What Are You Training For?

Here at TotalThriver, we love to discuss the importance of a challenging fitness regimen, encouraging you to make physical training a priority and reap the many benefits that come with it.  But, there are different ideas of what ideal fitness looks like.  Today, we’ll introduce three measures (or perspectives) of fitness in order to help you identify what type of training fits you best.  By knowing what you want to achieve in the realm of fitness, you’ll be a good way along in reaching your ideal!

You’ll Go Far

The first fitness type we’ll examine is cardiovascular endurance.  This may be your focus if your goal is to have a thin body with lean muscle that is capable of running long distances.  Picture your favorite marathon or iron man competitor, and this will give you an idea of what you’re aiming at.  Personally, when I think of cardiovascular endurance, I think of Lance Armstrong, the seven-time winner of the Tour de France.  He doesn’t’ have a large muscular stature, but he can pedal that bike seemingly endlessly!

Training the cardiovascular system involves long periods of a relatively easy movement, repeated over and over.  Endurence trainers will often spend hours and hours training every day, always staying at a “slow burn.”.  By definition, their effort in training will never be at absolute maximum, because this would be unsustainable.  Rather, an endurance athlete may spend 2.5 hours in a single training session at a consistent 60% effort.

What you Get

This type of fitness regimen gives the athlete a well-developed set of lungs, and muscles that can sustain hours and hours of the repetitive motion that is being trained.  Common applications of this type of fitness include biking, running, swimming, or rowing.  If you focus on this training type, you’ll soon find that many everyday activities which used to make you huff and puff (e.g. climbing three flights of stairs) can now be accomplished with ease.  You may also enjoy the slimmer-looking you that results from long training sessions which burn lots of calories and fat.

Lift a Bus

The second fitness type is strength training or training for raw power.  This kind of training focuses on lifting heavy objects, usually for a very short period of time.  In contrast with a marathon runner training cardiovascular fitness, a strength training individual may push himself to maximal effort during a set of squats that lasts less than 30 seconds.  Then, he’ll rest for a few minutes before attempting another set.

When thinking of strength training, my quintessential example has to be Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Every muscle group on this man is full, developed, and in proportion to all the others.  He can (or at least could, in his day) lift very heavy barbells and perform dazzling feats of strength.  His training involved hours and hours at the gym, pushing with maximum effort, followed by a short rest, repeated over and over for many years to reach his ideal form.

Good to Have Around

You may want to focus on this type of training if you desire to have a strong and healthy “beach body,” look or if it’s important to you to have the capability of lifting heavy things.  Important exercises to include in your program for this type include deadlifts, squats, snatches, and clean and jerks.  These movements should be done in heavy sets at low reps—5 sets of 5 reps or 7 sets of 2 reps, for example, resting a minute or two between sets.  Those who make strength training a focus are great to have around anytime you need to move a piano or large dresser!

Fast and Strong

The third type of fitness we’ll examine today is called metabolic conditioning. In some ways, this type can be thought of as a cross between the first two.  It involves challenging movements like pullups, dips, snatches, and deadlifts, but also incorporates continuous movement and “easy” high-rep movements like burpees, box jumps, and running.  It will generally require significantly less training time than the other two, because the highest possible intensity is maintained for a continuous span of 5-20 minutes.  This is in contrast with the low-intensity “slow burn” of endurance training and the alternating periods of maximum effort followed by a rest period, which make up a strength training program.

Don’t Be Fooled

A metabolic conditioning workout (or metcon, as it’s lovingly called by those who train this way) involves multiple sets of various movements, done in rapid succession while the entire workout is timed.  For example, one might do 5 sets of the following rep scheme:  15 pushups, 10 pullups, 5 box jumps.  Before you make a common mistake that I’m often guilty of, don’t say, “that sounds easy!”   Metcons can be very deceiving!  This one in particular results in a grand total of 75 pushups, 50 pullups, and 25 box jumps, and might take around 4-5 minutes for a relatively fit individual. 

This type of training focus results in a strong and solid body, with a very developed set of lungs.  A good example of a “metcon body” might be Bruce Lee.  He didn’t look big or muscle-bound, but he was a very strong and fast guy, and could kick and jump all around the room with plenty of energy to spare.  While a person who trains this way may not be able to hang with an endurance trainer for a full marathon, he’d likely keep pace just fine for the first several miles.  Similarly, a metcon trainer will not be able to move as much heavy weight as a strength trainer, but he’ll be able to continue churning out reps while the strength trainer has to stop to rest and catch his breath.

When You Think You’re Spent…

One of the tricks of making it through a tough metcon is to push yourself to the limit, then take very short breaks intermittently (by very short, I mean 2-3 seconds maximum).  There will be moments where you think you can’t possibly make it, but keep pushing and you’ll soon find that you’re fitter than you think!

Customize Your Plan

Hopefully you now have a good understanding of three types of fitness focus:  endurance training, strength training, and metcon training.  Each has distinct benefits, and in truth, any good program should incorporate all three types of training.  But, it is a valuable undertaking for you to learn these different perspectives and think about which one most appeals to you.  Do you want to be lean and trim, capable of extended periods of low-intensity movement?  Or do you want to have massive power and full, developed muscles?  Or, do you prefer to run shorter distances yet have the capability to move heavy weights too?  Be sure that your program pulls from each—a run one day, heavy squats another, and a good metcon another.  But spend a majority of days training in your preferred style.  Not only will that take you where you want to go, but you’ll enjoy it more along the way too!

As always, check out the ThriveFit page for several sample workouts to get you started, and be sure to comment on that page or this one to let us know how you’re doing!

Why Go?

