Fitness Fundamentals: Conditioning

This is the second article in our “Fitness Fundamentals” series, last week in part one we addressed Nutrition. These articles are for those just starting a health and fitness journey who need simple actionable advice to start improving right away. For those whom fitness is already an active part of their lives, fundamentals are something that should be revisited consistently to make sure the foundation of our hard work remains solid in support of our goals.


Today we address “Metabolic conditioning” or just “conditioning”. This type of exercise goes by many names but I like to think of it as exercise that is limited or regulated by your ability to breath or control your heart rate. Most new to fitness will recognize this as “Cardio”.


Crawl before you walk…

And more importantly walk before you run.  Walking is one of the most beneficial types of exercise most of us tend to neglect.  Walking improves aerobic capacity, aids in recovery, provides mental stress relief, and is just generally good for your soul. For folks who are just getting back into training (or starting for the first time) walking is a great way to prepare and progress your feet into higher impact movements like running.   

Action step:
Add a 60-90 minute walk 3 days a week to your routine. Preferably find a great park or some nature to make it an even more enjoyable cathartic experience. For those just beginning this is a very important first step into actual exercise that should not be downplayed. For those of you currently training hard, walking provides mental and physical recovery from the higher intensity work you’re used to.


Variety is the spice of life

Despite what conventional wisdom suggest there are far more injuries involved in distance running than weightlifting. Why is it that throwing 300 lbs over your head is statistically safer than going for a jog? The short answer is because distance running imposes repetitive stress on the same muscle groups, ligaments, and tendons over and over again that is absent in competitive weightlifting.  The key point is doing the same thing all the time eventually breaks down specific areas of your body’s structure. This can be avoided by learning and applying a wide variety of movements into your training program.

Action step:
If running or jogging represent your entire conditioning training take the time you normally run and do a different movement. If you have access to equipment you could row, bike, or swim in lieu of running. You can also sub a simple bodyweight exercise like burpees.  For my hard charging CrossFitters sometimes what looks like variety can also become repetitive stress.  I challenge you to take a week to do the opposite. Only run, bike, swim, or row the times prescribed (or average time of completion) of the WOD and see how it differs from your normal training.


Go Slow and Fast
Finally the importance of varying intensities is important as well. Most inexperienced trainees have the “more is better” mentality so ingrained,  that junk miles and slowish work dominates they’re conditioning training. The goal should be a balance of short fast sprint type work, medium to moderate effort work at a challenging pace, and longer slower work.  

Action step:
Here is a weekly template that can be utilized today by anybody at any skill level:

20 Rounds
:10 Sprint @ 100% effort
:50 Rest

5 Rounds
5:00 of work @ at challenging, but sustainable effort (hit the same distance / total work each round)

7:00 Rest

20-30 minutes @ steady state / pace


4 Rounds
2:00 work @ As fast as possible
Rest until you feel 100% (typically 5-10 minutes)

20-30 minutes @ steady state / pace



**Walk 60-90 minute 2-3 times a week either on rest days or after training”
**Any type of exercise can be used for this but rowing, running, biking, or swimming will yield the best results.  Running is not suggested for someone brand new to training, or who is overweight.


Thanks for stopping in! Our next installment we will discuss gymnastics and bodyweight only training.