Dr. Trappe is the Director of the Human Performance Laboratory
and John and Janice Fisher Endowed Chair in Exercise Science at
Ball State University. He received his undergraduate training at
the University of Northern Iowa where he was captain of the swim
team. He worked for US Swimming at the Olympic Training Center in
Colorado Springs while obtaining his M.S. at the University
of Colorado. His PhD training was with Dr. David Costill at Ball
State University followed by post-doctoral training in muscle
physiology with Dr. Robert Fitts at Marquette University. For the
past 20 years, he has been working with NASA to help optimize the
exercise prescription for astronauts. His work has also been
supported by the NIH. Concurrent to the work with NASA, he’s
conducted exercise training studies in older adults, aging athletes
and various college and elite athletes. Using a whole body to gene
approach, he and his colleagues have gained a better understanding
of muscle plasticity. He is an expert in the area of adaptations to
training and to disuse - or detraining. And, he joins us today to
talk about that plasticity, specifically in the area of balancing
training with detraining as it may apply to tapering.
In today’s episode Dr. Trappe and I talk about training
adaptations, then detraining, then put those together to come to
some conclusions about the tapering period where we try to balance
The questions I posed to Dr. Trappe include:
Genetics. There was a belief that genetics provide each person
with a particular range of possibility and that there is a limit
set by those genetics for each person such that one person’s
maximal potential may be below another’s lower spectrum. Is that
correct and to what degree do genetics compare with training for
our endurance capacity.
What is the time-course for the various adaptations:
capillarity, mitochondrial capacity, power, neuromuscular control,
etc.? [for clarity, capillarity is the density of capillary blood
vessels within skeletal muscle - which is important for oxygen and
nutrient delivery ; mitochondrial capacity is the sum of the tools
a cell uses for generating ATP while utilizing oxygen] - it will
vary based on the volume and intensity but we talk generally
about the components.
What components continue to develop over years of training and
what components of adaptation to endurance are maximized, if any,
relatively early (like in the first year or so of regular serious
training) - e.g., we don’t continue increasing capillarity
Training prescriptions are often designed so that a given hard
day of training is maximized while still low enough in density so
that the next training day (perhaps 2 days later) can be completed
with equivalent volume/intensity. How do we optimize this - there
is a spectrum - steady runs every day vs very hard one day that
takes many days to recover from…how do we plan for the balance so
that we are making the fastest, steady gains in endurance
Some prescription plans cycle three weeks increasing in density
(volume or intensity or combination), then back off for a week,
then start over with a little increase. Graphically this might look
like three steps up and one down, repeat. How does this approach
compare to backing off slightly in those three weeks and not
stepping down in the fourth week - evening out the 4 weeks so that
there is a persistent increase in training density over time. Any
benefit of one approach over the other?
Cross-training: physiologically useful or can we get more out
of staying 100% sport specific and tailoring the workouts carefully
(to avoid injury and boredom)?
When we evaluate training, the goal is to maximize adaptable
stimulus and provide sufficient environment for adaptation. To
what extent do easy days (recovery runs) layer onto the stimulus
for adaptation: is there a stoking effect that keeps the stimulus
maintained until the next tough workout OR do recovery runs somehow
promote a more beneficial adaptation environment - where do
recovery runs sit in the balance equation of stimulate/adapt? …what
do we know about the specific mechanisms of the benefits of easy
days (recovery runs) between hard workouts?
For an endurance runner with capacity X or Y, what is the
minimum stimulus required to maintain what they’ve developed;
surely this varies for the different components from neuromuscular
coordination and control, through muscle bioenergetics…but what do
we know about maintaining capacity?
Trail running, and many or most ultra marathons are on trails,
require both endurance and an endurance in power - due to the
elevation changes, both up and down hills. Are these capacities
different from a muscle tissue perspective…flat ground endurance vs
mountain hills endurance? Do those capacities detrain
Balancing Training Adaptation with Detraining
Promoting recovery while resisting losses is the fundamental
issue at play in the period called tapering. Whatever you call it,
it is the final days or maybe weeks as we approach a key race or
event. What are the best practices for tapering for endurance
events - what works, what doesn’t?
Recovery required from races - 50k-100mile+ all can take a
substantial toll on muscle tissue both structurally and
functionally. When muscle is trashed - not a lot has been studied
in the specific context of ultra marathons but we do know about
repeated eccentric loading [eccentric is contraction while a muscle
is lengthening - as is required of the quadriceps while running
downhill] - what elements of muscle function recover the fastest
and what takes the longest to recover?
Considerations for races in quick succession (e.g.,
100k-100mile 4-6 weeks apart, or 50k 2-3 weeks apart)?
We wrap up with two specific questions:
What are the biggest mistakes that Dr. Trappe sees distance
runners make in their tapering plans?
What three key messages of advice does Dr. Trappe have for
ultra marathon runners with regard to tapering?
Should ultra runners use standup desks at work?
LISTEN AND LEARN THE ANSWERS TO THESE PLUS SO MUCH
About the Podcast
For endurance athletes who want to do more than improve race performance. How you sleep, think, eat, and move all play a role in helping you Become Your Ultra Best!