Wednesday, May 25, 2011

It's A Different Kind of Fitness

One of the high points and low points of my trip to Iraq in 2006 was finding a group training in mixed martial arts.  I joined the class and promptly dislocated three fingers.  So, I didn't learn a lot about mixed martial arts except - don't spar with a huge 22 year old on your first class.

But while I was there, visiting with the instructor, we stumbled across the remarkably different experience of work one feels when fighting.  You can run, lift, hit a bag, but when you start rolling, with the kind of inexperienced exuberance most beginners have, the metabolic impact is severe and rapid.  In no time, one feels weak like a kitten.  As the instructor said, "It's a different kind of fitness."

It sure is.

Mostly, what's different about it is the glycolytic energy pathway.  Glycolysis allows your body to generate a large percentage of the maximal force it can generate - but for much, much longer than it can generate maximal force.  In most sport, glycolysis carries the day - with the exception of those sports dedicated to not working very hard for a long, long time, such as marathoning.

Of course after my experiment in MMA went south, I found CrossFit.  CF is about maximizing fitness via full court press of glycolytic workouts.  Most of you are doing CF or would be if you could by now.  So what do you do if you can't do CF just yet, but still want fitness?

The short answer is - work extremely hard, for extremely short durations.  Pull a sled, do pushups, repeat for 5 minutes.  When you can repeat with 50% more reps, increase the time limit until you can hold the pace for 10 minutes.  Do 20 air squats, pick up a rock or a sandbag and run across the lawn and back.  Repeat for 7 rounds, and note how long it took.  Try and do it faster the next time.  Deadlift the heavy sandbag 15 reps, run a half mile.  Repeat three times and note the total time.  Do faster next time.

There's no limit to the number of the simple, intense workouts that could be dreamed up.  Dream a few and see what you can do with glycolysis.

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