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Weekend Warrior Fitness - Metabolic Conditioning

Last week we talked about the base of our pyramid, nutrition. This week will be the next level in our pyramid, metabolic conditioning. Metabolic conditioning is often thought of as cardio, but it is much more than that.

Let’s talk about an idea you have likely not heard before. Metabolic pathways.

Three metabolic “pathways” exist, and it is important to understand all three and how to keep these in mind when training.

The phosphagen pathway, provides the bulk of energy used in highest-powered activities, those that last less than ten seconds. Think 40 yd dash, max effort deadlift, or running from a bear.

The glycolytic pathway is used mostly in in medium exertion movements. These movements can last of up to several minutes. Think 1 lap or two laps around a high school track and your highest level of effort up to about a 1-mile run for elite athletes.

The final pathway is known as the oxidative pathway and it provides energy for lower tings like a 5k or a Motocross race. These activities tend to be longer than 10 minutes or so.

Now let’s talk about a couple of terms you have likely heard before anaerobic and aerobic. Anaerobic meaning “without oxygen”, Aerobic meaning in the presence of oxygen.

The first two pathways we discussed, phosphagen and glycolytic live in the anaerobic world. Think about the last time you gave all-out effort on sprint or some other short high intensity activity. You feel lightheaded, possibly a copper taste in your mouth, your heart is pounding.

The last pathway, the oxidative pathway is in the aerobic realm. Running on the treadmill for 20 minutes, long walks on the beach, etc. Getting your “cardio” on is often akin to these activities

Now I bet you have heard that “cardio” is the way to go for weight loss and overall health. Have you ever wondered why you almost never see “fit” people on the treadmill? Long periods of cardio get you better at doing long periods of cardio. It does not make the changes we want to see in our bodies. (less fat, more muscle, improved mobility)

Take a look at these two images, who looks more “fit”? The marathoners or the sprinter?








Anaerobic exercise builds muscle; aerobic exercise burns muscle - period.

The muscle wasting nature of aerobic exercise is both cause and symptom of the deleterious effect that endurance work can have on anaerobic performance.

Often times you see Motocross racers putting in 100s of miles on a bike. They could likely get better performance doing wind sprints on those bikes. Is it wrong to ride 100 miles on your bike? Of course not, it’s fun, it is a great way to see the outdoors, and you get to wear those cool shorts and clippy shoes.

Anaerobic training not only improves “sprint” capacity (your average local motocross race is a 4-8 lap sprint) it’s also of great benefit to endurance racers (3hr Cross country circuits)

So how do we train?

Intervals and Tabata are the easiest.

An example of an interval workout would be to head to the local school track and do 8 laps, alternating all out sprint for half a lap and recover with a slow run for half a lap.

Tabata is the way to go for at home training. It’s simple. 8 rounds of 20 seconds of work, followed by 10 seconds of rest. It takes four minutes to complete. I like to do 3 total sets. With one minute of rest in between each set.

A Tabata workout would look like this

20 second Shuttle Run (back and forth to end of your driveway, try and go at least 20 feet or so)

10 seconds rest

20 second Shuttle Run (back and forth to end of your driveway, try and go at least 20 feet or so)

10 second rest

20 second Shuttle Run (back and forth to end of your driveway, try and go at least 20 feet or so)

10 second rest

20 second Shuttle Run (back and forth to end of your driveway, try and go at least 20 feet or so)

10 second rest

Rest 1 minute

20 seconds of pushups

10 seconds rest

20 seconds of pushups

10 seconds rest

20 seconds of pushups

10 seconds rest

20 seconds of pushups

10 seconds rest

Rest 1 minutes

20 seconds of air squat. (try and get your hips lower than your knee)

10 seconds of rest

20 seconds of air squat. (try and get your hips lower than your knee)

10 seconds of rest

20 seconds of air squat. (try and get your hips lower than your knee)

10 seconds of rest

20 seconds of air squat. (try and get your hips lower than your knee)

10 seconds of rest

14-minute total time.

Test it yourself. Run a mile or two and do your best to record how you feel and your time. Or do a 5-lap race sprint simulation next time you are at the track and record how you feel/time.

Do intervals and Tabata for 2-3 weeks. Then retest. Your mile will be faster, you will recover faster, you will feel stronger on the bike.

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Northern California, CA, USA