Glycolitic training as a tail event


My last set of rants - count 'em: one, twothree - focused on why we spend most of our time doing A+A (aerobic + alactic) work. It just makes sense to put your time in the gym in the places that will improve your life and lower your risk of injury.

But what if you do glycolytic events, how do you train for that?

I'm thinking of 800m runners, fighters, and even CrossFit competitors. How to you tune up the engine safely?

It works best if your sport has a competition season and an off season. If you're competing all year, then you have other problems. The Strong Endurance literature suggests that all you need is about 6 weeks to build up the enzymes to take advantage of the glycolytic power. So you can train most of the year A+A style building up your mitochondria and your base strength and then go glycolytic a few weeks before you need to be at peak performance. Randy did this with the track gals this spring and they kept setting PRs in every race!

Your body treats a glycolytic stressor as a tail event and only needs to see rare events to get the signal to take advantage of (and buffer against) the glycolitic pathway. 

We just finished up the StrongFirst Plan996 S&S A+A experimental program. Without giving away the details of the program, here's the big picture: we spend 4 weeks solidly in the A+A regime never going glycolitic at all. Then in the last two weeks before we retest, we have 3 very hard glycolitc workouts that we hope will build that part of the engine.

I am shocked at how quickly the my body responded to the glycolytic training!

The template of the workout is "Do rounds of evil glycolytic work every 0:30 until failure, rest a set amount of time and then do it again until failure".  Since the weights and times are fixed, the number of rounds completed is a good proxy for performance.

On Day #1, I got 4+4 rounds. I was really disappointed. When rehearsing the workout I thought somewhere in the 8+8 would be the right amount for my level of fitness. I was a bit down about it thinking that maybe this A+A work wasn't really for me, I had high hopes that the fitness would be there.

Five days later when glycolytic Day #2 shows up, I got 7+5. A 50% improvement! In 5 days! Insane. I did it at the same time of day (tired after work). 

Four days later on glycolytic Day #3, I got 7+7 and if I were really being honest with myself, I should have gotten 8+8, I kinda gave up early, if someone were there watching me, I would have gone farther.  

Day 1: 8 rounds
Day 5: 12 rounds
Day 9: 14 rounds

After 6 weeks of this program (plus all of my other long-term kettlebell skill and strength development), I was definitely not getting any stronger over those 9 days. That improvement had to be all biochemical (and maybe a little mental in being able to deal with the suck). And that's only three days of hard workouts (and still not hard by CrossFit standards) in 6 weeks of a program too! Not bad.

This is proof that you don't need to spend your whole year going glycolytic just to complete the CrossFit open! Don't burn yourself out and create permanent mitochondrial damage by always tapping into the glycolytic pathway - spend your year doing A+A work and then peak just before you need to. And you'll still have great performance!

You'll be doing great if you can do the activities you love while keeping A+A all the time. If you do have a need for more exposure to the glycolytic pathway, then be really smart about it and just peak when you need to. First responders and military may need to be prepared for glycolytic work all year, but we can still do it smart. It doesn't need to be a HIIT acid bath every day of the week. Once a week max, maybe once every two weeks is probably enough of an exposure to the tail event for your body to stay conditioned.

Michael Deskevich