Sports & Fitness

Should You Be Training Aerobically Or Anaerobically?

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by Sonia Cacciacarro (PFLC, ACE, OFC)


Train hard but train right

Like most people, you’ve probably heard the terms aerobic and anaerobic exercise. These two methods of exercise play an integral role in sport specific training programs, yet most people are unaware of how to utilize the appropriate training method. In other words, which method would be most beneficial to your specific goals? Whether you are an elite or recreational athlete, you want to perform at your best, not only on the day of the event but while you are training. Should you be training aerobically or anaerobically, or doing both?

In the end, you must train to be fit specifically for your sport. This means you must determine what type of energy system your sport requires and then train accordingly.

The aerobic energy system is used when exercising at a continuous pace and a lower intensity: marathon runners utilize this system. The anaerobic energy system is used when exercising at very high intensities for short periods of time: sprinters fall into this category.

When training for a specific sport, you must first determine the energy system(s) used. Think of your sport, how long is it in duration? How intense is it? Is the intensity constant or is it intermittent? Although many sports are either aerobic or anaerobic, many use both systems; soccer is an excellent example of this.

Once you have determined if a sport is aerobic, anaerobic or utilizes both systems, you are ready to design your training program. Your main goal is to simulate the sport by performing exercises that employ the same energy systems used in that sport. When training for an aerobic sport, endurance training dominates your exercise program. An example of an endurance training exercise is cycling at a constant speed and intensity for 45 minutes.

When training for an anaerobic sport, interval training dominates your exercise program. Interval training exercises involve short, high intensity bursts of exercise followed by rest periods. An example of an interval training exercise is running on the treadmill at a very fast pace and a high grade for 30 seconds followed by an active 45-second rest period.

This run and rest routine should be performed repeatedly. Remember that these are only two examples. You must match the exercises to your specific sport keeping in mind that many sports involve the use of both energy systems and, therefore, require you to cross-train. Remember, your success most often depends on the amount of time and effort that you put in BEFORE the big day, so go out and train hard but train right.

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