Aerobic Training For Athletes
What is aerobic training
Aerobic training, also known as cardio, improves an athlete’s ability to use oxygen to sustain activity for periods of time. The aerobic energy system utilizes fats, carbohydrates and sometimes proteins for re-synthesizing of Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) for energy use. ATP is the primary energy carrier in all living organisms. The aerobic system produces far more ATP than either of the other energy systems but it produces the ATP much more slowly, therefore it cannot fuel intense exercise that demands the fast production of ATP. However, aerobic training for athletes is key to optimizing performance.
Why aerobic training is good for athletes
The aerobic system is the dominant source of energy in sport and activities lasting longer than 3 minutes of continuous activity. Here are a few examples: endurance runners, cyclists, and distance swimmers, etc. All athletes can benefit from aerobic training even if they rely on quick short bursts of energy. Building a larger aerobic base will help increase anaerobic thresholds and improve energy efficiency.
Effects of aerobic training for athletes
Our bodies adapt to low to moderate-intensity activities that last for more than just a few minutes. Sustained workouts improve your body’s ability to breathe in and use oxygen. Here are the types of adjustments our bodies make internally to make these improvements:
- Increases in the number of mitochondria (small structures known as the powerhouses) inside muscle cells that produce energy from oxygen,
- Increases in the muscle’s ability to use fat as fuel,
- Greater lung capacity,
- Improved heart stroke volume (the amount of blood pumped with each beat),
- Changes in hormones (epinephrine) that break down and move fat through the body for use as a fuel,
- Increased lean body mass.
What are the best Aerobic Training Workouts
Intensity (how hard), duration (how long), and frequency (how often) are key ways to improve your ability to maintain aerobic activity. Fitness improves when intensity is between 70-80% of maximum heart rate, but this may not be adequate for endurance athletes in some sports and events.
Elite endurance athletes often utilize high-intensity interval (HIIT) exercise in their training regimens. Recent studies indicate that HIIT is a time-efficient strategy to stimulate a number of muscle adaptations that are comparable to traditional endurance training. Athletes may include other sport-specific activities in interval training workouts.
The aerobic energy system can be developed with various types of training.
- Interval training– Interval training for the long term aerobic energy system would have a work-rest ratio of 1:1 or 1:2. The work periods would usually exceed several minutes and the rest periods would be active but at a lower intensity that could be sustained.
- Continuous training– Training that maintains a constant intensity and lasts for a prolonged period of time (usually longer than 15 minutes)
- ‘Fartlek’ training– A type of interval training whereby the exerciser varies the speed and effort throughout the training session according to how they feel ensuring that they can continue to exercise at all times (i.e. no rest intervals).
- Run for two minutes at mod/high intensity, followed by two minutes at low intensity (active recovery) repeated for 30 minutes.
- 30 minutes low/moderate intensity cycling, swimming or jogging without change in intensity.
- 30 minute jog over hills requiring bursts of extra effort every now and then but never stopping throughout the jog.
Process and rate of recovery
Recovery for the aerobic system is about restoring fuel stores to their pre-exercise levels. This requires the ingestion, digestion and transportation of the fuel and can take between 12 and 48 hours depending on the intensity and duration of the aerobic training for the athlete’s performance.