Gabe Suarez on Fitness

Chasing Two Dogs

I am getting many questions about training so I will prepare a number of articles to answer most of these questions. Here are a couple.

1). Can I mix HIIT with strength workouts?
2). What about the concept of “training for the fight” in regards to distance running?

I am answering them together as they are the same question. You cannot chase two different dogs at the same time and expect to catch either one.

It is tempting to do that, but understand that each workout type has a focus. Think in terms of shooting as fast as humanly possible…as fast as you can slap the trigger…but trying to hit a steel at 100 yards that way. The two are completely in disagreement, and there must be a balance. And for there to be a balance, you must understand what your goal is.

It is to compete at the World’s Strongest Man, or to win the Boston Marathon? Trust me, success will be as scarce as clothing on a French beach. As well, unless you are a candidate for a UFC contract, focusing on “being able to fight” is not the goal either. That last one is a matter of technical expertise and a combination of fitness characteristics. So what is the goal?

A). Strength. You must have strength and train for it. Based on physical characteristics alone, who is more likely to be able to fight off a couple of muggers best…a 130 pound ultra marathoner, or a 200 pound lean powerlifter? Do we really need to discuss this? As well, I suspect the powerlifter looks better at the beach, has his bones and hormonal balance remaining strong into old age, etc.

How do we get strong? Easy. We lift heavy things in ways that affect the greatest number of muscles. There are a myriad ways to do this but think Bench Press, Squats, Deadlifts…stuff like that. As a benchmark, you should be ale to bench and squat 1.5 times your bodyweight. Easier on the squat than the bench but we all need goals. You should be able to deadlift 2x your bodyweight.

You will not do any of these if you just spend an hour on the eliptical, or putting in the miles for your next 10K, or spent an hour on the heavy bag. There should be strength days and there should be days devoted to other things. An interesting byproduct, if your diet is protein-rich and consistent, is that more strength generally means more muscle. And more muscle means less fat.

B). Agility and Conditioning. These two attributes are the way we get to use our strength. You can be really good at deadlifting 400#, but if you spend no time applying the strength you have developed you are only good at…deadlifting 400#. This is where HIIT, or high intensity interval training comes in. We can also call it the Sprint Concept. I will tell you right here…I Gabe Suarez, do not mix strength days and sprint days on a normal basis. Why not is simple. If I am smoked from 100 yard dashes, I will not do my best on the squats and deadlifts. Conversely, if I have just set a new PR on the deadlift, thinking I am going to pull off a great max effort sprint workout is ridiculous.

The HIIT/Sprint concept is easy to do, takes less time than a regular workout and is another great way to reduce fat. It also teaches you to move well. You learn several things about body mechanics sprinting up a hill, doing farmer carries, or turkish get ups, as well as from box jumps, and athletic events such as those.

C). Endurance. Of the three, this is the least one you have to worry about as it will become a byproduct of the other two. A good friend of mine is a long time bicyclist. He began focusing on sprints and lifting a while back. When he attempted a very long arduous ride, he reported no loss in his endurance, even though what he had been focusing on had been anything but endurance focused. Look at the sprinters in the Olympics and then at the marathon runners. Who is more capable of more athletic things?

If you spend your training time seeking endurance, you will not be strong nor conditioned. But if you seek the first two, with a minor inclusion of endurance periodically, you will in fact have all three. Me? I include a back country ruck march…or a run every couple of weeks, but the focus of my time is spent in Strength and HIIT pursuits.

Other issues: Diet is an important matter. You cannot out run or out train a crappy diet. I think we have discussed that one at length. Rest is also important. Try for eight hours each night and do not settle for less than 7. Yes, that means you will have to catch The Vikings later on Hulu, but watching Ragnar kill an Englishman will not reduce your belly fat like sleep will.

So, do NOT train for the fight. Train to be strong agile and explosive. The ability to do what your body and circumstances call for will be improved far more than if you specialized.

On Fighting

In the “combat fitness” realm, combat being the word of the moment, I hear a great deal about “training for the fight”. Here is some perspective on that.

I will say that I have not been in a “real fight” in some years. But back in the day, it was a weekly…sometimes daily event. I still have the Internal Affairs documents to back up the statement. Here is the deal.

1). You do not square off in a real fight like guys do in the cage, ring, mat or whatever. Example: If you are bigger, stronger, younger than me and you square off against me, I will gain the distance I need to and fill your body with every single bullet I have. Its not a case of “My kung fu is stronger”, it is a case of I am going to win no matter WTF I have to do.

2). Real fights are either ambushes (think sucker punches) or successful reaction to ambushes. To pull off an ambush (and that was what I tried to ALWAYS do), all you need is a hard fist and some ass to back it up (or a big flashlight, sap, etc.), and some commitment. Oh yes…good timing as well. Reaction to ambushes require some “covering/distancing” skills and the ability to turn defense into attacks. I pulled that off a few times but the first way is better.

3). Whenever you can, USE WEAPONS and hit as hard as you possibly can. Think beyond contact weapons such as knives and sticks. Think parked cars, shop windows, gravity, traffic, etc.

I do not recall a fight EVER going longer than a few seconds, and extended cardio capability was never a factor. But strength was. Explosiveness was. Capacity for violence and suddenness were both factors as well.

So think of a real fight like an MMA match that starts unexpectedly and lasts 15 seconds.

Going to the ground? I am not saying it won’t happen, but what I do know is that the thinking back then was that if the “suspect” took you down, you were immediately going deadly force. I may end up with a broken arm, but he would have bought that arm bar with the five .38 Special enemas from my J-Frame, or the need for a new lung or kidney that my knife just destroyed. There is a price for everything.

In retrospect, the only time a fight went to ground was when the bad guy got foot swept and then pummeled for a handcuffing. I am an advocate of ground skills, but will also say it is a bad place to be in a real fight. So whatever ground skills you cultivate, make the focus to get back up ASAP.

Things may be different today, but if you ambush the bad guy and KO him with a sap, or a beer mug, it won’t matter what his skills or fitness are.

So…is winning the fight THAT MUCH of a physical challenge? Not really, unless you like to get into mutually agreed upon fights outside the bar over some loose chick.

That is why I do not advocate “training for the fight”, but rather training for fitness. And one does that by training much in the way discussed in Chasing Two Dogs.