12617// Metabolic Conditioning
6 Rounds For Time
10 Toes to Bar
20 AbMat Sit Up
4 Wall Walk
We throw around the term metabolic conditioning or MetCon quite a bit. It gets a bit murky as to what all a metabolic conditioning workout entails, so I typically will just say conditioning because it has that connotation that harkens back to the last 15 minutes of your sports practices where coach said they’re trying to make you better. In sport that time might’ve been better spent learning the game for 15 more minutes, but that’s another blog post entirely.
For fitness and life though, your coach was doing you a grand favor with those end-of-practice suck-fests! We have 3 known metabolic pathways. That is, we use fuel 3 different ways and they’re dependent on the duration and exertion or load. Without going to each specifically, one is a very short length of time as well as the highest exertion and uses already stored energy (short sprint, tall box jump, heavy squat). It’s ready to roll at any moment’s notice (stored ATP). The next lasts a little bit longer, like 4-6 minutes, longer even in trained athletes. That fuel is glycogen that is just ready to be broken into ATP. It’s pretty quick, but not as fast as the basically pre-made energy for that first system. When you run out of the glycogen stuff, you can make more, but it takes longer, also, the byproduct of burning that glycogen gets painful if you can’t buffer it quick enough. You’re out of energy and it’s painful, so you slow down so your body can make more glycogen out of fat. We can do that for infinity and actually you have been doing it for however long you’ve been alive!
You’re usually working continuously in at least 2 of the three energy systems at some ratio depending on your exertion and the amount of time at that exertion. When we program and do met-cons we’re trying to tax or challenge these metabolic pathways. The pain or discomfort you experience is just that. Whenever you’re doing a movement or level of exertion that is probably better suited for a different pathway, that’s painful, that’s conditioning! We can challenge the first pathway by having a stimulus like a sprint that extends beyond what could normally be supplied by that initial short burst of energy. We can tax that second pathway by maybe trying to move a heavier load a further distance. We can get to that painful place and then rely on the third and longest pathway to buffer the pain from the second pathway. And we can do those things exclusively or all in the same wod.
The best way to achieve all this of course is functional movements. Multi-Joint and high force producing exercises take a lot of energy. We can cross each energy system with just squats or burpees and do them against the clock— any clock— and we’re moving back and forth across whatever energy system we want to improve.
When you corner someone at a party or force a family member into listening to you talk about CrossFit, you can describe Metabolic conditioning like, “We go really hard because all the best changes happen when it gets uncomfortable! We just move as fast as possible while trying to be safe and our bodies just get better all around.”
ps Mac says we need tables for Bunco at the Christmas party