Monday, January 26, 2015

The 4HB "5K to 50K" 12 Week Program - 2nd Try - FINISHED!

At long last, on his second attempt, after months of sweat and toil, Your Humble Narrator has officially completed Tim Ferris' 4 Hour Body "5K to 50K" program! (Which Tim Ferris himself has never finished.)

My original theory was: the "5K to 50K" is not only virtually impossible for most folks to complete, but Tim makes impossible claims about the results of the program.

For those folks who did not follow my entire journey, just GETTING STARTED required several months of training to get familiar with the exercises used in the program. And all of the exercises are within the realm of modern Crossfit training. So just to begin the program, you would need in-depth knowledge of Crossfit as well as an incredible fitness base. My own adventures started just a few months after finishing my first 70.3 Ironman. And even then my fitness base wasn't anywhere near enough.

The training program itself started off difficult, but didn't require as much time as you might think. Many days the training was less than 15 minutes. (For perspective, your typical Crossfit workout usually lasts an hour, including stretching and warming up.) About mid-way through it became apparent that the training was working, making me stronger and faster. And the final weeks breezed by, with lots of progress and many personal records.

What was the final result? As noted yesterday, the program helped me CRUSH last year's Rock & Roll finishing time. My previous effort was 2:30:XX. After the 4HB training program, my time was 2:09:50. More then 20 minutes faster, and a new personal record. That is a 15.4% improvement. By my measure, that's a success! So the program definitely has benefits. My results are clear proof. And my money says many athletes would love to achieve a 15.4% improvement on the times.

Benefits are good, but they are not enough. There is simply no way the program prepared me for anything more than a good half marathon. And it could not take your average 5K runner to 50K in 12 weeks. (Not even a 42K (ie: full marathon!)) Sure, somebody COULD "finish" an event out of spite or raw determination. But they will not finish with any sort of reasonable time or being in reasonable condition when they finish. The program simply does not provide any sort of experience beyond two hours of running. It was perfect for a half marathon. But the average runner will not be prepared to run for three to five hours doing a mile every nine to ten minutes. The average runner will hit an enormous physical wall that the training does not prepare them for. And the average runner will have to deal with an enormous mental burden that the training does not prepare them for. My own longest run was 10 miles. Adding another 16 (for a full marathon) to 20 miles (for a small ultrathon) without any sort of physical preparation is not (NOT!) going to happen.

In addition, my experience suggests that even completing the program (regardless of your results) is absolutely impossible without access to a very knowledgeable (and encouraging) coach in a well equipped gym and you are willing and able to push yourself to extreme levels you've likely never reached before. Need an example? Can you do hand stand pushups? Can you jump rope so that the rope passes under you TWICE with each jump? Can you squat your bodyweight? Can you deadlift twice your bodyweight? All of those are part of the program. Can't do those? Can't do the program. Even if you lower the weights written into the program, you still have to master the moves themselves and doing them incorrectly could result in serious injuries.

In conclusion, the program will absolutely deliver results in a relatively short time. It prepared me for a half marathon. It improved my run times. It also helped improve my biking and swimming abilities. And my physical conditioning has NEVER been better. But even if you find a good coach in a good location and physically push yourself to new limits, the program will NOT take an average runner from 5K to 50K. Maybe a high level track star coming out of college or high school could do it, but not an average person.

The program is far harder that Tim suggests. It delivers results below what Tim suggests. It will make you bigger, stronger, and faster. But the program will not make most people "effortlessly superhuman," as Tim Ferris writes.
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