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February 19, 2010

Why Does Endurance Training Make Some People Skinny Fat, And Others Ultra Lean?

I'm sure you know some marathon runners who are skinny fat, and some who are super lean.

Same thing for triathletes, some are skinny fat and some are super lean.

Kara Midde Distance Runner
Kara Goucher, middle distance and long distance runner

It's no accident.  All of the lean endurance athletes are training one way, and all of the skinny fat endurance athletes are training completely differently.

What Skinny Fat Endurance Athletes Do

They do moderate to low intensity training all the time. 

Like "jogging".  If they bike or swim, then they do the biking or swimming equivalent of jogging.

After they've run one distance, and survived,
they start to train for one that's longer.

In other words, if they survive a 5k, they start training for a 10k.  If they manage to limp through a 10k, they start training for a half marathon, if they survive the half marathon, they train for a marathon.

Could be the same thing with triathlons.  If they survive a super sprint tri then they start training for a sprint tri.  If they survive the sprint, they start training for a standard, then a half ironman, then an ironman.

Contrast That With What Super Lean Endurance Athletes Do

Super lean endurance athletes focus on performance.

If they run a distance, they're training to run that distance again faster.

They have a structured training week hitting different adaptations from long low intensity endurance training, to high intensity speed work, to moderate intensity tempo work.  Maybe even hill training.

Instead of trying to survive distances, super lean endurance athletes are trying to better their performance at distances.


If You Suck, You're Going To Be Fat, And Probably Injured

Skinny fat endurance athletes suck.

And then if they live through sucking at one distance, they move up to another distance that they suck at.

If you suck at the 5k, and decide to do a 10k,
you're just increasing the beating that your body takes.

The hormonal response to sucking is drastically different than the hormonal response to performing at a high capacity.

You're gonna start running worse.  Movement quality will nosedive.

You actually get less and less efficient every race. 

This is the path to pain, injury, and fatness.

Stop sucking at longer distances.


It All Comes Down To One Word: Performance

If your focus is performance, your training is going to shift drastically.

If you want to run faster, you're going to have to do some sort of speed or tempo work.

If you want to swim faster, you're going to have to work on your stroke.  You're going to have to become a better, more efficient swimmer.

Same can be said for running - if your stride gets more efficient, you'll run faster.

If you get more powerful and more graceful
at your endurance sport, you'll be leaner.

Desiree Triathlete
Desiree Flicker, triathlete


The Path To Awesomeness: Better Instead of More

Instead of running that 10k, run a faster 5k.

Get a book with a 5k training program, and follow the program.

Better yet, you could even get a running coach.

Eat enough food to support your training, but not enough food to support body fat.

Join a club where the athletes have goals of running faster.

Run a 5k every month.  See if you're getting faster.  If you aren't getting faster, re-evaluate your training program and diet.

I'm using running as an example, but it could just as well be biking or triathlons.

If you want to get lean with endurance training,
you have to start treating it like a sport.

Erin Densham, triathlete


Endurance Training and Fat Loss is Simple:

Endurance Race Survivor = Skinny Fat

Endurance Race Competitor = Rockstar Lean



I think eating well is one of the biggest factors as well. Not only will it make you look better but you get the added benefit of feeling good as well! Check out this list of the best and worst foods to eat as far as their toxin and chemical content goes:

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