Aerobic Running

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source: ic.studyhealth.com

I’ve been running for a number of years and have never given much thought to the science of aerobic running and its counterpart anaerobic running. Sure I’ve heard the term, and translated it to mean, that if I can hold a short conversation while running then that’s aerobic and it’ll do. Besides, I’m not much of a fan of running and talking, as I prefer to dial-in to what’s happening in and around me, thus silence please has always been my motto. Thing is, all this time with my limited understanding of the term, its application and ability to improve my running, I may have inadvertently put myself at a disadvantage in the PR department.
As it is, after my last race, I’ve been pretty sensitive and receptive to any information that could help shed some light on my performance that day, hence the topic today. According to runneracademy.com, aerobic running is the state of exercise where your body has enough oxygen for your muscles to produce the energy they need to perform. See I wasn’t too far off; if you’re running and you’re able to maintain a short conversation as when you’re doing an easy run, you’re engaging in aerobic respiration. Science has it, that this state of running is extremely important to runners and will allow your body to become stronger while recovering from harder bouts of exercise (underarmour.com, Health & Technology blog).
The case is made for spending at least 80% of your running in an aerobic state to become a faster runner. Some coaches  even argue that aerobic base training is integral to a successful runner’s training plan. This type of training, championed by Matt Ross USAT, USATF, USAC coach, is a period of reduced volume and intensity, working in the presence of oxygen – slowing it down in order to get faster. Matt argues that it is impossible to train hard year round, without taking regular periods of reduced intensity as this is sure to affect your performance negatively even if you don’t fall suspect to overtraining, injury or just plain burn out. In an article on active.com, Aerobic Base Training: Going Slower, to get Faster, he says,  “the idea behind base training is to train your aerobic energy system specifically and solely. Prolonged aerobic training produces muscular adaptations that improve oxygen transport to the muscles, reduces the rate of lactate formation, improves the rate of lactate removal and increases energy production and utilization. These adaptations occur slowly over time.” From my understanding, this period of base training teaches your body to utilize fat more efficiently as its main source of energy as it is the primary source of fuel for the aerobic energy system as oppose to carbohydrates, which is mainly what drives anaerobic running. As you would have guessed by now, Anaerobic running is the out-of-breath, all-out, over-your-threshhold kind of running, when your body does not have sufficient oxygen and therefore will be unable to sustain the current pace for a long period of time.
A lot has been written about how the body utilizes and expels carbon dioxide and water natrually while we run aerobically and produces lactic acid when we switch to anaerobic respiration. The danger lies where there becomes a build-up of lactic acid and therefore a byproduct of its production – hydrogen – because of a low supply of oxygen in our system. This leads to extreme fatigue and thus the inability to sustain such a state. We can see how that is a problem for a marathoner or long distance runner. Ideally you want to utilize aerobic running for the most part of the marathon, switching to anaerobic running to finish off or finish strong, as we like to say. What that will look like for each runner will differ as we all have different fitness levels. For this reason coaches recommend performance testing to determine accurate individual zones which leads to a better understanding of one’s lactate threshold and thus one’s aerobic fitness level. 
I suspect I’ve only scratched the surface on this important area of running performance and only just begun to grasp its significance in training for the marathon in particular. Even the tevhnical jargon (LTHR, VO2 max, heart rate/ individual zones) isn’t Greek anymore and true to form, I’ve made a concentrated effort to apply its wisdom in training for my next big one coming up in July. I expect there won’t be results as immediate as I would like and maybe not even in July, but I figure to give it a start and in the words of Coach Matt, “the sooner you get started, the faster you’ll be.” I’m hoping anyway.
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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Kiersten
    May 22, 2016 @ 16:03:53

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