals on the Cybex Arc Trainer. One day consisted of progressively more repetitions of shorter intervals with the second day consisting of the same number of intervals with an increased duration. In addition to Arc workouts, the participant also performed 4 trail runs per week. Arc training sessions were held early in the morning at the same time of day (± 1hour).
Two different modes on the Cybex Arc Trainer were used during the study (Table 1). The first was Adaptive Power Training. Each Power Train day included a 5 minute warm-up and 5 minute cool down at level 3. The body of the workout was all done at level 5 at the default incline. Intervals were done on a 1:2 minute ratio. On the first day, the subject started with a 5 minute warm-up at level 3. At the conclusion of the warm-up, he then increased the level to 5 and started intervals. There were a total of 10 intervals completed the first day. During the “Drive” phase (increased forward lean and hip extension, similar to a sprinter coming out of the blocks) of the interval the subject kept the strides per minute in a range of 145-165. During the “recovery” phase, the subject kept the strides per minute in a range of 110-125. After completing the 10 intervals at level 5, the subject lowered the intensity to level 3 and completed the 5 minute cool down. Each week following, 2 more intervals were added to the program. The warm-up and cool downs stayed the same and all levels and parameters stayed the same for the interval portion. Over the course of the 6 week study, the subject went from 10-12-14-16-18-20 intervals.Table 1. Progression of the two weekly workouts1:2 represents a 1 minute on to 2 minute off interval; L3 indicates the Adaptive Power level; 220 watts refers to the Constant Power output level; SPM – Strides per minute
The second day of Arc training consisted of the Constant Power mode. Each Constant Power day included a 5 minute warm-up and 5 minute cool down at a resistance of 110 watts. All of the Constant Power days consisted of 7 total intervals. Default incline settings were used during the Constant Power training days. The first week consisted of 3 minutes of high intensity and 2 minutes low intensity. For resistance levels during the intervals see attached chart. Each of the 5 weeks following the high intensity portion of the interval was increased by 1 minute and the low intensity was constant at 2 minutes for all eight weeks.
The remaining training days of the week consisted of days on the trails. With higher intensity days being done on the Arc, days on the trails were of lower intensity. Two of the days were focused on slightly faster than race pace tempo runs, one day was longer distance training at “conversational pace” in a range of 5-7 miles. The final day of training for the week was the long run. This was a run that was kept as close to race pace as possible with increasingly more miles per week on terrain that mimicked and even included the race course.
Many variables contribute to ultra trail race performance. Nutrition, hydration, course, course markings, weather, and fatigue-related injuries are several examples of this. The subject was a veteran trail runner so nutrition and hydration were not as much of a concern. The course was highly technical and exposed to the elements during the hot part of the day. The subject successfully completed the race in 12:07. This was neither his fastest nor his slowest time out of the four races (Figure 1).
Figure 1. Completion time of the 50 mile race over four years
Several positive outcomes were seen during the study. During the long run days of training, the subject felt strong during the climbs up the mountain later in the run. The subject stated this was usually a point of weakness in some of his previous training regimens. This was most likely attributable to the drive line of the body used during the Arc intervals. He felt he was able to activate his posterior chain more effectively than normal and not get the “fried” quads.
During the two tempo-run days of the week, the subject alternated between two different split times loops on South Mountain. These split times were recorded when subject was using two days per week of track interval work. When the times were compared, Arc interval program times were ± 2 minutes (with one occasion of the Arc period of training being 4 minutes faster).
One of the major benefits stated was faster recovery time. We asked the subject to rate on a scale of 1-10 (1 being no recovery and 10 being fully recovered) to compare the days after running with days after Arc training. After training days of high intensity running he rated recovery around a 6 or 7 the following day. After incorporating high intensity Arc intervals instead of high intensity running, he rated recovery around an 8 or 9 the following day. The subject did note several faster tempo runs following the introduction of the Arc Trainer into the training plan; this may be an indication that VO2 Max or lactate threshold levels may have improved.
Overall, the subject was pleased with the use of the Arc Trainer. He reported much more enjoyable runs following use of the Arc Trainer as opposed to more grinding high intensity miles on the trail. One area the subject would like to include in the training protocol in the future is to include incline with the intervals. He felt this may have been the missing component late in his race after mile 33 when there were several prolonged climbs. The subject also expressed interest in adding intervals with a faster cadence in the future to more closely mimic the rapid and quick foot strikes used during descents.
Based on the feedback and results from this case study, it appears that the incorporation of two cross-training days per week on the Arc Trainer may help improve recovery rates associated with high mileage training programs.
Cybex is a provider and manufacturer of premium commercial fitness equipment. Content featured in the Cybex Fitness Blog is meant to inspire healthy living and wellness and should not be taken as medical advice. As always, be sure to consult a physician if you are unsure of your individual exercise readiness or have a preexisting medical condition. While these programs offer great benefits, there are many considerations that should be weighed before attempting any type of physical activity.