On The Minimal Effective Dose

The trouble with being someone’s coach is that you’re often poor at keeping perspective in your own diet or training.

I recently received a free treadmill. Nothing fancy, just someone to do tabata intervals on to help increase my speed in running events. It has the ability to incline to ~9 degrees. Of course, this wasn’t good enough and I promptly stuck two 25lb plates under the motor to increase the angle.

Now, I had not been doing any sprint or interval work in the past with any consistency. My running mostly consists of pushing my boys in the double BOB for 3.2-4 miles on Saturday mornings with Sarah. This is done at a relatively slow pace, conversational, though made challenging by the fact that they get heavier every week. It’s the running equivalent of Milo’s bull. That said, just running 1 day per week reduced my trail 3 mile time by 2 minutes in the past year. I’m good to run 5’s and 10’s (kilometers) without any additional training. I’m not challenging Mo, but I’m doing well for the time invested.

So the tabatas are brand new to address increasing speed. To be able to run faster at any pace, you must first be able to run faster. But instead of accepting the relative limitation (it only inclines to 10*) given that I could very easily add another mile per hour to the pace I can perform the intervals at safely, I immediately jacked the incline up in a shoddy way. As such, I nearly pulled the treadmill off its stilts during this morning’s workout. Decidedly NOT smart.

I fell victim, albeit briefly, to the fitness industry’s number one problem: if some is good, more is better. In this case, the cousin: good isn’t good enough; only the best will do. It’s like being hungry but not accepting the low-hanging fruit because the “best” fruit are at the top of the tree. Hunger doesn’t care about how shiny the apple is!

So next week, I’ll keep the treadmill on the ground, nice and stable, seeking to satisfy the goal: doing gut-busting 4-minute tabata workouts until the treadmill is going too fast for my legs to keep up safely. Good enough is good enough if you do it long enough!

4 thoughts on “On The Minimal Effective Dose

  1. Have you seen Gibala’s book, The One Minute workout? His workouts tend to have relatively large rest to work ratios, so that the total length of the workouts often last 30 minutes. That is in contrast to the original Tabata, which is only 4 minutes excluding warmup and cool down. Do you have a preference for work to rest ratio?

    Is it fair to say that the Minimum Effective Dose is not necessarily that dose which produces the maximum possible result?

    1. Craig,

      I’ve seen his book and he gave a great interview on the Tim Ferriss show. I prefer the tabata because it is quite literally the smallest amount of time I can spend to get faster.

      As far as your second question, I’ll turn it into a blog post!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s