What do you do with good news?  When you hear that a friend’s baby was born, do you keep it quiet?  When you try a new restaurant and find the food to be amazing, do you hide the place from others?  Of course not!  We love to share good news with our friends, and it’s very satisfying to see another person take advantage of a great opportunity we’ve found and enlightened them about.  But what about the greatest news of all?  Are we good sharers of this news?

The news I’m referring to is the gospel of Christ—the truth that Jesus came down from heaven to become man, live a perfect life, and die on the cross as payment for the sin that His people had committed.  The news that by turning from our sin and putting our faith in him, we can be washed clean and given a new life, to serve out Lord and work for His purposes.  And that a relationship with Christ will make our joy complete and allow us to spend eternity in the blissful worship of our Savior and Creator.

Surely there can be no better news than this!  And yet, so often we are quiet about these truths to the people who need to hear it most—our friends and neighbors.  Steven Curtis Chapman paints the craziness of this in the following metaphor:

Imagine this…I get a phone call from Regis
He says, “Do you want to be a millionaire?”
They put me on the show and I win with two lifelines to spare
Now picture this…I act like nothing ever happened
And bury all the money in a coffee can
Well, I’ve been given more than Regis ever gave away
I was a dead man who was called to come out of my grave


We wouldn’t hide the fact that we received a huge treasure if it came in dollar bills, so in the same way, we should naturally tell others about the huge treasure we received from Jesus in redemption.  Not only has our debt of sin been paid, but we have received riches beyond imagination both in this life and in the life to come through the blessing of God Almighty.

It is for the purpose of sharing this great gospel that I will embark on a trip with my local church this summer to Indiahoma, Oklahoma.  Calvary Baptist Church in Lenexa, Kansas will be sending a team to Indiahoma to help a local church host a Vacation Bible School for the kids of the town.  We will also be reaching out to the community by hosting a neighborhood barbeque and conducting a worship service.  We will be seeking opportunities to tell everyone we meet about the love of Jesus Christ and his gospel.

If you would like to be a part of this outreach, we would appreciate your fervent prayers.  Pray that God would show us His will, that we would be filled with His Spirit, and that He would prepare the hearts of those whom we will meet.

Secondly, if you would take a few moments to check out the ThriveMart store by clicking the “Store” link on the top right of this page, you’ll find a plethora of exceptional products designed to make your life easier and simpler.  All profit made on purchases in the month of June will go directly to the Indiahoma Mission Trip fund, so you can buy products you need and support local missions at the same time!

If you have any questions about any of the products or the 180-day satisfaction guarantee, please don’t hesitate to send a message.  Thanks for your support and may the gospel be ever on your lips!

Invest or Save

In today’s post, we’ll explore the important distinction between saving and investing — two terms that, though often erroneously used interchangeably, must be treated in distinctly different ways on your path toward a thriving life.

Be Prepared for the Unexpected

Saving ought to be done first — and for a specific purpose.  As we’ve discussed previously, one of the first milestones you need to hit as you pursue the thriving life is to save a full emergency fund of 3-6 months of expenses.  The emergency fund is not an investment; rather, it exists to protect you from the unexpected expenses that will most certainly come your way.

Damage car

Great places to keep an emergency fund include savings accounts and money market accounts (fnbodirect.com is a great place to get started).  Though the interest you’ll typically earn on such accounts is quite low, they provide a few important benefits that you need for emergency savings.  First, your principle is protected.  This means that your value won’t go down in times of economic recession.  This is important because oftentimes unexpected drains on your cash will come during times of economic hardship nationwide.  With your savings in an account at a bank or in a money market account, you can rest assured that the $10k that you put in will be there when you need it.

Make Your Money Make Money

On the other hand, an investment ought to involve significant growth.  While a savings account is earning less than one percent, a good investment should earn in the neighborhood of ten percent.  But here’s the catch: that 10% rarely comes linearly.  Unlike a savings account which will return 0.5% per year, every year, an investment may earn 5% one year, 30% the next, and -15% the year after that.  The returns are a function of the market you’re invested in (e.g., the stock market or the housing market), so you never know how the investment will do in a given year.  But, you can look at history to draw reasonable conclusions at what the investment should do long term.

Exhibit A

Take for example a mutual fund we’re quite fond of here at totalthriver.com:  Fidelity Contrafund.  This fund is primarily comprised of stocks of large U.S. companies such as Google, McDonald’s, and Coca-Cola.  The following chart shows the return for each of the last four years:

2008 2009 2010 2011
19.78 -37.16 29.23 16.93

As you can see, 2010 was a great year for this investment, and 2009 was a lousy one.  Of course if you knew that ahead of time you could make a killing!  But since none of us have such knowledge of the future, we must simply follow the averages.  This fund in particular has averaged 15% per year over the past 3 years, and 8% per year over the past 15 years.

Time Horizon is Important

Because even good investments like this one can fluctuate violently, most financial experts only recommend investing when you plan to leave the money alone for five years or more.  Generally, this is a long enough period to ride out the turbulent ups and downs of the market, and give yourself a high probability of making money with your investment.  For short-term savings (e.g. for a newer car or living room set), you’re usually better off to take the guaranteed 0.5% of your money market than risk losing 20% of your money should the market take a bad turn one year.

Make It Happen

In closing, it’s very important to recognize the difference between saving and investing.  As you make progress toward your financial goals, you’ll need to be very intentional with which of the two you’re doing.  Will you be using the money in the next two years?  Open a money market.  Will you be leaving the money alone for the next five years?  An account with scottrade.com or a visit to your local financial advisor (see the “investing ELP” section at DaveRamsey.com) are great places to start.  And as always, be sure to check back at TotalThriver for help along the way!