© Copyright – 2022 – Athletics Illustrated
Title: Scientific Training for Endurance Athletes
Author: Dr. Philip Friere Skiba
Publisher: PhysFarm Training Systems LLC
ISBN — 13: 978-0979463624
Long before Dr. Philip Friere Skiba, author of Scientific Training for Endurance Athletes, began his research, the practical foundations were being laid for coaches and athletes to build upon. However, the publication of such books confirms what has been discovered through the trial of the miles. It’s one thing, for example, to believe that the aerobic foundation of endurance needs to be laid before the quality efforts are added to a program, it’s another to have it verified through rigorous scientific research. For that we have Skiba and other authors to thank.
What sets Scientific Training for Endurance Athletes apart from the myriad of other science-based texts on the market is Skiba’s voice. When reading, it feels as though the author genuinely wants you, the reader, to really “get” what he is writing. His analogies are thoughtful and simplified, by just the right amount. He doesn’t write strictly in layman’s prose. One should be intrigued to a degree by physiology. That is all about you will need to be armed with to “get” it; a little interest in physiology.
The book is a reliable reference for athletes and coaches alike.
Skiba separates the contents into expected categories starting with power and speed, and then quickly moving into anatomy and physiology. It’s possible that the reader is served physiology 101 in Chapter 2 (rather than Chapter 1) so to not lose the reader right away — heck, don’t we all want the power and speed information upfront? Once immersed, by the time you are into Chapter 2, you should be committed. Whether the order is by design or not, it makes for an engaging read (attention span inference).
The chapters roll by in the order of specificity, training your physiology (now that you get it), strength training and on it goes and ends smartly on Chapter 12 “Race Day,” how poignant.
Skiba backs the bus up on very familiar terminology and re-explains them to you, because you, like everyone else, have let the definitions wander a little. Common references are often slightly wrong. This is fine if the intention is to use efforts like lactate threshold, V02max, anaerobic threshold, or glycolytic anaerobic appropriately, but it is helpful to firm up one’s understanding and what is happening within the body during these various efforts.
You know as well as the author does that there are training groups all over town, where the central coach figure is doing everything possible to keep his or her athletes entertained with weekly workouts. This can be dangerous. The great Arthur Lydiard once said, “if your coach can’t explain the purpose of a run — any run — get a new coach.” In short, there is a process and it is called periodization, heed it.
Did you know that LSD does not stand for long slow distance? Or that 800m and 1K and 1-mile repetitions are not necessarily “speed work, per se?” Yes, if you continue to coach with that language, you may already be a decade behind — ouch. LSD is relative and it is more apt to refer to it as long steady distance. Speedwork — we have come to know as of late — is speed work when you are provoking neuromuscular and type 2 fast-twitch muscle stimulus and some biological activity that Skiba refers to as “going haywire” — you gotta love the simplicity of this. You know of that sweet spot of 80-85% of V02max that you have heard so much about? It’s true, it exists and when you go much faster than that, all sorts of neat things that you should be aware of are taking place in the body. Read the book to find out.
The beauty in the explanation of critical power and critical speed is that it comes early, as on page 21 of this 236-page book.
Wait until you read (soon after) about V02sc and how the foundation in understanding began in 1923; a paradigm-shifting moment.
Dr. Skiba dives into nutrition for health and for performance. Throughout, he references empirical studies related to the chapter you are currently immersed in. Did you know that high glycemic or simple sugar intake can be taken at a time that makes it a detriment to performance? And visa versa? Learn the timing.
Perhaps his most salient passage…
In reference to the aerobic foundation, he wrote the follow analogy, which just about everyone should understand.
“The foundation is your basic strength and resilience. The floor is your endurance capacity, and the ceiling is the critical power/speed. The roofline is your VO2max. The top of the roof is your peak power output. Let’s imagine that your current marathon speed (usually very close to lactate threshold) is equal to your height,” he writes. “You walk into your house and mark your height on the wall. With time, as you train, you grow taller. In the beginning, the whole house grows with you. However, what you will find is that with time you will begin to bump your head against the ceiling. You need to do some specific renovations on the house to raise the ceiling so that you can continue to grow. However, what you will quickly find is that you are squeezing the ceiling too close to the attic above. Eventually, you need to raise the attic as well.”
The back cover reads, “Sports performance is not about magic workouts, fad diets, or special supplements. It is about understanding the human body as it responds to physical work.”
The explanations within the pages of Scientific Training for Endurance Athletes make clear the biological and physiological responses to various training stimuli, recovery, healthful eating, and more.
For anyone wanting to get more out of their time spent training and coaches who lead training plans of athletes at all levels, it is a must-read.