When implemented correctly, there are few strength and conditioning programs that can match the effectiveness of a mixed modal training regimen like . , however, is not the end all, be all of general athletic preparedness programming. Implementing traditional principles of is a good start towards a marked improvement of your health and performance, but how long can you handle the volume of intensity before you start to break down? Are you looking to make your favored athletic activity for one year or years?! Over the next couple of weeks, I will share with you a couple of strategies for increasing your longevity in the sport of .
1. Not training hard every single day.
We need to train hard to see improvements in our fitness, but that doesn’t mean that we need to smash ourselves every single day. According to traditional principles of , by training different combinations of body parts/movements (squatting v. hip hinging, v. upper body vertical pressing, etc.) you enable yourself to go hard all the time, specifically during conditioning WODs. Sure, you are using different muscles when performing a squat compared to an overhead press, but the intensity at which you perform the day’s workout has a tremendous impact on your central nervous system (CNS) as well the balance of anabolic (muscle building) and catabolic (muscle breaking) hormones.
Originally posited by Archibald Hill in 1924 but widely credited to exercise physiologist Timothy Noakes, the “central governor” theory, argues that muscular fatigue is a defense mechanism initiated by the body’s CNS to protect its vital organs from ischaemia, or a restriction in blood supply, and subsequent hypoxia, or a reduced oxygen supply to a body part or region. Afferent neurons, or nerves that carry impulses to the CNS, sense activity that is beyond the ability of the body to handle. In turn, the CNS reduces the ability of the efferent neurons, or nerves that carry impulses away from the CNS, to activate the muscles that allow movement to occur. With fewer muscle fibers able to be recruited, the intensity level of exercise cannot be sustained. (T. D. Noakes, et al. p 3232.) Repetitive exposure to stimuli that stress the CNS beyond the body’s ability to recover and then supercompensate i.e. get stronger, will not only your lower performance, but can lead to disruptions in sleep, loss of libido (NOOOO!) and appetite, and increased chance for injury and illness.
Excessive high intensity workouts that take the body to an anaerobic state also offsets the balance of anabolic hormones (like testosterone) and catabolic hormones (such as cortisol). While there are many different hormones that impact the process of muscle building and degeneration, and though cortisol is an essential component to the body’s “fight or flight” response, extended exposure to high levels of cortisol retard the body’s ability to grow muscle. (Bachele and Earle, p 61.) Too many barn burning WODS not only throws your CNS out of whack, but they also disrupt your body’s hormonal balance.
The first way to prolong your involvement in is understanding the importance of paced work during your conditioning. Instead of putting the pedal to the metal after the “3-2-1 Go!”, try and maintain a consistent steady pace throughout your workout. In a rounds for time or AMRAP style workout, try and make each round fall within 10-20 seconds of each other. At the conclusion of each of these types of workouts, you should feel like you have worked hard, but not to the point where you are peeling yourself up off the floor from a pool of your own sweat and vomit. Pacing WODs helps develop your body’s aerobic system. By staying away from the “redline” you teach your body how to properly utilize oxygen and metabolize an energy dense fuel source like fat. Now, I am in no way saying that all conditioning work needs to be paced in an aerobic style. Rather, I am arguing (depending on the time of the competitive season) that the bulk of your conditioning needs to be done aerobically. Building a big aerobic capacity will allow you to better handle larger volumes of work (even anaerobic work) and help you better recover between workouts.
Part 2: Train the Planes! Stay tuned!
Thomas Baechle and Roger Earle. Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning, 3rd edition. Human Kinetics. Champaign, IL (2008)
T.D. Noakes, J. E. Peltonen, and H. K. Rusko “Evidence that a central governor regulates exercise performance during acute hypoxia and hyperoxia” The Journal of Experimental Biology 204, 3225–3234 (2001).