Coach Caleb’s Corner
A Tale of Two Leopards
As many of our members know, Kati and I had the privilege to attend the first-ever Strong Endurance seminar with our Chief StrongFirst Instructor, Pavel Tsatsouline last weekend in Denver, Colorado. The unveiling of Pavel’s recent years of exhaustive research drew quite the whos’s who crowd of fitness industry luminaries and it was very exciting to have a seat at the table. At the risk of becoming overly hyperbolic, I’ll just say that the event was an exceedingly powerful experience! With a better understanding of energy systems and endurance training at the cellular level, I couldn’t be more geeked out on writing effective new training programs and implementing the principles of what we’re calling “Anti-Glycolitic Training.”. Without going too deep into all the biochemistry stuff, I’ll try to share a taste of this evolutionary research and why it will be so powerful in improving the health and fitness of all of our trainees. To kickstart that effort, allow me to share with you Pavel’s “Tale of Two Leopards.”
A big cat researcher observed two separate leopards hunting for their evening meals. The first specimen was quite the spry, athletic type and was able to make his kill in about 16 seconds! After the hunt, he rested for a short while and then dragged his heavy prey up into a tree (a formidable feat of strength and endurance in and of itself) and ate at his leisure. The second cat, still quite the athlete, had a bit more trouble. He had some “mileage” on him, a few thorns in his paws, and possibly some other minor injuries slowing him down. It took him a full four minutes to make his kill. After all that struggle, as he panted in the shade trying to recover his strength, some hyenas attempted to take advantage of his hard work and steal his dinner. Following a confrontation with them and another significant recovery period, the leopard was finally able to laboriously, in stages, drag his prey up into a tree to hopefully eat at some point once he felt up to it.
Which cat would you rather be? I would pick the physique of that first leopard any day!
With so much sensationalism in the popular media and the fitness industry about the degree of hard work and dedication required to build a svelte physique and athletic prowess, could it be that we’re being pushed to work far too hard without considering the consequences of this quest to achieve results? Maybe athletes everywhere are “feeling the burn” and boasting about the toughness of their workouts but the cost of said bragging rights is higher than they would ever have been willing to pay, had they known about it in advance. What if long term health is becoming compromised by short term exuberance in the gym? What if dedicated training efforts and their associated recovery requirements are turning trainees into… that second leopard? I thought all this time that we were training so hard to be in better overall health, ready for anything, capable of handling the challenges of our busy lifestyles! Fear not, there are ways to make sure that we are doing exactly that; training smart without the high cost of training too “hard.”
What exactly do we mean when we say that we might be training “too hard?” Well, in this case it comes down to a bit of body chemistry. Simply put, human beings do not tolerate a state of high acidity very well. Medical research is revealing that many of our health problems might be exacerbated by the consequences of our internal body chemistry becoming overly acidic. It would seem that our internal processes perform better ina more neutral (alkaline) environment. The difficulty arises when we are exposed to high levels of stress. Vigorously contracting skeletal muscle (as in physical training) under low oxygen conditions (as in getting out of breath) puts the body’s cells under oxidative stress. This means that the chemical reaction occurring within our cells (the transfer of electrons) causes acidity levels in the blood to rise. While low levels of this reactive oxygen species (ROS) can trigger positive metabolic adjustments (i.e.. those great training benefits we’re working for!), excessive amounts of this chemical reaction can wreak havoc; compromising the function of our mitochondria, which are the energy production centers within our cells.
As such, the overuse of compromised rest periods in our physical training regimen can stop doing us any good and start damaging our bodies at the cellular level! Don’t get me wrong, we should be doing some training that makes us get out of breath, we just shouldn’t be doing this excessively. The trick is to appropriately throttle the intensity of our training along with adequate rest periods to allow our chemical processes to effectively buffer the acidity levels in the blood. The process which actually causes the difficulty is called glycolysis. This is when sugars are broken down to be used as a quick source of energy while we’re low on oxygen. During this reaction, pyruvic acid is created. While we do want some of this going on, too much training in this glycolytic state can cause the cellular damage we’re trying to avoid. Thanks to Pavel’s research, we know how to make careful use of this energy system and avoid abusing it too much!
So what does all this mean to the trainee? It means less training discomfort (provoking a less acidic response in the body) and better physical endurance and overall health. This specialized anti-glycolitic training also stimulates the production of stronger mitochondria which might even slow down the aging process! At Breakthrough Strength & Fitness, we’re all about training that develops a wide range of athletic qualities, with an emphasis on power, while minimizing fatigue, soreness and leaving plenty of energy for other pursuits. Sounds so good, I’ve got to stop typing this now, grab a kettlebell and put it all into practice!