Four Things You Should Know About Aerobic Exercise

by Gordon Polovin

What is aerobic exercise?

Endurance sports like marathons, triathlons, rowing, and cycling are typical aerobic activities. A boxer running mile after mile on the road to building staying power for a twelve-rounder is another excellent example. Rafa Nadal's French Open tennis record of dueling triumphantly through numerous five-set matches is a classic aerobics situation. How about soccer midfielders running around 9.5 miles in ninety minutes, in ninety minutes, showing enviable aerobic endurance to keep the pressure on the other team. You will often hear commentators talking about an athlete's "suspect stamina" or "legs looking shaky." They are referring to their aerobic capability, short and simple.

Technically speaking, aerobic ability boils down to the cardiovascular system's capacity to distribute oxygen to the lungs, heart, and other muscles over a long period of intense activity. Thus, elite endurance athletes typically are those who:

●Have a naturally high maximal oxygen uptake rate (i.e., VO2max).

●Train the right way.

●Make maximum use of apparel and equipment technology.

The other side of the coin relates to anaerobic activities like the one-hundred-meter dash, shot put event, throwing a javelin, or an NFL wide receiver charging downfield. Also, weight-lifting and gymnastics (e.g., floor exercises, vault, and parallel bars) are anaerobic. You may notice the sports mentioned are all brief, explosive spectacles. Contestants frequently go into oxygen debt without affecting their performance. Why? Because the action is over before it even matters, which means there's no dependency on oxygen for achievement. Another great example is the unique case of fifty-meter freestyle swimmers. From when they hit the water until they touch the wall at the other end of the pool, these athletes don't take a breath.


How the aerobic exercise formula works

The truth of the matter is this: Genetics has a lot to do with where you begin your aerobics journey. Only one in millions of marathon enthusiasts can hope to become anything akin to eliud kipchoge, the world record holder at a minute over two hours. That's a performance of four minutes thirty-seven seconds per mile for twenty-six consecutive miles - simply mind-boggling!

Like Eliud (five-six and weighing a hundred-and-fifteen pounds), elite aerobic athletes are generally sinewy, lean with body-fat content of six percent, and relatively small in stature. The less body mass requiring oxygen, the more efficiently the distribution is. On the other hand, anaerobic athletes like Julio Jones, super-star of the Tennessee Titans (i.e., six feet three inches and 220 pounds), are notably big and muscular. In addition, they often demonstrate unique bodily strength and eye-popping speed over short spurt distances. Ask Julio to swap roles with Eluid - both would fail dismally.

Perhaps, at best, ten percent of all active marathoners have the VO2max potential to break even three hours for the distance. However, that's not the point. Serious endurance athletes of different capabilities try their utmost to squeeze the last drop of aerobic juice their natural DNA can deliver. To reiterate - first, they do it by exercising the right way. Second, they extract every bit of support that cutting-edge technology can provide.

There are probably thousands of overweight couch potatoes living across the world who will never know their ancestors blessed them with a superior VO2max. As a result, they may suffer from severe illnesses or die prematurely, quite unnecessarily. It takes a willingness to put in the dedication and training to be the best endurance athlete you can be (i.e., at a bare minimum) to open up your aerobic potential.

Think about it this way: Almost anyone can get through a marathon, triathlon, or cycle tour event if given enough time. The trick is to do it as fast as you can. Turning up for the race unprepared is not a good idea. Your body has to be ready to take it on. Train intelligently, and you can cut minutes off your personal best times every time you compete. Self-actualizing by aiming to go faster is what it's all about. Still, it takes patience, mental toughness, perseverance, tolerance for disappointment, and passion. Also, in almost every aerobic-centric sport, technique and skill (e.g., soccer, tennis, boxing) combine with endurance to shape an athlete's profile.


Enhancing aerobic performance and its health benefits

We've all seen on TV watching the Olympics how race leaders in an instant collapse or slow down to a staggered, wobbly walk. Most aerobic athletes know they're done when lactic acid build-up creates an overwhelming feeling of exhaustion. It all but shuts down the body with cramps and excruciating pain. Competitors go to extreme limits to offset the onset of lactic acid pouring into their muscles. For example, many Tour De France cyclists, including multi-crowned champion Lance Armstrong, have thrown caution to the wind. Caught cheating with illegal blood doping and other drug use, the organizers disqualified them unceremoniously.

Legitimate aerobic strategies include exercise programs like:

●Interval training (jog, sprint, jog, sprint - for an hour or more at a session).

●Three-mile time trials (testing your oxygen debt zones).

●Repetition hill work until your lungs are bursting.

●Slow jogging for hours on the road to get the distance in one's legs.

Coaches in rowing, cycling, and long-distance swimming design similarly structured training sessions. Aerobic exercise lies at the core of endurance training, with fast-appearing benefits to the cardiovascular system. This, in turn, lowers the risk of heart disease, reduces blood pressure, and increases one's HDL (i.e., the "good" cholesterol). That is only half the story. It is also responsible for:

-Balancing blood sugar.

-Assisting weight loss without dieting.

-Expanding lung capacity.

-Creating heightened heart efficiency with a lower resting heart rate.

Aerobic exercise does not guarantee to add years to your life, but it will certainly add life to your years. Many medical practitioners believe it will do both.


Finally - what else can you do to improve aerobic fitness?

Make sure you have the latest technology on your side. Triathletes focus on the aerodynamic wetsuits for the swim, treadmills for training indoors, Peloton as the state-of-the-art stationary cycle. Runners debate the lightest, most supportive, and durable shoes. High-octane carbohydrate supplements are a standard fuel before and during a race. The range of options is almost endless and exciting.

One of the latest to emerge is compression socks and tights for all endurance athletes. The manufacturers provide data that proves these garments substantially accelerate oxygen delivery to the body, thereby delaying the lactic acid disruption, muscle cramps, and fatigue. The search for new solutions is ongoing, helping aerobic athletes at every level to smash through their PB barriers.