Aerobic Versus Anaerobic Exercises and Training
Aerobic versus anaerobic exercise are very different; aerobic exercise is on the other side of the energy system continuum from anaerobic exercise. Aerobic exercise is a type of repetitive, continuous running that requires the body’s metabolic system to use oxygen to produce energy. Anaerobic exercise involves high intensity focused on speed or power for short durations with minimal oxygen use. Both aerobic and anaerobic exercise and training are needed by track and field runners, the dosage will depend on the specific event.
Aerobic Versus Anaerobic Exercise
Aerobic Exercises and Training
The top runners train to increase available energy both aerobic and anaerobic energy systems. Mixing in the right type of training at the right time is one of the major challenges to coaches, however good record keeping, proper feedback and constant evaluation of the training will help the coach and athlete optimize performance.
Typically, aerobic exercise is running without recovery for the entire length of the run. Continuous running includes running at one pace or running with pace changes without a break. Starting with easy running and gradually lengthening the duration will help build the endurance base for future training.
Aerobic training increases the number and efficiency of mitochondria creating a more productive aerobic system. The aerobic system efficiently re-synthesizes ATP without byproducts that will result in fatigue. With progressive exercise, the amount of blood pumped by the heart every minute will improve as well as the utilization of oxygen.
Aerobic capacity is the foundation for the all endurance training programs, aerobic endurance will help maintain the foundation throughout the entire season. The aerobic system must be able to supply an adequate amount of oxygen to the muscles.
According to Physiopedia
Aerobic capacity: Maximal aerobic capacity or maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max) is a measure of the maximum amount of oxygen that an individual can use per unit of time during strenuous physical exertion at sea level. Maximum aerobic capacity increases with aerobic training. The resting Vo2 is stable, as is the Vo2 at a given workload. The changes are specific to the trained muscles.
Anaerobic power is the highest level of force that can be reached by an athlete per unit of time. The energy for anaerobic power is supplied by phosphocreatine reserves and anaerobic glycolysis during maximal intensity exercise. Extending anaerobic power improves the ability to hold surges and kick longer during races.
In the article “Aerobic Power Training”, Scott Christensen emphasized developing aerobic power for distance runners will be some of the most important workouts for performance. The limiting factor in race distances from 800 meters to 6,000 meters is the ability for the working muscles to utilize oxygen (Christensen, 2015).
Aerobic Training For Distance Runners
Extensive or low intensity training is when the heart rate at or below 130 beats per minute. Easy running is often used to build the aerobic foundation with general endurance training and as recovery work between more intense sessions. Workloads at lower intensities will improve the capacity of the runner to supply oxygen to the muscles using oxidative phosphorylation.
Training below 65% of VO2max at a heart rate at 130 or below (60-65% of max heart rate) will improve general aerobic conditioning in distance runners.
Lactate threshold, also known as tempo running is the intensity that lactate production and lactate removal are in balance, energy is consumed mainly from the aerobic energy system.
Aerobic threshold pace is approximately 65% of VO2 max or at a heart rate of 130-140 beats per minute (65-75% of max heart rate for high school/college athletes).
Aerobic threshold training is the most effective method to improve aerobic development (USATF, 2015).
Easy running and aerobic threshold pace develop aerobic conditioning that is the base training for the endurance events to improve the physiological systems for long durations of low to moderate intensity continuous running.
Easy running and aerobic threshold running for middle distance runners are not the same as runners that compete in the longer distances. Middle distance runners require more anaerobic abilities than long distance runners and training needs to reflect this difference.
Aerobic Training and Sprinters
Sprinters only spend a small percentage of training time on aerobic abilities. Tempo runs between 75-9% running speed (intensive tempo), running under 75% intensity (extensive tempo), and easy continuous running are three main aerobic methods for sprinters.
Intensive tempo training consists of sub-maximal intensity workouts with more volume and shortened rest periods when compared to other methods used for the sprint events. Intensive tempo training can be used independently or in conjunction with higher intensity training to develop event-specific work capacity.
Extensive tempo training consists of low intensity running between 15 and 90 seconds in duration (100 meters to 600 meters). Extensive tempo training can be used for active recovery after near maximal and maximal intensity sessions.
400 meters can benefit from extensive tempo workouts since 20% of the ATP requirement of the race is from the oxidation of muscle glycogen.
Continuous runs is low intensity exercise for an extended duration (1,600m to 4,000m). Continuous runs are non-specific training for sprinters because the abilities have very little transfer to speed development.
Continuous runs can be used as part of an extended warm-up or as a recovery workout after near maximal and maximal intensity sessions.
Continuous running increases oxygen intake allowing the runner to move faster for longer periods before the anaerobic metabolic pathway is engaged.
Anaerobic training will develop the runner’s tolerance for lactate, improving the ability to withstand the byproducts as a result of fatigue. A higher lactate tolerance allows for higher intensity running for longer stretches.
