What is Metabolic Conditioning (MetCon)?
It could be difficult to decipher what MetCon actually is as the fitness industry uses this term to describe many forms of exercise; Tabata (Example: 20 seconds of work followed by 10 seconds of rest for 8 rounds), Circuit Training (Example: 3-5 movements done for 8-12 reps in a row with no rest between sets) and HIIT or High-Intensity Interval Training (Example: 30 second sprint followed by 30 seconds of recovery for a specific period of time). Though there are various ways to go about it, the goal of Metabolic Conditioning is to increase your body’s ability to transport oxygen from your lungs to your cells and then use this to generate the energy needed to move your muscles. We have 3 metabolic pathways in our body and each uses a different method to generate energy; the phosphagen pathway (anaerobic), glycolytic pathway (anaerobic) and oxidative pathway (aerobic). The aerobic pathway requires oxygen from our lungs for energy and provides energy for longer periods of time, where the anaerobic pathways, used in heavier weight training and sprinting, are sustainable for a short period of time - using stored energy very quickly. Metabolic Conditioning helps us to become more efficient with all three increasing our overall fitness and metabolic rate (how much energy (calories) we burn at rest).
So why does this matter?
I used to be concerned with calorie burn and calorie burn only when it came to my fitness. I believed that hours of cardio was the only way to lose weight and stay fit, so I ran 3-5x a week. I think there were a few times when I experienced the "runners high" and I felt I could have run for hours but most of the time, I was forcing something I didn't love. I did "weight training" but I was in the camp that believed I would get too bulky if I lifted anything more than 10 lb. weights. Unfortunately, the result of this workout routine was that I was constantly injured. My knees ached, my back flared up from time to time, my core was weak and though I was in shape aerobically, my body appeared soft. It wasn't until I began integrating MetCon into my weekly routine that I built muscle, avoided injury and began to see my body shape change.
MetCon and Fat Loss - Hold on and let me get a little more scientific. :)
Any type of exercise we engage in raises our stress hormones adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol in our body. As the human body is built to do, the cortisol (stress) release sends us into “fight or flight” mode burning the readily available energy from glycogen (sugar). Intense exercise like MetCon though, depletes the sugar stores, lowers oxygen stores and sends us into an anaerobic zone, building up lactic acid in our muscles and releasing fat-burning hormones, Testosterone and Human Growth Hormone (HGH) which are necessary for fat-loss. When stress and growth hormones are released together, as my friends at Metabolic Effect refer as the "hormonal soup" that causes the Metabolic Effect, we telling our body to burn fat for long after our workout (24-48 hours!) as our body repairs itself post-workout.
Not convinced? Here are my Top 10 reasons why you should love MetCon training...
#1 Your workouts are shorter and less frequent.
MetCon workouts can be done in as little as 15-20 minutes a day, 3 times a week.
#2 You can exercise anywhere.
Since MetCon workouts can be done using bodyweight or simple equipment like moderate to heavy dumbbells, these workouts can fit into any lifestyle, no matter how chaotic (hello, parents and business travelers!); the playground, a parking lot, a hotel room...yes, even your bathroom.
MetCon workouts use full-body exercises that recruit multiple joints and muscle groups, making the work you do extra efficient. Sprinting, burpeees, push-ups, squat presses, renegade rows and squat jumps are just some examples of movements that use your entire body to perform. Bonus: Since our abdominals/core is used to stabilize many of these multi-joint movements, gone are the days when you need to do ab work at the end of your workout!
Simple get's done, complicated get's put off. Some of my absolute favorite (and killer!) MetCon workouts are so straightforward and simple, they look downright easy on paper. We can overcomplicate things by paying for fancy gym memberships and complicated workout plans. Try doing 10x reps of each of these movements one after the other for 5 sets: Push-Ups, Pulsing Squats, Mountain Climbers, Weighted Hip Thrusts. Breathless and burning? I think so!
#5 You don't get bored.
While I recommend sticking to the basics when beginning MetCon intervals or circuits, once you're ready for variety, there's literally hundreds of movements you can integrate into MetCon workouts. And additionally, many ways to structure your circuits and intervals to keep things interesting using structures like complexes, ladders, chains, combos, supersets and more.
#6 You focus on the intensity that's right for YOU.
Perhaps one of the most important things to remember if you are new to MetCon workouts is that the goal during the working periods is to work as hard as you can, to YOUR edge, and even your edge on ANY GIVEN DAY. Intense workouts call for just that, intense periods of work, and restorative rest so you can push hard again. I follow Metabolic Effect's Rest Based Training in all of my circuits: "Push until you can't, rest until you can". As Jade Teta says, "with rest-based training you use rest strategically to generate just the right intensity for your individual metabolic needs". Taking longer periods of rest, using modifications to movements and using lighter weights are all ways to back off intensity so that you can rest until you can push hard yet again.
#7 You will burn more fat.
Intense MetCon workouts burn-fat increase your metabolic rate, allowing you to burn fat up to 48 hours AFTER work is complete, unlike a moderate pace run when your calorie burn is complete at the end of your workout.
#8 You will shape your body.
Many calorie-restrictive diets and endurance cardio programs stimulate weight loss at the expense of muscle. Intense MetCon workouts build lean muscle and burn fat, helping you to reshape your body rather than slim-down.
#9 You can progress when you're ready.
Just as intensity is relative to you and even you on any given day, MetCon workouts allow you to progress (add weight, speed, reduce rest) when you gain strength.
#10 You will develop grit.
This is perhaps my favorite benefit of MetCon. It's exceptionally powerful to witness one of my client's break through mental barriers they've had up for years, silencing that little voice that says "Oh, you can't do that!". Our confidence is like a muscle - the more we use it the more it grows. MetCon training pushes us to our edge each and every workout, helping us to to dig into our mental strength. Every time that we push ourselves through something we didn't think we could handle, we gain confidence and step into our power.
#11 You can fit it into your busy life with consistency.
Before I had children, I became a triathlete. As a competitive person, I didn't want to just finish my first season, I wanted to place. I set to out to compete in 5 triathlons my first (and only!) season and launched into a plan that required 10 hours of training each and every week at a minimum. I got it done, but just BARELY. I didn't like to be a slave to my workout routine and certainly, once I had kids, a marriage, a career and a house to pay attention to...it was downright unrealistic for me.
MetCon workouts are intense and short. I love that on weeks where life happens and doctor's appointments, work meetings and sick children dominate my schedule, I can get it done in only 3, 15-20 minute workouts a week! 45-60 minutes of training vs. 10 hours...you tell me which gets done with consistency!
Want to learn how? Enrollment is now open for Busy But Burnin', the 6 week fitness and fat loss coaching group that starts on Monday. Learn how to get intense with your workouts at-home with easy to follow videos. Learn more here.