Last year, our first ever Breakthrough Adventure Team completed an invigorating new training program and put it to the test on a beautiful trek to Switzer Falls. This experience gave us a chance to implement some exciting new cardiovascular training methods using heart rate monitors and some detailed new formulas for calculating training intensity. Our hiking prep work got us feeling more than ready for a day out on the trail and even exceeded our expectations in some surprising other ways as well. We experienced noticeable improvements in work capacity, of course, but also in coordination, breathing and balancing skills too! We proved that prioritizing working more efficiently over working “hard” might lead to doubling or even tripling a group's endurance capabilities in the span of just one month.
Now that we’ve had the privilege to scout out few more hikes and training ideas throughout the year since our first Adventure Team, the time has finally come for us to assemble a band of intrepid trainees once again for a new adventure! I’m very excited to embark on this year’s journey and can enthusiastically share what to expect from the Breakthrough Adventure Team training experience, and what makes it so effective.
Although there are a lot of ways to approach this type of event preparation, there are actually only a few really good ones. Our streamlined training process uses three synchronous training modalities to accomplish our goals. Several long sets of moderately challenging step ups serve as a primary endurance training modality along with powerful bursts of short intervals with heaver loads or more challenging exercises (ie. KB swings, explosive push ups etc.) as a secondary one. Rest intervals for all sets will allow ample aerobic recovery for us to be able to burst again into anaerobic ranges (this aspect is key; more on this later). Our third training modality will include strength maintenance, stability and balance training for technique improvement, coordination and restoration. By carefully diversifying our power output into these maximal, near-maximal, and sub-maximal sets, we’ll be able to keep our training sessions results-focused, but also maintain a healthy dose of skill development and fun! Along with these three training modalities, we will also stick to a set of three guiding principles; ensuring that the recipe we’re cooking up includes just the right amount of each flavor.
"Repetition of the same stimuli is the main condition for triggering adaptive reactions.” Vashlyaev, 2007 (Strong Endurance)
The cardiovascular / strength endurance training protocol for this program will be repeated on two of our three programmed training days, providing plenty of repetitions with the same stimuli to trigger a positive adaptation. Loaded step-up work is obviously well suited to prepare our team for the all-terrain challenges ahead and noticeably carries over to hiking skills.
"Medium Loads (40%-60% of volume of the work done to pronounced fatigue) are best used for maintenance and solving particular training goals.” (Strong Endurance)
Lest we forget that strength shall always remain a priority for us, we will keep up our resistance training with some relatively light loads, but with enough reps to get the job done. In our training last year we were able to avoid sending any mixed signals as to whether or not we were prioritizing an endurance effort or a maximal strength effort. Although a higher level of absolute strength will indeed facilitate a higher volume of lower intensity work, of course, this brief program will ensure that strength endurance skills take center stage; an especially nice transition for our athletes who will have recently completed the Tactical Strength Challenge.
"Rest Interval - By its end the work capacity approaches the level before the previous exercise bout to the point where neither the quality nor the quantity suffer." (Strong Endurance)
And here lies the real “special ingredient” that brings out all the nuance in our carefully crafted strength endurance dish. Training to a very specific and individually customized level of exertion that minimizes the body’s acidity levels, but doesn’t avoid acidity entirely. This is a real game-changer and adds the perfect “spice” to the program. What’s so special about a rest interval, you ask? Well... Apparently, us human beings do not tolerate a state of high acidity very well. Go figure! In fact, recent medical research has revealed that many of our health problems might be dangerously exacerbated by the consequences of our internal body chemistry becoming overly acidic. It would seem that our internal processes perform better in a more neutral (alkaline) environment. It would also seem like a simple thing, with all our modern conveniences, to be able to just keep them there. But complications arise (all too frequently) when we are exposed to high levels of stress. This acidifying effect can be caused in various ways, but vigorously contracting skeletal muscle (as in physical training) under low oxygen conditions (as in getting out of breath) is an obvious way to put the body’s cells under considerable oxidative stress. Oxidative stress creates a chemical reaction within our cells (the transfer of electrons) which causes acidity levels in the blood to rise. While low levels of this reactive oxygen species (ROS) can trigger positive metabolic adjustments (i.e.. more powerful mitochondria in the cells of our muscles!), 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 hard bursts of exercise with 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 buffer the acidity levels in the blood.
The process which causes much of our troubles 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. With the help of heart rate monitors and some clever calculations to set specific thresholds for work and rest, we know how to make careful use of this energy system and avoid abusing it too much.
So what does all this mean in terms of the actual experience of training? It means less discomfort from acidic chemical responses and better physical endurance and overall health! This specialized anti-glycolitic training also stimulates the production of stronger mitochondria; effectively slowing 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 and soreness, and leaving plenty of energy for other pursuits. The Adventure Team programming is designed according to this master plan, and we couldn’t be happier with the results. Training not for its own sake, but rather physical preparedness in service of living a more adventurous, healthy lifestyle; now that’s an exciting perspective to have on how to use the gym. Here’s to our next adventure.