T Nation

Improving Work Capacity from a Very Low Base

Hi Coach CT, I hope you are doing well?

Yes, I am still around…still plugging away. But, I think I have had a Eureka moment…but forgive me, I have so many ideas / questions bouncing around in my head, I may not communicate them correctly.

If you search through my many posts here on T-Nation, there is a common element, a few actually…

These are not being able to be consistent with my weightlifting or weight lifting, flatness / depression etc.

I have come to the conclusion that I am just to unfit to do any of these excellent programs offered by yourself or other contributors here on T-Nation.

I can do maybe 1 - 2 weeks of a program before I fall off the wagon. So, I suspect that my energy systems are in terrible shape…

I am hoping to address this with a treadmill, rowing erg & stationary bike.

Running is probelmatic on two fronts: I am unfit…and…If I run anything longer than 60s at speeds of 12km/h and higher, shin splints become a real problem. Rowing and biking do not present so much of a problem though.

So, I was thinking to follow a 3 day on, 1 day off program of “cardio” at different levels each day for the discipline that is used for that 3 day block.


Day 1: Running for as long as possible / as much as possible (in one go) @ 9 km/h (30 min time limit) - in an attempt to train & strengthen the oxidative energy system.
Day 2: Running for 2 minute intervals @ 10.5Km/h with 4 minutes of rest between intervals to strengthen the Glycolytic energy system. 30 min time limit
Day 3: Running for 30s intervals @ 12km/h with 90s rest between intervals to strengthen the Phosphagen energy system.
Day 4: Rest
Day 5: Repeat above block, but apply to rowing / biking, rinse, repeat and re-test when starting over again.

Keep in mind that the speed numbers are a guesstimate, but, that they do take the shin splint issue into consideration.

I do realise that I could most likely train both the Phosphagen and Glycolytic pathways with Oly lifts, but that is exactly what gasses me to the extent that I cannot get back into the gym…

The plan is to do this for 3 cycles of each 12 day block and to re-assess by adding a gym day (eg powerlifting) to each block for 3 cycles, then a 2nd gym day (eg. Oly lifting) to each block of three after the last 12 day cycle has been completed and then a 3rd gym day after that last 12 day cycle (eg. hypertrophy)…Meaning twice a day training at the end of it all…

Or is that too much?

Am I doing this backwards? Am I expecting to much too fast at 46 years of age?

I would appreciate your, or anyone in the know’s, guidance please.

An aerobic base is important, but I think you’re taking the wrong approach. Doing a bunch of cardio will not make you better at lifting.

Solution: Start with a lower volume program. A basic 5x5 or something like 5/3/1. You don’t have to do them as written.

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I think you are not in the shape and state of mind to handle such volume and intensity. Like Baumbodies said, start of very basic. You talk about having some mental and physical issues, so use a program that is friendly to you. Having a goal of “running for as long as possible / as much as possible” is a disaster waiting to happen. Time to throw that ego in the bin!

Don’t know at what weight and bodyfat% you are at, but running is a lot easier when you are lighter. So cycling or rowing is a better option. In my opinion should running never be used as a fatloss tool. Wrote a post in another recent topic about running, so please take a look.

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Hi Guys, many thanks for the replies.

@Arthur: Yip, ego should probably go in the bin. Difficult to accept that fact though…

@baumbodies: Yip, lower volume sounds like the best plan to go…however…I have actually done both that you recommend, and I still crash on those, hence my wanting to improve work capacity 1st.

Fatloss is an essential for me, that is a given, but, I think still, that building work capacity so that I can attend to fatloss with exercise when on a diet is first priority for me…

I crash easily due to exercise when not dieting, more so when I do diet.

I’ve probably done mega damage to my metabolism due to juice fasting & water fasting in the past…trying to reverse that with the exercise (weights) and eating properly / clean, but to earn the right (ability) to train weights, I need to up the exercise capacity first. Conundrum…

Running will build work capacity for running.

Gradually increasing your weight training volume will build the type of work capacity that it sounds like you are after. You could even just start with a bodyweight circuit and strive to add reps or rounds.

Don’t overcomplicate things.

I tend to agree that pure aerobic exercise is not the way to go. It will improve cardiovascular efficiency, but that is likely not going to translate into the capacity to tolerate more lifting volume.

Two strategies that I recommend and have used in the past:

  1. Do a low volume of lifting on most workouts but add loaded carries at the end of most of your workouts. Farmer’s walk, prowler pushing, Zercher carries, rowing ergometer, assault bike. No specific variables, just do it… start small and gradually build up over time (very gradual increases).

  2. ONCE a week,when you have a day off the next day, do a high volume session. Even if you have poor recovery from the session, you are not training the next day so it won’t matter too much. Ideally it would be on a friday or saturday so that the next day you don’t have work either. Don’t go too crazy at first, add some volume every 2-3 weeks or so. This day will gradually increase your tolerance for work.

Thanks guys, the replies are much appreciated.

I understand what you are saying, and I agree.

I will start slow(er) with the volume of my training and take it from there…