What a change of pace — literally — for 2018 World’s Strongest Man (WSM) Hafthor Björnsson and 2019 WSM Martins Licis. On Aug. 11, 2021, Licis posted a video on his YouTube channel that featured their day on the track. Licis and Björnsson have trained together before, but it involved heavy weights, a yoke, and sandbags in the Icelandic’s gym. This time around, they moved their training outside for a 3.75-mile jog — equivalent to 15 laps around a 400-meter track.
Check out the video below of the two strongmen working on their cardio. The strongman-turned-boxer was able to perform all 15 laps unbroken. Licis required a few bathroom breaks and only completed two-thirds of the run due to his calves seizing up:
Björnsson had an easier time with the steady jog thanks to his shift to training as a full-time boxer in preparation for his postponed bout against 2017 WSM Eddie Hall, who recently suffered a biceps injury. Björnsson has lost over 50 kilograms (110.2 pounds) following a 3,600-calorie diet — down from his 8,000-calorie strongman diet.
Licis struggled pretty heavily with the jog as his training is focused more on returning to strongman competition. He has been absent from the WSM roster since winning that contest in 2019 due to various injuries. He is expected to return to the competitive strongman stage at the 2021 Rogue Invitational at the end of October in Austin, TX.
Track and Having a Field Day
At the end of lap two, Licis stopped so he could use the bathroom. When he returned to the track, he wasn’t feeling too confident in his cardio:
I think I have five laps in me at most. My calves and shins are already tensing up.
Licis endured two more laps to complete mile one before pausing again. Through very heavy breathing, Licis exclaimed how much he hated the run:
Why do people do this? There’s nothing good about it. It’s not even good for health. There’s no way it’s good for health.
That was likely the heat of the moment talking, as there is actually a lot of science behind the benefits of slow and steady jogging. A 12-week long randomized controlled trial in the European Journal of Applied Physiology found that low-intensity, slow-jogging “improved aerobic capacity, muscle function, and muscle composition.” (1)
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Licis noted at the beginning of the run that he planned to “train events tomorrow,” presumably meaning strongman events, but he would see how he felt after this cardio session with Björnsson. Fortunately, slow and steady jogging is a reasonable option when trying to manage energy expenditure. Energy requirements for a commonly run distance in recreational endurance training — meaning anything up to 8000 meters (five miles) — are not “relevantly” different between jogging fast or slow. Distance is the most influential factor for energy expenditure. (2)
By the conclusion of lap five, Licis’s description of what Björnsson looked like during the run took on some pretty creative visuals:
…like a human gigantic metronome…a silverback elephant human…a giant grandfather clock.
Licis was impressed by Björnsson’s capacity to maintain the same pace through all 15 laps. Björnsson’s cardio training with 2021 CrossFit Games bronze medalist Annie Thorisdottir seems to be paying dividends.
Running Into the Future
Unfortunately, Björnsson is still waiting to learn who Hall’s replacement will be for the bout relocated from Las Vegas to the United Arab Emirates. Licis, however, is gearing up for his return to strongman competition in October. We’ll see if his training sessions with “The Mountain,” Odd Haugen, and Action Bronson lead to his return to the podium.
- Masahiro Ikenaga, et al. Effects of a 12-week, short-interval, intermittent, low-intensity, slow-jogging program on skeletal muscle, fat infiltration, and fitness in older adults: randomized controlled trial. 2017. European Journal of Applied Physiology. doi: 10.1007/s00421-016-3493-9.
- Friederike Rosenberger, et al. Running 8000 meters fast or slow: Are there differences in energy cost and fat metabolism?. 2005. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. doi: 10.1249/01.mss.0000176401.92974.81.
Featured image: @martinslicis on Instagram