All-Terrain Conditioning from StrongFirst, September 11-12, 2021

Adding to my collection of StrongFirst related workshops, I attended the All-Terrain Conditioning workshop this last September 2021. It is an excellent follow-on to the StrongEndurance workshop where I learned a lot of training concepts from Russian coaches and researchers. StrongEndurance had a ton of great principles about training, but applying them was pretty hard. I tried to wade through the research and build my own programs but it was very difficult. I did enjoy the training programs they provided, and most of them were kettlebell focused. So swinging and snatching programs in the SE style was pretty awesome and I got a lot out of them.

However, I wondered how these principles could be carried to longer length events like marathons and Ironman.

Enter All-Terrain Conditioning. I was extremely happy to hear that Derrick Toshner was going to teach it. I met him at the StrongEndurance workshop and asked him then about extending SE principles to longer length events. He didn’t have any clear advice to offer me, but I knew he trained athletes who competed in all sorts of length events. Finally, bringing that real world experience to ATC, I leaped at the chance to hear his thoughts on Russian SE principles applied beyond kettlebell training only.

The techniques we learned ranged from improving running technique to incorporating kettlebells to a type of training used by mountaineering and military folks called Heart Rate Step Up training. I had not seen the track style drills and doing them was very tough! Still something to work towards if I ever want to go back to running. The kettlebell programs were the same ones from SE. However, I had never seen HR Step Up training before!

HR Step Up training comes from training for mountaineering and military applications. It is a way to build conditioning if training indoors is necessary. It involves a load which you carry on your back, and then a platform of specific height customized to your body, specifically the length of your lower leg. Then load, time, and step up pace are varied to train conditioning. As with most SE based training, HR is monitored closely so as to stay within zones where you are using the appropriate energy system. This is to avoid burnout, if not overtraining, injury, and reversals in conditioning.

So far I am loving the training. I had to start out with no load at all because of my de-trained state, and built up slowly on all factors as the weeks progressed. It’s amazing how training in this manner affects me. I am not wiped out after workouts, but I *DO* feel it hours after and the day after too. So while HR is managed within a tight range, it is definitely doing something to my system in a positive way! Training indoors like this also works better with my schedule and brings in elements of conditioning that I used to do with a treadmill (that I don’t own any more).

All in all, I am a big fan of these newly revived Russian training principles, which work towards building ATP and mitochondria and not detrimentally affecting the human in the long term. It is eye opening to see that current popular styles of HIIT aren’t really doing the body good in the long term, even as they seem to produce some results very quickly. I hope to see more positive results in the month to come!

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