Editor-in-Training: Metabolic Conditioning


I tend to think of strength training as the opposite of endurance training. Of course, aspects of muscular endurance play into strength training—it takes a bit of stamina to knock out supersets, after all—but by and large, I expected my strength training to focus on just that: building strength. I’d develop my real endurance outside while logging my marathon training miles.

Few things have gone according to my initial expectations this marathon season, and after the past few weeks, I can now add my personal training sessions to the growing list of surprises I’ve encountered over the past two or so months.

About two and a half weeks ago, my trainer Greg introduced me to the concept of metabolic conditioning, which aims to work the body in a specific way to achieve the desired outcome—endurance, for example. To that end, my sessions moved away from the supersets I had grown accustomed to performing and instead started using longer circuits designed to elevate my heart rate prior to active recovery. What does that mean in plain English? More exercising, less standing around.

My first metabolic training session worked my entire body and kept my heart rate elevated. I moved from cable presses to chops to TRX rows to glute exercises to ropes without a break, and then “recovered” with a cool down row before doing the entire thing all over again. I performed this circuit five times and felt thoroughly exhausted after the fact. The following week, Greg introduced me to tri-sets, but wasted no time informing me that since I only had three exercises to complete per circuit instead of five, I’d also have a shorter recovery period.

In the interest of complete disclosure, I had fairly low expectations for these metabolic conditioning sessions. They certainly left me sore, but beyond that I didn’t anticipate seeing much impact on my running. You can imagine my surprise, then, when I completed a 13-mile run this past weekend without trouble. Due to my various injuries this training cycle, I had yet to complete a consecutive double digit run, and having 13 miles on my calendar certainly intimidated me. Last year, I remember struggling to keep up with my training group on most of our longer runs. Last Saturday, even a trip up Cricket Hill to end my 13 miler didn’t leave me winded. Does metabolic conditioning deserve all the credit for this? Maybe not, but I certainly think it gave me a major boost, particularly compared to my experiences last year.

We hit the halfway mark in marathon training this week, which means the bulk of my long distance training will happen over the next two months or so. Check back in a few weeks to see how I’m doing!

— Bethany Stripp