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How To Be In Better Shape By Doing Less!

How to bin Better Shape by Doing Less 

Lance Williamson (from

Don’t waste your time mindlessly jogging on a treadmill thinking you’ll finally get those six pack abs this year, instead DO LESS AND TRY HARDER! A common misconception by people is that if they do more “cardio” they’ll lose more body fat, FALSE! Going for a longer run in the hopes that you’ll lose more body fat and become healthier is similar to digging to China with a small garden shovel. The dirt is going to keep falling back in your hole, unless you get a bigger shovel and dig faster. Since I’m using a terrible metaphor I’ll get to the point, you’ll become healthier and shed body fat by getting a bigger shovel to dig with, which means you need to train with a higher intensity. A small garden shovel is similar to long distance running or steady state cardio. You need to ditch the misconception of working out for longer periods, and you need to start working as hard as you can in much more concentrated and planned attempts. 

The Energy Pathways 

There are three energy pathways, which in their definitions can lead people to believing that more is better (depending on their goals, obviously). I’ll cover them in order of shortest to longest, the first two systems are anaerobic pathways (not requiring or without oxygen). First, the ATP-PC, or Phosphagen, system is the most powerful, but shortest lasting system of the three. Basically, this system lasts roughly five seconds and is for anaerobic (without the need of Oxygen) activities. A couple examples would be performing a Snatch, or sprinting a 40-yard dash. Second, the Glycolytic system is for activity that lasts between 30-120 seconds. This is also an anaerobic activity based pathway. The problem, initially, with these two pathways is muscle lactate. It is the response to anaerobic activity that helps refuel the two systems, muscle lactate is the “burn.” This burn is a bodily response that slows you down in order to give your body a chance to run through its systems of generating ATP (the body’s energy catalyst). So, the burn is a good thing, and there is a way to increase your “lactate threshold.” The lactate threshold, simply, is your body’s point where it can restock the empty ATP shelves without stopping activity. (Powers & Howley, 2012) Training your lactate threshold is very possible and will improve the effectiveness of these first two pathways, plus it will improve the third pathway.  

The Oxidative pathway is the body’s aerobic activity energy system. This system works at sub-maximal levels where you’re not gasping for air or praying for a rest period. Because this system dominates the work at lower intensity levels, it uses stored fat as energy. HERE IS WHERE PEOPLE STOP READING AND STARTING DIGGING WITH A SMALL SHOVEL! Body fat takes longer to breakdown compared to stored glycogen (sugar, or stored glucose), and this means the Oxidative system almost strictly burns fat for energy. It uses fat because the body is almost never at an oxygen deficit when training in the duration and intensities associated with the Oxidative pathway. If the body isn’t lacking an oxygen supply, then it can use this aerobic pathway (requiring oxygen). Simply put, oxygen is a big part of the cycle that produces energy from stored fat, and if you’re not gasping for air you can use the “abundance” of oxygen to breakdown fat for fuel. (Powers & Howley, 2012)    

When and How to Utilize the Different Pathways 

There are always exceptions to any rule when working things out for yourself, but you need to understand the general principles behind things before specifying. For example, elite marathoners (those that can finish 26.2 miles around 2 hours) skew themselves very far in Oxidative pathway training. This means they usually train by running long distances a lot, think of them like a Toyota Prius. They can go seemingly forever, but will never blow the doors off of anyone. Then, you have elite sprinters (ex: Usain Bolt) that are skewed towards the Phosphagen pathway. This means they train by running distances where they can keep pushing absolute maximal speed, think of them like a Bugattia Chiron or Dodge Demon. They could blow the doors off of a bomb shelter, but they’ll run out of gas before long. To follow my car analogies, the well-rounded athlete wants to be like a Volkswagon Golf or Subaru Legacy (or WRX, but that’s besides the point) because these cars aren’t as fuel-efficient as a Prius nor will they break land speed records like a Chiron, BUT they are capable of doing both things really well! The Subaru is a vehicle that is at home driving the family to the movies, but it also kicks some serious ass on a rally course! To summarize my annoying car analogy, high level athletes in any sport become specialized in certain fitness/athletic areas, but for the common person that just loves being healthy and feeling great, they need to be able to do a bit of everything seamlessly.  

An easy and simple guide to using the pathways to get the most general benefit is to view them in this simple format. The Phosphagen system is for absolute maximum output and effort. You need to move something, or yourself quickly? This is the system of choice. The Oxidative system is best used by an individual to increase their general work capacity. Do you want to just be able to go longer, or be able to recover better? The Oxidative pathway will give you the most benefit using it this way. Then here comes the tricky one, the Glycolytic system. It’s kind of everything in between, the better you can train the extremes the greater the middle man will perform. However, recent evidence would suggest that the majority of people benefit from skewing their efforts towards the Phosphagen system. I’ll explain how to do that and why next. 

