Aerobic versus Anaerobic Fitness

When people think of cardio, they think of walking or running for at least 30 minutes at the same speed.

And yes, this is a great example of cardiorespiratory training.

However, there is another type of cardiorespiratory training that should be included in your workout rotation.

The sustained cardio training, working at the same speed/intensity for several minutes, is considered aerobic cardiovascular training.  The word aerobic means “with oxygen”.  Aerobic cardio training means that are body is burning calories for fuel with the use of oxygen.

There is another method our body burns calories for fuel – and this is anaerobic, or “without oxygen”.  This does not mean we are holding our breath!  We are breathing normally.  It just means that our working muscles are not receiving the amount of oxygen it needs to burn calories aerobically.

When the body performs short bursts of exercise, such as a 100-meter sprint, Olympic high jumps, or just running up a flight of stairs, it uses the anaerobic method to burn calories for fuel.  This is because our bodies have not adjusted from “rest” where oxygen is carried primarily to our organs, to “work” where oxygen is carried primarily to our working muscles.

aerobic vs anaerobic

Every exercise routine starts out as anaerobic, but with continued intensity and duration, it switches over to aerobic.

There are several benefits to anaerobic exercise.  Anaerobic exercise improves your cardiorespiratory fitness, develops stronger muscles, and increases your bodies capacity to rid itself of lactic acid (lactic acid buildup can cause post workout soreness).  With anaerobic training, your endurance and ability to resist fatigue will improve.

The best way to increase your anaerobic fitness is with interval training.

Interval workouts are when you workout at a low to moderate intensity for a set time period and then exercise at a high intensity for a set time period.

interval training

The exercises can be anything from walking and running, to using specific cardio exercises or drills like lunges, high knees, skater jumps or jumping rope.

Here are two variations of an interval workout.  Choose your favorite exercise and give it a try!

Variation 1:

Warm up for 3-5 minutes
complete 1 minute of high intensity exercise followed by 1 minute of moderate to low intensity exercise.
Repeat this pattern 6-8 times.
Cool down 3-5 minutes

Variation 2:

Warm up for 3-5 minutes
30 seconds high intensity: 1 minute low intensity
45 seconds high intensity: 1 minute low intensity
60 seconds high intensity: 1 minute low intensity
90 seconds high intensity: 1 minute low intensity
60 seconds high intensity: 1 minute low intensity
45 seconds high intensity: 1 minute low intensity
30 seconds high intensity: 1 minute low intensity
30 seconds high intensity
3-5 minute cool down

Note that interval training at very high intensity is only recommended for the highly trained individual.  For those seeking to improve fitness, you may perform interval training using moderate to slightly above moderate (not high) as your “high” level and slightly below moderate to low as your “low” level.

It is also effective to just add 1 or 2 intervals into your normal aerobic routine.  So if you normally jog at 5.0 mph, try picking up your speed for 30-60 seconds a few times during your jog.  This will help you build up to interval training for longer durations.

Try adding interval training into your routine once every one to two weeks and gradually build from there.  Remember to always listen to your body.  If it says you are working out too hard, slow down or stop.  You want to reap the benefits but not at the cost of an injury.

 

 

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