Hello there! I hope you’ve all had a good start for the year 2018. I’ve definitely had, since the period before that was pretty rough in many ways.
I’m gonna write about basic conditioning in this post – why I’ve done it, how I’ve done it and why it’s good for everyone and especially those who exercizes more than 3 times a week. I first have to write an introduction about why I sort of ran into a wall of having no choice but to take a break from hard training.
For half a year now my training has mostly consisted of low intensity workouts, “basic conditioning” workouts as many of you know them. I have not lifted heavy weights, done intensive workouts or any explosive movements for this time apart from a few rare sessions while attending certain seminars. This is because my nervous system has been overloaded.
There are several reasons for that. The biggest reasons are the following.
As I have not had a coach during the years of my most intensive training years, the past 2 years, it has been both good and bad. It has been good in many ways because I’ve had to study as much as possible and take full responsibility of my training and everything that goes to it. So I have become smarter in theory.
It has been bad when training overall has felt overwhelming, when it has felt that if my own decision making might not be the best. When I was not able to put the theory I learned into practice. That’s when I would’ve needed guidance. It can’t only be guidance from anyone, though. It has to be from a coach that knows you well, knows your ability and knows how you in general handle difficulties in life. It is not easy to find one. The coach has to put on a brake when you might think that you should hit the gas pedal AND the other way around. It all came to a breaking point when I lost a person very close to me after a long difficult and stressful time, of interestingly, about 2 years. I understood that during this time of stress and struggle, had it at some point become too hard to work as my own coach and therefor the connection with my body and mind was lost. The balance went off and that’s when wrong decisions were made when it comes to training, simply put as when to rest and when to train.
The symptoms I’ve experienced to name a few have been a poor appetite, stomach issues, overwhelming tiredness, no feeling of powerfulness, mentally feeling down and so on. It could’ve been worse – I could have been seriously overtrained while not being able to train for a year or something similar, but for now I’m mostly just grateful that everything is starting to work again and I have successfull training sessions during the week. But I’m still in a state of recovery. Luckily, I’ve only had to take half a year “off” and nothing irreversible has happened. All my blood tests has been good, no signs of crazy cortisol levels or hormone imbalances.
The help I’ve seeked and found that has turned everything around has been working with my coach, who half a year ago pretty much saw that I needed to put on a huge brake pedal. I have been in contact with my coach now for every single day for a half a year. A sports doctor called Pippa Laukka had same thoughts as the coach and helped me understand that it’s time to take it easy right now, taking in consideration my current situation. We ran through some more tests to exclude possible illness. I’ve also talked to a nutritionist. In addition to this I’ve worked in my own ways when dealing with loss. This all has been very beneficial, but of course also extremely frustrating and difficult.
Everything has felt better but it’s weird since it’s almost like I didn’t know that training and recovery can feel this effective and good. But actually I just didn’t remember. The overload happened so slowly that even I didn’t understand something was wrong. There is no exact moment when things changed, it all happened gradually. During these 2 years I’ve also had great progress and performed well in competitions, which has been awesome but might’ve also worked as a confusion at times. If I don’t feel great, but I perform numerically great, it can be very hard to trust my true and correct intuition.
I guess you see more of the positive side of my training in my instagram and find a bit deeper side when reading these posts! So be it.
But now finally back to the subject which you guys might actually get something out of – the basic conditioning!
Since training hard was not an option, the only training I could do was low intensity training. In a way that was totally fine – I really needed it! To be honest that’s also the only kind of training I felt like doing, in addition to yoga. I’ve also focused on my mobility and done some meditation.
The science behind basic conditioning is the following. It means you are training with a low heart rate, a heart rate that is individual but usually between 115-135 beats per minute (if you do this, find out your personal BPM to get the most out of it). The training feels very light, almost like you are doing no work. The recovery from those sessions also don’t usually take very long, because the training is not a big stress to the body.
The idea with basic conditioning is to work on a certain physical feature. When the “base” is good, will you be able to do better in intermediate and hard workouts, because you’ve raised the ceiling of opportunity. Your recovery from hard sessions, which CrossFit very much consists of, is more effective. It also has a positive effect on stress, fat burn and your respiratory muscles.
Since CrossFit is my sport, I’ve seen a lot of super intense sessions being hit even 6 times a week but no low intensity work being done. This is also what some (mostly) endurance athletes and/or coaches love to criticize in CrossFit… and they are not completely wrong. If you train a few times a week, I don’t see that it’s an absolute necessity – you will probably recover from the hard sessions pretty well. If it’s difficult to motivate yourself to move, I suggest you just do whatever you feel like instead of going into details like this. But if your training has been taken to the next level, and you want to make it a bit more varied, or you train like an athlete, then at least one low intensity session once a week is a good idea. If you move around a lot in your daily life – bike or walk to work, have a job that is physical and so on, you might be actually working on the low heart rate zone are without you even knowing it. So that’s really good!
Is it difficult? Not physically, but this type of training requires a lot of time, patience and trust that it’s beneficial. Sitting on a rower for over an hour might require some mental toughness, since it’s numbing and often boring, but the work needs to be done.
If you live a very stressful life, I do suggest some type of low intensity work to ease the stress. It can be low HR workouts, yoga or whatever calmes the mind. I’m very proud that my home gym, CrossFit Basement, where I coach at (or right now mosty only train at) add a low HR session quite often, sometimes even weekly, to the programming. In this particular box, and in most boxes I’ve visited, the clients are some of the most dedicated you can find. They train like athletes and focus on their recovery outside the box. I think therefor it’s very good to educate these types of enthusiastic people of the importance of basic conditioning.
The workouts I’ve done have been some of the following. They always last 45min-2h.
- Skiing on the ski-erg
- Walking or very slow jogging
- Doing a mix of different movements in a slow pace such as; 1k rowing, 30 push-ups (in sets of 3-5), 30 air squats, 30 lunges for 5 rounds. I always came up with movements and a rep scheme of what I felt was needed and what felt good AND of course kept my HR low enough. Many movements such as almost all hanging movements spiked my HR too high, so I had to change them.
I did as much as I had energy for. During the most difficult weeks, even one session a week was a success but during a good week, I could do up to 10h a week.
Right now I’m at a state where I’ve tested to add in a strenght session, an endurance session with a higher HR and even a metcon. Luckily, I’ve felt very good in many of these, so slowly I will be able to handle harder training and hopefully soon back to full speed training for competitons!
One thing is for sure – this time has been extremely diffcult, so I will absolutely take up some valuable lessons and NOT repeat them! I have to give almost all credit to my coach for my new training mentality and understanding, this is really all thanks to his support and help. Can’t wait to keep fulfilling my dreams and goals in working as hard (but smart!) as possible to become the best that I can possibly be! 🙂
I hope you guys stay healthy, fit and happy in 2018! 🙂
Pictures: Sandra Hagelstam, Stina Sundelin, Petri Mast