Conditioning the Body
Most people define a well-conditioned person as someone who can push harder for longer. Generally speaking, this is a pretty good definition for most applications. Everyone has a “limit” as to how hard they can work consistently before fatigue sets in. When this occurs, fatigue forces their body to slow down and stop.
This limit can be seen or experienced by watching a runner trying to keep up with another runner moving at a faster pace. Sure, they will be able to hang in there for a little while, but soon their body is going to hit a wall and they are going to slow down quickly and definitively.
What is the Limit?
So what is this “limit”? In the world of fitness and conditioning we call this a person’s “Maximal Sustainable Power”. This what will determine “how hard you can go” without fatiguing out. In other terms it is the highest intensity of activity your body can handle before moving from Aerobic to Anaerobic systems which means the intake of oxygen is no longer adequate for the intensity of the activity; therefore, you can no longer sustain performance.
So although from sport to sport we may have a different minimum need to be competitive, it is easy to see whether you are a runner, soccer player, fencer or just avid weightlifter having an adequate MSP will allow you to train harder and perform at a higher level than you could without it.
We will use the below graph to give you a visual
As long as someone’s intensity stays below the dotted RED line (MSP), they will be able to sustain activity as needed.
Testing the Limit
A simple test using a tool like an Airdyne bike which requires minimal skill or experience is ideal. The test will last between 6-12 minutes. Begin at a level of effort you confidently feel you can sustain for a long time. Every minute or so you assess how you feel and increase your effort slightly until you feel you reach your limit. You should be able to sustain your effort the entire test. If you feel you are crashing you know you need to slow it down. When you finish the test you will have a Pace (represented by RPM on the Airdyne bike) and a corresponding Heart Rate. This will be your limit and you can compare future tests to this performance.
So now that you know you’re “Maximal Sustainable Power”, how do we train to improve it?
Raising Your MSP
We are going to train two key factors in order to obtain our best level of conditioning and highest MSP.
- Raise your overall potential through the method of strength development. The stronger you are, the higher effort you will be able to put out. If you go back to the previous graph, it’s easy to see the higher your RED line is (conditioning), the more room you have before you reach your ceiling.
- Perform to the best of your potential through pacing protocols in which the modality can be more sport specific. If your goal is related to sport or competitive performance, strength and conditioning will allow you the potential to succeed. To achieve success, we must practice this skill.Going back to our graphs for a visual:
Training Focus 1 will allow us to make Training Focus 2 better. Training Focus 2 will always be limited by Focus 1. If both are trained properly you will continue to progress.