Better Every Day Book Club: The Hybrid Athlete

The Hybrid Athlete by Alex Viada

One thing I really liked was that Alex answers my standard question for anyone asking what type of training is best — “for who?” He describes how to put it together for a variety of different athletes with different demands based on their sport, hobby, or occupation. This is done by evaluating the opportunity cost vs benefit of different exercises based on the needs of the individual athlete.

The programming rationale runs parallel to my own when planning out a program, which is:
Produce the desired result
Manage Fatigue
Manage Time

thehybridathleteUsing not only science, but common sense, Alex makes a good case for the benefits of longer duration cardiovascular activity for not only the average exerciser, but the strength-based athlete.

He is very clear about the cost of every exercise and favors cutting away anything non-essential to get down to the bare bones. The essence of this, similar to Ultimate Athleticism, is carryover. Some movements will have a greater carryover to other movements and therefore have a better ROI in terms of strength and athleticism.

Alex also makes a similar point (in greater detail) to one I made in my article 8 Minutes to Awesome on the importance of overall conditioning contributing to allowing greater training volumes, allowing greater gains in all areas.

One thing seems to be true, and that is that this program requires a lot of willpower if you don’t find lifting weights and lots of running to be enjoyable. That’s not a criticism, but just a simple fact. Most of us are probably unwilling to put in the work to achieve what Alex describes out of either sheer laziness or lack of desire. This is an area where I would recommend people to play an hour of singles tennis which, according to my HR monitor, keeps me in a similar zone to the longer duration running.

In this case though, the author recommends trail running (and mountain biking) as his #1 choice for implementation, which is not only more joint friendly and athleticism producing, but I would argue (as he does) a hell of a lot more fun and enjoyable.

Having played soccer during the first phase of my life and having run many, many miles, I have a good bit of experience in terms of endurance. However, after reading Alex’s book, I feel like it has improved my knowledge on the subject as there were several key points that I had missed throughout my previous romp with long duration cardio. In terms of understanding how to build and put together different types of athleticism, this book provides a great deal of quality, applicable information.

One other part I enjoyed was his explanation and rationale for the programs in the back of the book. In terms of information for a coach looking to understand the “why” those would be helpful as well.

“A given exercise prescribed at a given intensity and frequency either definitely improves performance to a level that exceeds its recovery and opportunity cost, or it does not. If it does not, scratch it.” Adhering to this simple advice alone could lead someone to develop their own highly effective strength program provided they understood the cost and benefits of various exercises and how they may relate to their goals.

The book was very thorough, but maybe could have addressed the importance of change of direction sprinting and jumping as key components to balance and athleticism—though I understand that was not the purpose of the book.

I may experiment with doing some of my reading on a recumbent bike so I don’t feel like it is quite such a time sink.

Alex has an endearing form of psychosis regarding optimal strength and endurance performance, and it’s clear that a great deal of time and effort was put into writing this book. Though I don’t plan on putting a marathon into my current program (personal preference only) I do plan on utilizing a lot of the information garnered within the text and would recommend you pick it up and do the same.

Better Every Day,

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