Anything “functional” sounds boring – we get it. But in fitness, functional is one of the most exciting adjectives there is. It’s a catch-all word to describe movements and exercises that prepare your body for real-life activities. The pandemic has forced people away from gyms and led to an increase in outdoor exercise. We quickly realized that our workouts hadn’t exactly prepared us for wild environments. That extra muscle we had built up in the gym only weighed us down on runs and hikes. We rolled injured ankles and knees because we had only trained on perfect gym surfaces and lacked the right combination of mobility and stability. The 72 degree indoor environment did not prepare us for the temperature variations, the elements and the general unpredictability of the outdoors. It’s time to make your fitness truly functional again by lifting heavy and bulky objects, climbing, crawling and jumping more, realigning your cardio and engaging in other full-body sweat shenanigans. No one knows and appreciates this more than Nate Diaz. Master his endurance lessons and you’ll have fun getting back into the best shape of your life.
Weight room conversations often focus on muscle and strength, but endurance is the real difference maker. It’s your secret weapon in everything from recreational league basketball games to intense AMRAP workouts. Nate Diaz has understood this for years, which is why his UFC roster has long defied convention. A UFC championship fight consists of five 5-minute rounds of intense effort: punching, grabbing and kicking for your life. Most UFC training programs mimic this pace, pushing you through five-round circuits with kettlebells, battle ropes, and bodyweight. Diaz, 36, uses a different approach. Of course, he spends time perfecting his explosive punches and high kicks. But he shaped his UFC legend — and his 21-13 record, including an epic win over Conor McGregor in 2016 — by embracing endurance training.
“Endurance has been a big part of my success,” he says. Diaz and his older brother, UFC fighter Nick, learned the virtues of endurance training long before they entered the octagon, competing on the swim team as kids. Diaz fell in love with fighting at age 15, taking jujitsu lessons at Cesar Gracie Academy in the San Francisco Bay Area. Soon after, he was boxing and kickboxing. “And that quickly turned into a fighting career,” he says. Diaz turned pro in 2004. But he never forgot his endurance roots. Five days a week, he and his brother go for 75-minute runs, mountain bike rides and swimming, building up huge reservoirs of cardiovascular fitness.
The extra cardio helps him outlast his opponents. Diaz usually lays down a wild pace and watches his opponent wither. “It’s like a race,” he says. “You win with the regular rhythm. So I’ll turn up the sound. Science supports Diaz’s strategy. Researchers in Canada have found that having better aerobic fitness – which you develop on long runs, horseback rides and swims – can not only help you recover faster from high-intensity exercise, but it allows you also to continue to produce energy when you are tired. Translation: Diaz’s diet gives him energy when it counts.
BUILD YOUR ENDURANCE LIKE DIAZ
Diaz has developed his own simple way to test his endurance: a five-mile run. “Ever since I was training for tournaments at the age of 16, I’ve always loved being able to complete a five-mile race in 37 minutes,” he says. “If I can do it a few times a week, I’m ready to rock.” The weather isn’t lightning fast, but perfecting your stamina isn’t all about electric time. It’s about maintaining a steady but brisk seven-minute pace. Try chasing Diaz’s 37-minute benchmark; it’s more accessible than you might think.
Get an advantage
Use this 4-week plan to build the stamina needed to pass the Diaz test. Each week, repeat this run 3 times.
Course 4 miles; to aim 32 mins.
Course 6 miles; to aim 50 mins.
Course 5 miles; to aim 40 mins.
Rest for 2 daysthen Go for it.
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