The Phosphagen System, the Swiss Army Knife of Energy 

Research has shown that aerobic capacity is determined by 3 factors, maximal oxygen uptake (VO2 Max), lactate threshold, and running economy. (Turner, 2011) Maximal oxygen uptake means how much of the oxygen you’re breathing in versus how much your body is capable of using during each breath. Lactate threshold reveals the onset of anaerobic metabolism, which is associated with working at or near maximal oxygen uptake. Running economy is the summation of how well your body is adjusted to a given intensity. (Powers & Howley, 2012)   

In order to improve our overall fitness, linear periodization or progressive overload applies to aerobic capacity in the same way it does to getting stronger. Gradually, you’ll need to train at higher and harder intensities in order to sustain those intensities. While training, the use of quality movement patterns is imperative in order to improve overall running economy. (When I say running economy, I mean the ability to move with intensity for sustained periods) So, if you’re doing sprints or a CrossFit workout you need to start slowly with something manageable. Manageable can mean a few different things, but the goal is to be able to move well and not breakdown while moving with intensity. Once you have a set amount of time where you can essentially train at 85% or above, then you can start adding time to that and get fitter. Remember, the goal of training this system is that you’ll get the biggest bang for your buck in a fifth or tenth of the time! The article, The Effect of Sprint Training for Reducing Body Fat in Women, compared several different strategies using bikes and sprinting to reduce body fat. (Carrasco, 2017) Their findings all showed that high intensity interval training does as good or better than steady state cardio in, generally, half the time or even less. This means you’re doing a greater percentage of quality, intense training without accumulating as much wear and tear on the body! 

Simple Strategies to Apply 

There are several different ways to implement intense interval training. One of the most common is TABATA, this protocol follows a 2:1 work to rest ratio that generally lasts for 8 rounds. The most common approach is 20 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest, then in 4 total minutes you’re done! It’s very useful and easy to manipulate this protocol to different time constraints to scale the training session to yourself. Another strategy is task completion, task completion is where there is a set number of tasks (ex: 100 air squats and 50 push-ups) to complete as quickly as possible. You can use an infinite amount of exercises with this protocol, then time yourself completing the work, so you can repeat it later trying to best yourself. The idea of these strategies and other high intensity interval training strategies is to allow the session to be tailored to your fitness level. This means creating yourself a training program where you can gradually overload the amount of high intensity sessions, thus making yourself more in shape than Superman.    


Powers, Scott K., and Edward T. Howley. Exercise physiology: theory and application to fitness and performance. 8th ed., McGraw-Hill Education, 2012.  

Schoenfeld, Brad, and Jay Dawes. “High-Intensity Interval Training: Applications for General Fitness Training.” Strength and Conditioning Journal, vol. 31, no. 6, 2009, pp. 44–46., doi:10.1519/ssc.0b013e3181c2a844.  

Turner, Anthony Nicholas. “Training the Aerobic Capacity of Distance Runners: A Break From Tradition.” Strength and Conditioning Journal, vol. 33, no. 2, Apr. 2011, pp. 39–42., doi:10.1519/ssc.0b013e318214d907.  

Carrasco, Laanna. “The Effect of Sprint Training for Reducing Body Fat in Women.” LWW, Strength and Conditioning Journal, Aug. 2017,  


February 12, 2018 | Blog, education, General, Powerlifting, Strength and Conditioning | Comments Off on How To Be In Better Shape By Doing Less!

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Jeff Welsh - Crossfit Trainer

Age: 24

  • Years of Crossfit Experience: 2

    • Certifications: B.S Kinsesiology, Crossfit level 1 trainer, Crossfit Kids, CrossFit Endurance, CrossFit Movement & Mobility, CrossFit Olympic Lifting, ACE Certified Trainer
    • Fran Time: 3:35
    • Favorite WOD: Angie
    • Least Favorite Lift: Power Snatch
    • Favorite Cheat Meals: PB, Ice Cream, Cookies, Donuts, Chocolate…