Coaching Point: Lactate threshold (tempo) running pace is the fastest speed an athlete can run that can be sustained by the aerobic system, running faster than lactate threshold pace will require assistance from the anaerobic system. Intensity above lactate threshold will engage the anaerobic system as a significant source fuel source.
Anaerobic capacity is the longest duration that maximal intensity can be maintained before fatigue. An increase in anaerobic capacity will allow the runner to resist pyruvate for longer periods, increasing the amount of pyruvate that can be produced before the onset of fatigue. Less lactate is produced at the same pace prior to an increase in anaerobic capacity.
Maximal anaerobic capacity is the total amount of ATP that can be generated from the hydrolysis of phosphocreatine and anaerobic glycogenolysis over a given time. Maximal anaerobic capacity is determined by resting concentrations of phosphocreatine and the ability to withstand lactic acid and other metabolic byproducts during intense exercise (Dale & McDougal, 2014).
The second type of anaerobic training is focusing on anaerobic power. Anaerobic power is the highest level of force that can be reached by an athlete per unit of time during maximal intensity exercise.
Maximal anaerobic power is the highest rate of energy production that can be generated with a limited oxygen supply from resting ATP, phosphocreatine reserves, the hydrolysis of phosphocreatine, and anaerobic glycogenolysis over a given time.
Anaerobic Training for Runners
Anaerobic training for sprinters and distance runners at near maximal and maximal intensity training depletes the glycogen stores and generates extremely high levels of lactate in the blood, therefore coaches must monitor the performance drop off during training and adjust the training loads as needed.
Anaerobic capacity training will enhance the ability to withstand lactic acid and other byproducts that limit performance due to fatigue. ATP production from anaerobic glycogenolysis can be maintained for 40 seconds or more.
The duration of effective energy production for anaerobic exercise can be improved with training, however, it is physiologically impossible to improve the resting concentrations of phosphocreatine for immediate energy usage.
The anaerobic metabolic pathways (ATP-phosphagen energy system and anaerobic glycolysis) maintain constant concentrations of ATP when oxygen supplies are insufficient to produce ATP by oxidation. The supply of ATP from anaerobic pathways will be the primary energy source for high intensity exercise under 60 seconds in duration.
The aerobic metabolic pathway can maintain constant ATP levels via oxidation in low to moderate intensity exercise. In the presence of oxygen, the intensity of exercise can be maintained if ATP is resynthesized without accumulating byproducts that can result in fatigue.
Anaerobic training for sprinters and distance runners can include short duration and higher intensity exercise bouts are more dependent on the anaerobic pathways (phosphagen and glycolytic), as the duration increases (over 60 seconds), the oxidative pathway is more pronounced even with higher intensity exercise (Serresse, Lortie, Bouchard & Boulay, 1998).
The phosphagen energy required for short sprinting can be extended by anaerobic training methods. Speed training will increase energy-rich phosphate, especially creatine phosphate and muscle glycogen, that will extend the use of ATP when oxygen is limited.
Anaerobic training includes developing anaerobic capacity and anaerobic power.
Distance Running and Anaerobic Training
Anaerobic training will develop the runner’s tolerance for lactate, improving the ability to withstand the byproducts as a result of fatigue. A higher lactate tolerance allows for higher intensity running for longer stretches during anaerobic phases of the race. Near maximal and maximal intensity training depletes the glycogen stores and generates extremely high levels of lactate in the blood.
High intensity activities that last beyond two minutes require the activation of both the anaerobic and aerobic energy systems. Anaerobic and aerobic pathways crossover at approximately 60 seconds; at 90 seconds, the aerobic pathway contributes approximately 30% of the energy production. At two minutes, the anaerobic and aerobic pathways are equal; at four minutes, 60% of the energy is from the aerobic system.
The times and percentages of aerobic and aerobic contributions can be adjusted based on the training state of the athlete.
Anaerobic training for sprinters and distance runners for anaerobic endurance can be improved with specialized work capacity methods for speed and power events as well as distance runners. The anaerobic energy system can be trained using two methods: continuous running with brief periods of fast running (under 90 seconds) and sprint training under 90 seconds with recovery.
The percentage of oxidative pathways usage increases at lower intensity portions of a workout or race. If the intensity is increased, for example, during the final kick of a race, the anaerobic system will supply nearly all of the energy for the final portion of the race if ATP is available without the presence of oxygen (USATF, 2015).
Distance runners can train for event-specific speed at longer distances for aerobic power or anaerobic capacity. If aerobic endurance is needed on the same day, performing a morning run then a speed workout in the afternoon is the best method.
Coaching Point: anaerobic training for long distance runners is usually 10 to 20% of total training volume and 25 to 40% of training volume for middle distance runners. The amount of anaerobic training should reflect the approximate percentage of anaerobic energy needed for the competition event.
