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!

4 thoughts on “What Are You Training For?”

  1. One of my fave quotes:

    “That’s not your legs giving out…it’s your head giving up”

  2. This is really interesting, You are a very skilled blogger. I’ve joined your feed and look forward to seeking more of your fantastic post. Also, I have shared your website in my social networks!

    1. Thanks for the encouragement, Lance! We really appreciate your help spreading the word about! Please let us know of any way we can help you toward reaching your fitness goals!

      God bless,

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