In the 70s/80s/90s, long-term aerobic capacity was the gold standard of fitness. Think marathoning in the 70s, aerobics in the 80s, and Spinning ® in the 90s. Yet, as of late, fitness professionals and whole companies have built businesses on the concept of building cardiac power: using brief (60-120sec) intervals of very high intensity effort (max heart rate) followed by 2-5 minutes, an athlete can increase the size, mitochondrial density, and contractile power of their heart, which means the heart has to work less hard to do the same work, so it’s less likely to fatigue. This, in turn, means we can continue to do that hard, short work. Win!
Truly, as CrossFitters (slash first responders, slash burst-sport athletes like football players and MMA fighters, etc, ect), it is very important to train this aspect of cardiovascular fitness, because it fits the form of what we often do for exercise (slash work). And, as we know, that aforementioned, old-fashioned/long-distance/slow-moving cardio does not build lean mass, nor does it improve your explosively/agility. So, why Endurance WODs?
It turns out, building your heart as a muscle is not necessarily the same thing as building it’s capacity for work, especially over time. Quite literally, doing low/moderate intensity work (130-150 heart beats for minute, or 13-15/20 rate of perceived exertion, 20 being max effort) for sustained periods of time (at least 30 min, better 60!), forces your heart to grow (specifically, your left ventricle). This means it can hold more blood, so when it pumps, it forces more blood out to your muscles, etc., while maintaining a relatively lower heart rate. Efficiency! And, this effect applies to working and rest heart rates, so your bod gets to enjoy this efficient, oxygen/nutrient/hormone-carrying blood-flow 24-7!
But, who cares about overall health and longevity?! (That’s a joke, I hope…?)
How will training your cardiovascular endurance make you a better CROSSFITTER?!!??!
Check that out. It’s clear that your body’s alactic energy production system provides the high-energy power you need for work that lasts 10-12 seconds, and that your anaerobic lactic system (mid-power) is behind 60-90 second bouts. However, if you look carefully, the AEROBIC process is ALWAYS helping, even during the first few seconds of effort! And, as the only energy system that can break down your bodily fats for fuel, it’s able to take advantage of the fact that 1 gram of fat yields 9 calories of energy, vs 4 calories for a gram of carbohydrate. This means that, once your aerobic system starts doing its job, it can just keep doing it, so you will be less likely to fatigue should you have a workout bout that lasts longer than 90 seconds.
Finally, what’s cool about the aerobic process is that it works to refuel the other two processes once those energy sources have been depleted. Think of last Monday’s WOD (1 C&J every :30 for 10 minutes): although your alactic system helps your explosively complete the lift, it’s your aerobic system that sustains you, and allows you to maintain that energy in minute 10. Note: our classes at CrossFit Route 1 are an hour… just think how much more work you could get done during the last 2 minutes of your WOD if your aerobic system was strong enough to carry you for the remaining 58.5 minutes of class, long after your lactic energy production has pooped out!
If you can build your aerobic capacity and aerobic power you can increase your aerobic threshold, meaning you can work harder and faster before becoming dependent on lactic/alactic energy production. In other words, you can push a higher RPM (or heart rate) without having to shift into a higher gear. Seeing as those higher gears (alactic/lactic energy metabolism) come with nasty side effects like rapid fatigue and metabolic by-products (helloooo AirDyne sprints and swollen quads!), this is a very good thing.
Now, the downside is that it takes a few more steps for your body to create ATP (read: “cellular energy”) aerobically. That’s why it isn’t as powerful (or quick to kick in) as alactic or lactic production. Yet, energy production is largely limited by oxygen supply… all it really needs is oxygen to do its job. Therefore, THIS is why it’s so important that we take just ONE hour a week to train this energy pathway: it is the underlying foundation that will make all the rest of your workouts even more successful, but it can only be improved with SPECIFIC methodologies that will heighten your body’s ability to deliver more oxygen to your cells.
To review: this means lower intensity… think 6.7-7.5/10 effort, or 65-75% of max effort. And it means that it needs to be basically sustained for 30-90 minutes. This can be running, rowing, swimming, jumping rope, agility drills, biking, lightly weighted movements, bodyweight movements, etc, etc, and can be a combination of any of those. And it only needs to be done 1-3x/wk to derive big benefits! Whoop!!!!
I rest my case. See you at the next Endurance WOD- Sunday, 11/23 @ 9am.
PS… And for those of you who just want to look good naked? True, CrossFit-style intervals and weightlifting do have a more favorable hormonal/systemic response than a long, slow run. This is why long distance runners are not super jacked, and might even be slightly “skinny-fat”. But remember two things:
A) I am not telling you to go for a 3-mile run every morning, instead of coming to CrossFit. H*LLLLLL NO. I want you to continue taking your 3-5 classes/wk, I just want you to add in some endurance work 1 day a week.
B) Running/rowing/etc for 60 minutes burns a LOT of calories while you are doing it, it just doesn’t burn quite as much AFTER the workout as an interval/strength workout might. In other words, while your body might burn “1/2X” during a brief, high intensity WOD and an additional “1/2X” in the 24 hours following that WOD, you would instead have burned “X” during your 5 mile run, but not much once you stop running. Either way, you still earned “X” calories worth of Boloco/margaritas/whatever
Cite: Jamieson, Joel. "The Aerobic System." Ultimate MMA Conditioning. Kirkland, WA: Performance Sports, 2009.
Snatch@ 90-95% x 1
1 snatch every :30 @65%
This is the last week of our Oly cycle. There will be a deload period from tue-thurs. We will then test our 1rm friday. Make sure to get plenty of sleep this week and eat a lot of clean food.