Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Power :: Run Ratio

It's fun to be able to execute your fastest long distance run, or focus on setting your personal record for weightlifting. But how about aiming for a blend of the two specialties as an accurate overall measure of all-around fitness, your best ratio of strength to endurance running. Let's call it a Power-to-Run ratio, for lack of a better term (or EnduroPower(c) if I was branding this technique!).

Ashton Eaton and Trey Hardee were the 2012 gold and silver Olympic medalists in the decathlon, which makes them in my eyes the best athletes in the world. A decathlete has to focus on a lot of different specialities, and as a result, probably never peaks ultimately at one of them, but they aspire to an all-aroundness in physical strength, agility, and endurance that most of us mere mortals can only envy.

They have the strength to hurl javelins Olympic distances, yet both of them finished the final 1500 meters in right around the equivalent of a five-minute flat mile. A 5:00 mile pace for 1500 meters is 4:39; Eaton ran 4:34 and Hardee 4:40.

Those times are incredible, given their fatigue level at that point as well as the fact that they are both tall muscular men (6'5"" and 6'1", respectively), not skinny lithe professional milers. I ran a 4:45 mile once but I'm smaller and more wiry than they are – and I felt like I was sprinting the entire time.

In terms of a practical gauge of overall fitness, "meeting in the middle" at a nice blend of strength and run endurance is a worthy goal for all of us. So here's the equation for a power :: run ratio:

Amount of weight you can bench press (or choose your lifting exercise) / Your mile time in minutes

In other words, let's say you can bench press 150 pounds and run one mile in 7:00. 150 / 7 = 21.4, so that's your score or ratio. A year later, you can run a mile in 5:58 and bench press 170, because you've been training so efficiently. So now the ratio looks a little more complicated: 170 / 5.96 = 28.5. The ratio goes up if either your mile time improves or your bench press increases.

It's the ratio that matters, not the absolute weight. You could have a huge guy who can duck under the bar and hoist 260 pounds for the bench press, but he can only manage a 12 minute mile, so his ratio is 21.8, barely better than the prior example of someone who benches 150 pounds but can run a 7:00 mile. Yeah, the ratio is a reflection of pound-for-pound fitness.

A mile is a pretty good run distance without overtraining; it's a fair representation of both raw speed and endurance (I suppose you could use the 400 or 800 meter dash too). In addition, just about everyone who is familiar with gyms and weights has given the bench press the whirl, but you could use another weight technique like the push press.

My own ratio (and right now I'm guessing on the mile) is 200 / 6.4 = 31.25, but I'm going to get timed in the mile early this fall.

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