The Math Behind Yassos

One of my fellow runners passed along a link: running.ephang.com .  I would definitely recommend checking it out!

My task is to poke holes into his theory of why yassos work.  First off I want to say Thank you Wei for doing the math.  Being a math/science mind I know I appreciate knowing why I am doing something.  It is really cool to see a mathematical reason why we do what we do.  There are a couple points I would like to make as to it validity.

1.  The first thing I want to point out is where the logic fails.  The site posts:

A. X minutes Y seconds –> 800 meters
B. X hours Y minutes –> 26.2 miles


If you can do A, you can do B!

This isn’t true.  If you talk to any track athlete they will explain to you the training they do for their specific events are designed to build a particular type of muscle fibers.  800m while considered a mid distance/distance event in high school is considered more like a sprint in college and to a marathon runner, the 800m, is definitely a “sprint.”  What does that mean?  It means most great 800m runners actually have a large number of type II muscle fibers.  These muscle fibers are best with anaerobic metabolism and are designed to work at peak power under 2minish which is very close to the 800m world record (David Rudisha 1:41.01,  Jarmila Kratochvílová 1.53.28)….the best 800m runners are usually the study of some pretty geeky exercise physiologists!  If this topic interests you I would highly sugget looking into Dr. Sue Bodine’s work.  She was one of my brilliant exercise physiology Profs at Davis.  Marathon runners are working to develop their type I highly oxidative muscle fibers.  To say “If you can do A, you can do B!” is somewhat false because theoretically you could just train to do yassos as fast as possible, but your marathon time wouldn’t show that.

2.  Yassos are, however, a great form of speed work.  Why is that you might ask?  Really they are a simple form of intervals.  Intervals by definition are : “a type of physical training that involves bursts of high-intensity work interspersed with periods of low-intensity work. The high-intensity periods are typically at or close to near-maximum exertion, while the recovery periods may involve either complete rest or activity of lower intensity.”  So with a yasso we are doing a half mile as fast as we can with equal recovery time between sets.  Which is really another way to say run as fast for x amount of time and recover for x amount of time.

Intervals are effective because they can help increase our lactic threshold, improving our abilities to keep up cardiovascular activities at different levels.  Interval training pushes us to maintain speed and form at higher levels making all levels not only seem easier, but actually be easier because we have trained at higher intensities.

Which leads us to the number one reason yassos are effective:

3.  Yassos like all speed workouts are imperative because of the mental training they provide.  You have all heard me speak of the mind/body connection.  Just like the first breakers of the sub 4 mile, if we don’t believe we can do something: we won’t!  The point of doing a speed workout is to set your mind to something, then accomplish it.  That is why I ask you do only pick a speed you can maintain, if not surpass as you go through the workout.  If you pick too high a speed then back off you will have the mind set that you can back off during a race.  If you can push through pain and finish a prescribed workout then you can push through pain during a race and survive that as well.  While the logic may not be 100% true within the “simple” math of determining yasso speed, there is a strong connection between what is told to us is possible and what our therefore actions are.  If there is a math connection between an 800 time and a marathon time, every workout we nail at the 800 pace will reinforce that we can hit our marathon pace.

Long story short:  Our bodies don’t follow a simple math equation, our brains however have limitless possibilities.  Which will you choose to train?

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