A properly designed exercise program should consist of training aerobically and anaerobically. Both energy systems play a critical role in human performance. How much time should be spent in improving aerobic conditioning verses anaerobic conditioning depends on the initial status of each individual. This can be determined by participating in a Max VO2 test.
First lest discus the process of energy production. There are 3 energy pathways that operate together to provide the energy requirements to produce work. The anaerobic energy system is divided into (1) alactic (splitting of stored phosphages, ATP and phosphocreatine) and (2) lactic components (the non aerobic breakdown of carbohydrate to lactic acid through glycolysis), The (3) aerobic energy system refers to the breakdown of carbohydrates and fats in the presence of oxygen.
The anaerobic pathways are capable of regenerating ATP at high rates yet are limited by the amount of energy that can be released in a single bout of intense exercise. In contrast, the aerobic system has an enormous capacity yet is somewhat hampered in its ability to delivery energy quickly.
A misconception of how the energy system works is that they all work independently. However, current research suggests that energy is derived from each of the energy-producing pathways during almost all exercise activities.
The aerobic threshold occurs when the exercise activity is sub maximal and is sustained for a long period of time. Hiking, jogging, cycling and swimming are examples of aerobic training. It is important to have a higher aerobic capacity so these activities can be performed below anaerobic threshold and can be sustained for a long period of time.
The anaerobic threshold occurs when the exercise activity is above the comfort zone and is produced by aerobic energy production and is supplemented by anaerobic energy production. This causes a sustained increase in lactate and metabolic acidosis. When performing activities like mountain biking or hiking steep hills, this activity in many situations is performed above the anaerobic threshold resulting to a decrease in performance due to the metabolic acidosis resulting to fatigue. This demonstrates the need for anaerobic conditioning to improve anaerobic threshold.
There are specific heart rate training zones that need to be obtain to improve aerobic and anaerobic fitness levels. The only way to determine these specific heart rate training zones is through metabolic testing. Metabolic testing measuring expired oxygen and carbon dioxide (Max VO2 testing) and will determine Max VO2, aerobic threshold and anaerobic threshold.
These testing procedures are available at Wolf Total Fitness and administered by Bob Antonacci, MSEd, Exercise Physiologist.