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Why You Should Do a Metabolic Conditioning Workout

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Metabolic Conditioning: You know that you need more than just running to improve your performance and avoid injuries. Incorporate metabolic conditioning training (or MetCon) into your routine – something you may already be doing without realizing it.

We met Pete McCall, exercise physiologist, and Kenny Santucci, Personal Trainer from New York, to explain what MetCon is and how it helps you become a better runner.

What Is Metabolic Conditioning?

When you think of those words, something like CrossFit might come to your mind. And while CrossFit helped popularize this workout, MetCon workouts — a mix of strength training and cardio in one section — have been around for a long time.

According to McCall, these workouts recruit your body’s three metabolic systems — phosphagenic, glycolytic, and oxidative — that play a vital role in the body’s energy storage. First, a quick summary of each of the


The first system your body looks for during the first few steps of physical activity or during short, intense workouts like sprints. This system provides instant energy that will convert from food.


According to the American Council of Exercise, the body’s second system looks for after the phosphagen system’s energy runs out — which happens between 1 to 30 seconds into the start of a workout. This system produces power for activities between 30 seconds and three minutes. Think longer sprints or lifting weights.

Oxidative (Or Aerobic)

This system seeks oxygen in the body for longer-lasting activities.

“Your intensity, amount of rest, and how many reps you do determine whether you use all three systems,” says McCall.

Metabolic conditioning workouts seek to work on and strengthen these three systems. Two popular MetCon workouts aim to do as many repetitions as possible within a given time and interval (one minute intense, one-minute rest, alternating).

According to Santucci, MetCon is similar to a HIIT workout. “Both depend on when the downtime comes in and how that break is incorporated,” he says. But while HIIT will typically do using 80% or more of your maximum heart rate, MetCon doesn’t necessarily have to be that intense, although it can be. In other words, HIIT is a type of MetCon, but not all MetCon is HIIT.

What Are The Benefits Of Metabolic Conditioning Training?

They’re great for runners because they help build strength with dynamic movements, says MacCall. “Racing is linear. But with MetCon, you move in many directions, stressing the tissue and preventing injury.”

Plus, they’re efficient: You’re working your upper and lower limbs simultaneously and improving metabolic efficiency in all areas of your body.

“Runners with stronger hamstrings and glutes run faster,” says Santucci. “And strengthening your upper body also helps you become a better runner because it improves your posture while running.”

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How To Incorporate Metabolic Conditioning Training Into Your Routine

Below, McCall gives a 10-minute workout for you to test. Just do the recommended number of repetitions of each exercise, then repeat the entire circuit as many aeras as you can within 10 minutes, resting when you need to.


Start with your feet hip-width apart, toes slightly out. Bring your hips back and down, going down as far as possible while keeping your posture straight. Next, push your body weight through your heel to lift. Do 20 reps.

 Arm Flexion

Start on a high plank with your abs tight. Bend your elbows to bring your chest almost to the floor, then stretch your arms back to return to the start. Do 15 reps.

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Start by standing with your feet parallel, then jump to the right, landing on your right foot and bringing your left leg back diagonally to the right as your hip drops and your left-hand touches your right foot. From here, jump to the left to stop in the same but mirrored position. It is a repeat. Do 10.

Jump squat

Start in the same position as the regular squat and similarly make the hip drop motion. As you push your heels to push your body up, take an explosive jump and then land back on the floor in the starting position. It is one rep, do 10.

McCall urges you to pay attention to your overall routine when incorporating MetCon into your running training. For example, do not do two days of MetCon in a row if you are already going to run on those days; this can lead to overtraining injuries. But you can replace a long run with this workout twice a week.


Joining MetCon workouts into your regular routine will improve your overall performance, help you run faster and better, and help prevent injuries. But make sure you balance your training, so you don’t overdo it.

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