Intelligent Conditioning

This past weekend Max, Brian and I had the pleasure of attending the Perform Better 3-Day Summit in Long Beach.  There was a ton of information presented over 2 and half days and a good time was had by all.  One such presentation that stood out to me as something that I wanted to write about was given by Martin Rooney.  His topic was specifically about metabolic conditioning, but was packed with other valuable information as well as his patented motivation.  Without giving too much away, Martin gave a brief history of metabolic training and how it has evolved from simply walking or running to the aerobics craze, cardio machines, group classes and then to what we see more commonly today which is boot camp style classes, alleged military type training and things like P90X and Insanity.  I have written about my thoughts concerning P90X and Insanity in the past (here).

Martin pointed out all too often when it comes to the metabolic training there is an emphasis on quantity over quality, intensity over technique and fatigue as the goal.  This is not a good way to train and most of us as either athletes or coaches have been guilty of the above at some point.  He suggested that there are 6 factors that need to be considered in a metabolic session: exercise selection, speed of movement, duration, number of exercises, rest periods and number of circuits. Although the conditioning is to build adaptation and endure the hard work, the reasoning should not be to simply make someone tired or sore.  Coaches should first be asking, what are the goals of the session and what is the manner of how to progress them?  I’ve said it many times before, progression and goals should drive the design of your training.

The last part that I found extremely interesting was Martin’s idea of minimal effective dose.  I have written about this myself after I heard coach Mike Boyle talk about it.  The comparisons Martin made really clicked with me.  He suggested that it isn’t smart to take a high dosage of drugs to treat something, just the prescribed or minimal effective dose.  The same could be said for eating.  Eating a dosage that’s higher than you should leads to getting fat.  Well, the same can be said for training, in this case metabolically.  More is not always better.  Just the right amount based on your goal is best.  Along the same lines, I finished the book “Good To Great Today” and although it is specifically related to business I believe it applies here and it said this, “… the point is to realize that much much of what we’re doing is at best a waste of energy.  If we organized the majority of our work time around applying “these” principles, and pretty much ignored or stopped doing everything else, our lives would be simpler and our results vastly improved.”  In other words, simplify your training to what is needed and strip away the extra junk.  This sounds to me like Occam’s Razor and the idea that all things being equal, the simplest way or explanation is better than a more complex.

Take home points.  Even in the world of conditioning there needs to be a reason for doing what you are doing.  It isn’t smart to strength train by just doing random exercises with no regard for reps and sets, nor should your conditioning be that way.  Technique and quality will always be paramount, then it’s ok to take things up a notch.  If those slip it’s time to stop.  Minimal effective dosage is what you need to move towards your goals.  It’s minimal effective, not minimal no effort, I’m afraid to lift heavy things and push myself.  That’s the idea behind the 80% Rule, Easy Strength, etc.  Don’t forget the old adage “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should”.

– Mike Baltren

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