A for Athlete


harvested from his site [1] in November 2009

So, how did Power Running come to be? Here's my story.[]

First off, my name is Richard Gibbens, I currently live in Austin, TX, and I've been a runner since 1981.

In the early 1980s, I joined the US Army Special Forces (Green Berets). I've always been an active guy, but upon joining Special Forces I realized that my life could very well depend on my fitness level. As I strove to maximize my personal fitness and performance level I became intensely interested in learning as much about exercise physiology as possible. I figured that the more I knew the better I could train and perform.

Like many, I started with popular books and magazines. However, within a short period of time it seemed I was reading the same information and advice over and over. Basically old wine in a new bottle. But the thing that bothered me the most was that a lot of the advice seemed contradictory. One respected coach said train this way and another well known coach promoted something quite opposite - similar to the difference between Lydiard's 100 miles per week training approach versus the "all intervals all the time" method of Roger Bannister. To top it off I wasn't at the level of performance that I wanted to be at. Now what to do?

I decided that a degree in exercise science and a minor in nutrition would be the next logical step. So, that's what I did. Off to college I went, graduating in 1990.

Things progressed smoothly until the late 1990s. For 15 years I had run injury free, following a relatively low mileage, high intensity approach to training. In the mid '90s, around the time I left the Army, I became much more interested in road racing. Leaving the service meant I was no longer obligated to follow the Army's prescribed exercise program; I was free to choose my own. I had been reading the standard running books of the day, books by Galloway, Henderson, and Higdon amongst others, and decided to adopt a more conventional training program - namely increasing mileage to improve performance. I strapped on my heart rate monitor and started building a base. Not a good choice. Instead of improving my performance, I ended up with an injury. I stopped running until I recovered and then started training again. Unfortunately, it didn't work and I sustained another injury. This process kept repeating itself - gradually increase mileage, get injured, stop training, recover, repeat. My muscles and connective tissue just didn't like the way I was training.

During this period, when I was healthy enough to workout, I started training for triathlons. I figured the cross-training would be beneficial. Unfortunately, my knees really didn't like bricks (a cycling workout followed immediately by a run workout). First, one knee gave out and required surgery, then a year later the other gave out and had to be operated on too (though to be fair, a parachuting accident while in the Army appears to have done permanent damage to my knees, making them more likely to sustain Template:Injury).

It was during this time that I began to seriously question the wisdom of current training programs. I had some spare time since I wasn't exercising much due to injury, so I started reading the research backing up conventional wisdom. That's when I discovered that the currently accepted physiology model, i.e. the Cardiovascular/Anaerobic model, had some serious flaws. I also realized that if the model were flawed that the training programs based on the model were also likely to be flawed to some degree too.

If the cardiovascular/anaerobic model is wrong, then what really limits performance? We know that something or things limit performance. What? That's the question I wanted to answer. After lots of study and thought I found what I believe to be the answer right in front of my eyes. A lot of research had been done on endurance exercise, but most of it didn't really support the cardiovascular/anaerobic model. Much of this research had been ignored by conventional wisdom because it didn't fit the currently accepted cardiovascular/anaerobic model. That's why you never read about it in lay publications such as running magazines. Even worse, the results of some research studies were interpreted in a way that fit the cardiovascular/anaerobic model. Once I understood these two facts, I looked at the research without trying to prove the cardiovascular/anaerobic model. Instead, I read the research with an open mind and asked myself what model would sufficiently explain the results.

Using the research and my physiology background, I formulated the "muscle power" model of endurance physiology. Basically, my belief is that muscles, not your aerobic system, are ultimately the limiting factor in performance. From that belief I formulated the training program I call Power Running.

I figured there would be lots of resistance to my ideas, since they go against commonly held beliefs. To combat this, I cite most of the references I have used. I don't ask that you accept the things I write on faith alone. The research studies, exercise physiology textbooks, and other sources I use are available to anyone. If you question something I've written, it's easy to check my accuracy and to see if my conclusions make sense.

To be fair, I ask that you also equally question conventional wisdom too. For example, if someone tells you that to improve you need to increase mileage, ask them for the proof backing up that advice. If someone recommends easy runs to you, ask them for the proof that easy runs improve performance.

As an ex-Green Beret with formal training in exercise science, I don't really care about tradition or theory, I care about results. I believe that power running gives me the best results and I believe it will do the same for you.

I wish you the best of luck.

Richard Gibbens