Knowing the difference between anaerobic exercise and aerobic exercise is the key to improving your personal best. Understanding what each of these terms means is the first step in transforming your program.
At the heart of aerobic and anaerobic training is the scientific fact that in order to exercise, your body needs to break down sugar and convert it to glycogen so that it can be used for energy.
When the body has enough oxygen for this process, we call it aerobic respiration. When there is not enough oxygen, such as when you run at the end of a 5K race, this is called anaerobic respiration.
What is aerobic exercise?
Aerobic breathing occurs when your body has enough oxygen, such as when you run quietly with friends. You breathe in and your body efficiently uses all the oxygen it needs to supply your muscles, and then you breathe out. Basically When you “run aerobically,” your muscles have enough oxygen to produce all the energy they need to make the effort you are asking of them.
The waste products of aerobic respiration are carbon dioxide and water. These by-products are easily expelled with a simple breath. This is why your breath is moist and rich in carbon dioxide.
What is anaerobic exercise?
Anaerobic respiration happens when you don’t have enough oxygen. In this case, the muscles do not have enough oxygen to produce the energy it needs from them (as in a final sprint).
When this happens, the muscles begin to break down the sugar, but instead of producing CO2 and water, they produce lactic acid (which causes the burning sensation in the muscles at the end of a run).
Unfortunately, lactic acid is more difficult to remove than water and CO2. Additionally, lactic acid builds up in your system, causing extreme fatigue.
Why knowing the difference between aerobic and anaerobic exercise is a crucial point for athletes
The importance of understanding these definitions is clear. If you start running too fast in the middle of a workout or at the beginning of a race, your body will be in an anaerobic state and will produce lactic acid.
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By establishing yourself in an “anaerobic” state at the beginning of a run, you will start to feel tired earlier and you will feel more and more tired while running. If lactic acid builds up in your muscles, you will need to drastically reduce your pace to return to a state of aerobic exercise.
You can forget all hope of breaking your personal best before even reaching the middle of the race.
For those who run the marathon, learning the difference between aerobic and anaerobic running is even more important. The faster you run, the more energy you burn, just like a car uses more fuel when on the road.
During your marathon, you need to conserve as much fuel as possible, so that if you go faster your aerobic exercise threshold allows it (the point where you go from a 100% aerobic run to lactic acid production), you burn off your faster fuel reserves. and you may not have enough to finish your degree.
How to learn to run aerobically when you need it?
Learning to find and feel your aerobic and anaerobic exercise rhythm is a very important skill if you want to start running faster.
The best way to test if running aerobically is to do what is called the “speech test.” While running, try talking to someone (or yourself if you’re alone) out loud.
If you can talk for several minutes without too much difficulty, you will be running aerobically. If you can barely get a sentence out before you start to feel short of breath, you are running too fast and have to slow down.
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For a more scientific evaluation, you can use a heart rate monitor to determine your level of exertion and adjust the intensity of your run based on your heart rate.