You have probably been exercising without fail for a while and have seen incredible results including shedding fat, building muscle, cardiovascular fitness and ripped abs.
Recently however, you have noticed that you cannot sustain your energy levels throughout your MetCon sets (short for metabolic conditioning). To address this regression, you have probably started lifting more and increasing your sets and frequency, but nothing seems to work.
Find the Real Cause of Your Problem
The source of your ‘regression’ is that you have made the ultimate crossfit training mistake. That is, you have neglected your aerobic system, which is key to having better performance.
When taking part in crossfit training, the tendency is to focus on developing strength, with little attention paid to aerobic capability. The reason why this happens is because the MetCon workouts used by crossfitters tend to be high intensity interval workouts, which are built more for power as opposed to aerobic conditioning.
MetCon is useful, especially in conditioning crossfit beginners. As you get fitter though, such strategies might actually be standing in the way of making more progress.
Understand the Body’s Energy System
Your body uses ATP (short for adenosine triphosphate) for metabolism. ATP is produced during aerobic and anaerobic activity. Though it takes longer to produce ATP during aerobic metabolism, you will get more ATP produced aerobically than anaerobically, and it also tends to last you longer, meaning you can work out for longer periods of time without fatiguing.
A good example would be the comparison in the performance between marathoners and sprinters. Marathoners use the aerobic system and thus can run for hours, while sprinters use anaerobic system and thus get fatigued after running just 100 meters for 10 seconds.
This endurance in marathoners is a result of a stronger aerobic system. Developing your aerobic system is thus important for the following reasons:
- The aerobic system is responsible for resynthesizing creatine phosphate, which is important within the first 10 seconds of any activity.
- After intense exertion (during which the sympathetic response, otherwise known as the fight or flight is triggered), the aerobic system will help you to return you to calm by initiating the parasympathetic response (responsible for rest and digestion). If the fight or flight response is not managed, your body will remain in its stressful state, during which your heart rate will remain elevated. This, in turn, will cause you to fatigue
What You Need To Do
ATP is made in the mitochondria, which is responsible for providing power to your body’s cells. Aerobic metabolism takes place in the mitochondria. Therefore, if you do more aerobic activity, you will build more mitochondria, which means you will produce more ATP, hence more energy. The more anaerobic (or lactic) activity you do, the more you will destroy mitochondria, meaning you will not have enough ATP production to sustain energy.
Key for you to remember therefore is that aerobic training is the key for sustained energy during crossfit training.
Aerobic Activity Is Also Important For the Heart
Another important distinction to make is the differences noted in the efficiency with which the heart performs in athletes who focus on aerobic activity versus those who focus on anaerobic activity.
Blood enters the heart through the right atrium and leaves through the right ventricle to get oxygen in the lungs before reentering the heart through the left atrium, then exiting into the rest of the body through the left ventricle.
Anaerobic activity causes a thickening of the left ventricle, which makes it smaller and less elastic, meaning it will eject lesser blood; hence lesser oxygen will get to the rest of your body. The opposite is the case for aerobic athletes, meaning they will have higher oxygen supplies during their workouts.
The bottom line for you is that, you have only been training your lactic anaerobic system, and you now need to incorporate aerobic activity (purely cardio workouts) that will make your left ventricle more elastic, increase ATP production in the mitochondria and thus ensure better crossfit training as you will have more energy and oxygen in your blood.