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by Thomas Kurz
This continues the refutation of misconceptions and errors in the quote from Charles I. Staley. (See the first three parts at www.stadion.com/endurance-training-for-sports-and-martial-arts/.)
How much aerobic exercise do you need for high intensity efforts?
Obviously the selection of exercises and the methods of applying them have to reflect the demands of your sport. For example, in a fencing or boxing match brief speed-strength efforts that stress fast twitch muscle fibers are decisive, and these use anaerobic sources of energy. But such efforts occur many times during a bout so the ability to quickly recover between efforts, which depends on aerobic fitness, is very important. While a single boxing combination or a fencing flèshe does not produce lactic acid, a series of such efforts does and high acidity of the muscles lowers ability to perform these efforts. Removal of lactate (an ester of lactic acid) depends on aerobic fitness (Wawrzynczak-Witkowska 1991, Sterkowicz 1996). When sufficient oxygen is available, such as when exercise pace is slowed or you are at rest, most of the buildup of lactate is oxidized for energy and some of it is converted to glycogen (McArdle, Katch, and Katch 1991).
Aerobic fitness may be developed together with sport-specific speed or strength–when exercises recreate the pace of the fight–or in separate exercises consisting mostly of aerobic effort. The number and duration of such separate aerobic exercises depends on your individual needs. Some athletes need only two or three aerobic exercise sessions weekly, each of 20-30 minutes duration. These should be continuous low-intensity at a heart rate of 180 less their age exercises such as running, jumping rope, or some other. Other athletes may need more. To tell when and how much you need, become a student of yourself. According to P. Maffetone (1994), these are signs you need a higher ratio of aerobic exercises in your training.
1) You feel fatigued both physically and mentally, or even depressed. Depression is associated with chronic cortisol overproduction (McCarty 1994).
2) You get exercise injuries. High lactate level worsens your coordination so you do not move right and get injured.
3) You catch colds and other infections.
4) You wake up in the morning with difficulty and do not want to get up.
5) If you are a woman, you get PMS and menopausal symptoms because normal function of the hormonal system depends, apart from proper fat metabolism, on aerobic activity.
6) You gain fat or can’t lose it.
Observation Reveals, Research Explains
Scientific research gives you reasons for including aerobic exercise in your training. If you are observant, however, you do not need to study scientific papers to know how to exercise. After all, as you see from the errors in estimating the contribution of the aerobic system to short efforts, scientists may draw wrong conclusions because of the inaccuracy of their methods or instruments.
Those coaches that carefully watch the performance of their athletes in contests and in training know, without having to study papers, what exercises and how much of them to do.
All it takes is reacting to the signs–how athletes act, perform, and feel. Imagine a boxer who can throw a few lighting-fast combinations at the beginning of a fight but later on loses speed. It may mean that he does not have enough of the source of energy for this type of effort or that he is not recovering fast enough.
A coach may react by making this boxer do such combinations more often per minute during workouts. If that does not bring any improvement because the boxer is fatigued and runs out of speed, then improving aerobic fitness may be the solution.
How much aerobic training? As much as does not cause lowering of the speed and force of the boxer’s punches.
An athlete’s attitude and mood is also a telltale sign. If the athlete is enthusiastic about working out and happy then the balance of exercises is right. If the athlete does not look forward to working out, is gloomy, depressed, and does not recover well after workouts–then perhaps there is too much anaerobic efforts in his or her training. Do I need to say that an athlete who does not like what he or she does and is overtrained is not going to perform well?
Aerobic fitness has a place in every athlete’s training regimen. Observation–paying attention–will tell you to what extent and level of intensity aerobic training has a place in your workouts.
To emphasize the need for aerobic training in sports that do not seem to require aerobic fitness, I will close this article with a quote from Peter Rachmanliev, Bulgaria’s Senior National Coach for Track-and-Field Throws (Rachmanliev and Harness 1990):
“Heavy strength training loads have a negative effect on the heart and the circulatory system which can be only partially compensated for in a natural way by cross-country runs, [ball]games, swimming and a good deal of mobility work.”
Maffetone, P. 1994. In Fitness and in Health: Everyone Is an Athlete. Stamford, NY: David Barmore Productions.
McArdle, W. D., Katch, F. I., and Katch, V. L. 1991. Exercise Physiology: Energy, Nutrition, and Human Performance. Philadelphia: Lea & Febiger.
McCarty, M.F. 1994. “Enhancing central and peripheral insulin activity as a strategy for the treatment of endogenous depression—an adjuvant role for chromium picolinate?” Medical Hypotheses 43, no. 4: 247-252.
Rachmanliev, P. and Harness, E. 1990. “Long-term preparation for advanced female discus throwers.” New Studies in Athletics vol. 5, no. 1 March 1990, pp. 69-92.
Sterkowicz, S. 1996. “W poszukiwaniu nowego testu sprawnosci ruchowej w judo.” Trening no. 31: 46-59.
Wawrzynczak-Witkowska, A. 1991. “Znaczenie odnowy biologicznej w procesie treningowym.” in Waldemar Tlokinski ed. 1991. W kregu psychofizykalnych zagadnien profilaktyki i terapii w sporcie. Gdansk: AWF Gdansk.
If you have any questions on training you can post them at Stadion’s Sports and Martial Arts Training Discussion Forum