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The Energy Systems and You
Okay, so we have a basic understanding of the body's energy systems from the previous article in the series. Now we can begin to put this knowledge to use, tweaking our workout programs to include specifically targeted energy system training. Lots of information, but I promise it is not as difficult as it seems - this is the easy part!
Here's the beauty: You won't have to change your program. If you want to, that's great - but maybe you have a routine that works well for you, and, as they say...if it ain't broke - don't fix it. A simple tweak to the duration or intensity can drastically change which energy system is being worked the hardest.
To begin, we just choose which energy system we wish to develop. We'll start with the ATP-PC, or anaerobic energy system.
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ATP-PC - I feel the need, the need for speed!
To effectively train the ATP-PC system, we want to add some explosive anaerobic work into your routine. Simply choose an activity you already engage in, for example, we will use the old tried and true: Running.
In our example, let us say that you currently run at a steady pace for 45 minutes. As you now know, this primarily works the aerobic glycolyitic system. To add some ATP-PC specific training to your run, try this: Instead of jogging for 45 minutes at a steady pace, try running sprints. To perform sprints, simply choose an amount of time to run at an intense pace (say, 5-15 seconds) followed by a fast recovery walk at a low intensity for however long it takes you to recover (typically 30-120 seconds). If it is easier, mark your sprints by distance rather than time, but you want to keep the work to around 5-15 seconds to stress the ATP-PC system.
Next up, the Glycolitic System!
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Glycolysis - Feel the burn.
As you now know (You did say you read the previous article...), the glycolytic system is broke up into two basic categories: aerobic ("with oxygen") and anaerobic ("without oxygen"). To train these two categories most efficiently, slightly different approaches are required.
Sticking with our example of running, we will be running for 1-2 minutes. Note that I said run. This is not a leisurely jog. Training the glycolytic system is tough work - you should feel the 'pump', or a feeling that your muscles are full with blood and very dense. Your body will cry to slow down, to stop - but you must push through, as the only way to get your body to more effectively remove the lactic acid is to practice. For most people, a 400 meter sprint is ideal in training aerobic glycolysis. Rest 3-5 minutes before repeating.
Sprint for 30-60 seconds. This will be almost an all-out sprint for the entire duration. You will not want to do very many sprints of this nature, so keep the volume low to prevent too much muscle soreness. Focus on quality over quantity, making sure you rest a full 2-5 minutes between sprints. For most people a 200 meter sprint will work perfectly.
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Aerobic - No Spandex, Please!
Finally, this brings us to the aerobic system, the most misunderstood of the energy systems. This is the system most associated with cardiovascular fitness - a big misconception. Many sports use less than 30% aerobic endurance - so while it is important, it does not constitute the majority of most sporting events, so it should not constitute the majority of your training if performance is your goal. Health wise, split it up however you like - but moderation in all things is the golden rule.
To train this system, we want to produce a long but steady amount of work, so high intensity is out. The most widely prescribed exercise for developing the aerobic system is the 'long, slow run' (LSD). This run should be at a high enough intensity that you cannot hold a conversation, but not intense enough that you cannot last 10+ minutes. Ideally, 30 minutes to an hour is perfect for aerobic development. Once you reach an hour of work, the results achieved compared to the time spent drops dramatically and should be avoided unless your sport involves running for over an hour.
There is one more energy system we discussed - the oxidative system (techincally a subset of the aerobic system). However, as it relies primarily on fat cells, and does not typically come into play until the 1 hour + mark, we do not discuss training it. If you do wish to, simply train it with LSD for the additional duration.
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But I can't run! (Hint: You don't have to!)
In our examples, we used running. Remember: This is simply one of many ways to incorporate anaerobic energy system, as well as aerobic work into your training. The same strategy can be used for any activity: running, skipping rope, calisthenics, soccer, lifting weights...you name it, it can (and probably has) been done! Feeling tired? Work on more aerobic training of the day - long in duration, but only moderate in intensity. Short on time? Spend 10 minues doing high intensity sprints with very short rest, but make sure you set aside time to recover!
There are endless ways to tweak your energy system work so that it stays fresh and exciting - now that you have the basic science down and a good idea of how to apply it in your training, the only thing left is to lace up your favorite pair of sneakers and hit the gym!