    I’m Jeff, a 2011 graduate of the Pennsylvania State University, earning my BS in Kinesiology. I’ve been involved with sports and exercise ever since I was able to walk. I have played baseball at all levels, from t-ball to collegiate and football through the high school level. I remember when I first began weightlifting that I wanted to be bigger, faster and like all my other 14 year old friends, I wanted a stronger bench press.I’ve come a long way since then, earning certifications through CrossFit and the American Council on Exercise. Before CrossFit my workouts were a bore, and I often dreaded my routine. When I first started I remember thinking, “Workouts that only last 10-15 minutes, this can’t possibly work.” I’m glad that I changed my attitude. Since switching my training routine and tweaking my diet to make it more primal, I was able to drop some much unappreciated weight that I had gained since I quit playing sports competitively.My favorite thing about CrossFit is the community. I originally had to break through my own mental barriers, a process I found to be extremely rewarding. CrossFit continues to push me to extremes that I never thought I’d be capable of. Even more than this, I love watching as others break through their own mental barriers and achieve something that they never thought possible. Having the opportunity to train and help others to feel just as much apart of our community is priceless to me.

  • ×
    Lance Larson - Crossfit Trainer

    Age: 26

  • Years of Crossfit Experience: 1.5 Years

    • Certifications: Crossfit Level 1 Trainer
    • Least Favorite Lift/Movement: Deadlift
    • Favorite Movement: Snatch
    • Favorite WOD: Amanda
    • Favorite Cheat Meals: Anything from Five Guys

    Sports and fitness have consistently been a major part of my life. Throughout high school, I was involved with athletics year round with wrestling, football, and baseball. After I finished organized sports, working out tended to be a chore, and I found myself trying to ‘maintain’ rather than progress. I was introduced to CrossFit about a year and a half ago, and haven’t looked back. I found myself rapidly improving in the gym, which translated to every other part of my life. It became a total lifestyle overhaul as I begin eating better, scrapping bad habits, and became motivated for work outside the gym. The community in general is great, and it’s difficult to find a more welcoming group of people. I love to train CrossFit; it’s immensely gratifying to help others break down physical and mental barriers to achieve a happier and healthier lifestyle.

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    Ginny Santiago - Crossfit Trainer

    Age: 26 CrossFit experience: 1 1/2 years

    Certifications: BA in Health Promotion, CrossFit Level One trainer, CrossFit Gymnastics Trainer

    Favorite WOD: Diane – 3:30

    Least Favorite Lift: Thrusters

    Favorite Cheat Meals: Pizza, Mac N’ Cheese, Cheeseburgers, French Fries, doughnuts, cookies, and other delicious things…

    Hey guys! I’m Ginny, a 2010 graduate from the University of Northern Iowa with a BA in Health Promotion. Currently, I am working toward an Associate’s degree in Diagnostic Medical Sonography at The South Hills School of Business and Technology. Sports were never really a big part of my life growing up, but I’ve been involved in health and exercise all of my adult life. Before CrossFit, I got my cardio in on the treadmill or elliptical and then hit up a few of the conventional weight machines. It was getting boring and monotonous and I was eager to try something new. I got interested in CrossFit when my husband Serg, the head coach here, along with its two other founding members, Jeff (current coach) and Steve (former coach) started this box with the support of the bossman Seth. I’ve been hooked ever since and hope to go to the 2013 CrossFit Regionals with Team LionHeart. I love being at the box. With a different workout every day, It’s never boring and the other coaches and athletes are always supportive and encouraging. Because of CrossFit, I’m doing physical activities I never thought possible and helping others do the same.

    Shea McMullin - Crossfit Trainer

    Age: 27

    Hey, I’m Shea! I graduated from Missouri State University with a B.S. in Public Relations. I currently work for Penn State Women’s Basketball. Growing up sports and health played a vital role in my life. At the age of four, I had to have open heart surgery to repair a hole the size of a quarter in my Atrial Septal Chamber. My surgeon encouraged my parents to start me in sports immediately to strengthen my heart. I played basketball for 11 years and softball for 8 years. However, after my freshmen year in high school I decided to quit competitive sports to focus on other passions of mine….so I became the typical gym goer.After my freshman year in college, I asked my dad to compete in a sprint triathlon with me and this is where my true passion for fitness began. I ended up working 3 summers at a Fitness and Nutrition Camp in La Jolla, California and found a love for running marathons.Running was my therapy….till I found CrossFit!

    Why I love CrossFit LionHeart? It pushes and challenges me every day, I never get bored – no two days are alike, and most of all the encouragement and support I get from everyone at the box. We’re like one big family….we help each other out, we give back to the community, we compete in local events, and we hangout outside of the box.No matter your age or athletic ability

    CrossFit is for you! One of the neatest things is seeing someone accomplish a goal they never thought was possible before CrossFitting!