Why Your Programming Should Include Metcons
One of the main hallmarks of fitness is how quickly your heart rate recovers from a bout of vigorous (RPE 6+) exercise. This used to be one of the things I measured when I began training people. A heart that can fully recover from 12 minutes of mild to intense exercise is a heart that is in good condition. After one minute, the heart should be largely recovered. After I got my CrossFit certification and started aligning my coaching principal more with the CrossFit philosophy, I found other ways of measuring an athletes aerobic capacity and ability to recover for exercise. Enter, the MetCon.
MetCon is short for ‘metabolic conditioning’ and should truly be at the heart of, or a large part of, any general fitness program. These type of workouts are either task oriented (perform X as quickly as possible) or time oriented (perform as many of X in a Y time). The are a mix of varied movements that include weightlifting, gymnastics and aerobics. These workouts are meant to challenge your muscles and lung capacity.
If we are talking about good and general fitness practices, truly the metcon is your friend. Indeed, weightlifting produces and aerobic response. You can’t have a weak heart and perform a 20 rep deadlift. But most weightlifting programs do not call for a 20 rep deadlift. And even if they did, is this a task that mimics what a soldier, cop or active person will face in real life? Weightlifting for strength in general does not require any great challenge cardio/respiratory endurance or stamina - and this ability is absolutely a cornerstone of fitness.
Met cons should not only be in your program but you can build an effective fitness routine with these as the foundation of your fitness. It is important to be able to sprint for a bus, play tag with your kids or beagle to carry weight for long distances. This ability is the one that protects us from heart attacks, panic and and keeps out skin regularly flushed with healing blood. Breathing heard is good for the heart, the lung and the mood in ways that are different but equal to weightlifting.
There are 10 components to fitness:
1. Cardiovascular/respiratory endurance - The ability of body systems to gather, process, and deliver oxygen.
2. Stamina - The ability of body systems to process, deliver, store, and utilize energy.
3. Strength - The ability of a muscular unit, or combination of muscular units, to apply force.
4. Flexibility - the ability to maximize the range of motion at a given joint.
5. Power - The ability of a muscular unit, or combination of muscular units, to apply maximum force in minimum time.
6. Speed - The ability to minimize the time cycle of a repeated movement.
7. Coordination - The ability to combine several distinct movement patterns into a singular distinct movement.
8. Agility - The ability to minimize transition time from one movement pattern to another.
9. Balance - The ability to control the placement of the bodies center of gravity in relation to its support base.
10. Accuracy - The ability to control movement in a given direction or at a given intensity
While sets and reps will challenge many of these components, a metcon will challenge largely all of them. In addition, depending on the type of metcon it is, we can stimulate all three energy systems: phosphagen (10-30 sec of activity), glycolytic (30-120 sec) and oxidative (120-300+). This also allows us to be more open to that possibly of fitness and not make it so formal. If one does not have access to fancy equipment, It is easy to make a workout out of a backpack filled with books, some pushups and a park or street to sprint on.
Fitness does not have to be formal and it should not just be in the weight room. Fitness is about being lean, stong, capable and healthy in a variety of condition and stimuli. Boxing it into a weight room or steadfastly declaring “I don’t do cardio” because it is rebellious or popular is ignorant to both the possibilities and purpose of exercise.