In the early days of coaching – back when I mostly did personal training – I had a client that was an ultramarathon runner. He came to me because he had heard that strength training would be good for his running but was skeptical about how little “Cardio” training we were doing.
After a month or so of training, Dan shows up to one of our sessions with a massive grin and he says. “Ya know, I had a 50k this weekend and I wasn’t sure if I was going to finish. I definitely expected to be slower since I’ve been running less and getting older – but I ran my fastest 50k yet!” I laughed a little (mostly a sigh of relief) because at that moment I knew trusting in the system worked.
We must train our body with a variety of movements and intensities and I have found it is best to rotate focuses to decrease burnout and improve longevity.
When people refer to “cardio” training they are often referring to aerobic exercise or long sustained exercise. But Aerobic training only utilizes one of our three main energy systems and isn’t the only way to improve cardiovascular health.
Our body has three main ways of getting energy to our muscles so they can do work: The Alactic anaerobic (creatine-phosphate) system, Lactic Anaerobic, and the Aerobic system.
Each of these systems serve a slightly different role, and work together to keep our bodies moving. The creatine phosphate system produces energy quickly and gives us the power to lift heavy things and move quickly. The lactic anaerobic system allows us to move quickly but for longer periods of time (up to a few minutes in conditioned athletes). And the Aerobic system helps us keep moving. Training the two anaerobic systems helps increase aerobic capacity, but it does not work the other way around.
In addition, Weight lifting on its own has been shown to lower blood pressure and reduce risk of strokes and heart attacks. So essentially, you are getting a “cardio” workout when lifting weights at the gym – it just feels different than going for a 20min run or multiple hour hike.
To spare everyone pages of information on how bodies’ energy systems work – I mostly hope to communicate that a variety of movement is key to improving health and performance. Not all of the systems can be trained at once and can actually work against each other. For example, if you have been doing a lot of Aerobic training and then try to lift something heavy or jump you may not be able to activate the right energy systems and you will feel weak or fatigued.
At Ascent, we generally focus on strength training in the Fall and Winter months. During this time we do less interval and long sustained effort training. We believe the crummy weather is a great time to build up our muscles and give them a rest from the all the long sustained effort and adventures of the Summer. In the spring we can start increasing our endurace and lower the demand on the body for heavy lifting.
That being said, the best movements are the ones you enjoy! So no matter what season it is we encourage you to stay active with your favorite movements and sports from hiking to bowling. O, and don’t forget to post your joyful movement pictures using #movewithjoy.