Sprinting and Anaerobic Training
Peak and maximal short term power output can be improved with proper sprint interval training focusing on the glycogenolytic pathway. Repeated maximal efforts under 15 seconds with proper recovery will develop anaerobic power.
When training maximal intensity, recovery times of 3-4 minutes that includes an active recovery between efforts will maximize physiological adaptations.
The general rule is 60 to 90 seconds of recovery per 10 meters of work.
Sub-maximal velocity training will have both anaerobic and aerobic components within the training structure for sprinters, especially long sprinters.
Anaerobic capacity is important in track and field for 400 meter runners and short sprinters that run multiple events in a single day or multiple rounds over an extended time period in championship events.
Peak and maximal short term power output can be improved with proper sprint interval training focusing on the glycogenolytic pathway. Repeated maximal efforts under 15 seconds with proper recovery will develop anaerobic power. When training maximal intensity, recovery times of 3-4 minutes that includes an active recovery between efforts will maximize physiological adaptations. Anaerobic capacity is important in track and field for 400 meter runners and short sprinters that run multiple events in a single day or multiple rounds over an extended time period in championship events.
Anaerobic training for sprinters and distance runners is a key component to track and field performance; it can also be used for the different field events. Specific anaerobic training can change how the body uses energy and delay muscle discomfort while improving the qualities needed for better performance. The energy system used will depend on the length and intensity of the event.
Speed Endurance and Anaerobic Abilities
Anaerobic training for runners, especially sprinters include speed endurance, an anaerobic ability allowing athletes to maintain maximal speed over the longest distance possible before the onset of fatigue.
Short sprinters will train on the lower end of the distance range (70-100 meters), with the total volume reaching 300 meters to 800 meters.
Longer sprinters will train across the entire speed endurance continuum (80-150 meters), with volumes reaching 600 meters to 1,200 meters in a training session.
Anaerobic capacity is important for 400-meter runners and short sprinters that run multiple events in a single day or multiple rounds throughout championship events over several days.
Aerobic and Anaerobic Exercises
Athletes can use one or any combination of anaerobic or aerobic energy systems. The energy systems operate on a continuum based on fitness, exercise intensity, and duration. Energy systems do not work in isolation; every movement has elements of each energy system.
Coaching Point: faster paced running near or above race pace with incomplete recovery periods will develop both aerobic and anaerobic energy systems. Event specific endurance training involves running below race pace and event specific speed is running above race pace.
Aerobic and Anaerobic Training and Heart Rates
In the article Heart Rate Training Zones (MacKenzie,1997), aerobic and anaerobic training is broken down into four categories with two aerobic heart rate zones, first is the energy efficient zone, which is between 60 to 70% and the other aerobic zone between 70 to 80% intensity. With anaerobic exercise, the first heart rate zone is between 80 to 90%, followed by the highest intensity zone of 90%+
Four Heart Rate Zones
- Energy Efficient Zone: 60% to 70%
- Aerobic Zone: 70% to 80%
- Anaerobic Zone: 80% to 90%
- Red Line Zone: 90% to 100%
Training and Recovery
Changing the timing and movements during recovery can have a major impact on what energy systems are developed during training. Coaches must monitor the performance drop off during training and adjust the loads as needed.
Changing the activities during recovery, such as jogging instead of walking, can make the workout more aerobic. Recovery can also include a change in the training modalities between repetitions, including running sprints to improve the anaerobic energy system between longer, more aerobic bouts of exercise. The modalities that can be manipulated can be any training that can positively impact any of the athletic performance abilities.
- Longer recovery improves anaerobic abilities
- Shorter recovery increases aerobic abilities
Training Considerations for Runners
The intensity, duration, volume, and recovery methods plus the physiological state of the athlete will all factor into which type of energy system is used during training. The proper application of training principles based on physiology and sports science directs the athlete’s program focused on anaerobic training for sprinters and distance runners. Understanding how the body uses energy in training will guide coaches to develop programs for athletes using the specific qualities needed in various track and field events.
Aerobic Versus Anaerobic Exercise Review
The production of energy is interconnected; each system operates on a continuum. Each energy system has different qualities based on power and capacity; the anaerobic-aerobic energy split is determined primarily by the availability of oxygen as a result of the intensity and duration of the exercise bout.
With sprinters, training for anaerobic power is extremely important for short sprinters. Anaerobic capacity is important for 400-meter runners and short sprinters that run multiple events in a single day or multiple rounds throughout championship events over several days.
Anaerobic training for sprinters and distance runners should include anaerobic and aerobic workouts during every cycle with a different emphasis during each period. Maintaining or improving both aerobic and anaerobic abilities during every training cycle in the program will be beneficial to develop all of the qualities needed for championship competition.