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Let’s Get Physical: Training for Competitive Sports

You are a biking enthusiast who goes biking every weekend. Or perhaps you love to run at night, after work. Pretty much, you’re in better shape than about 80% of the entire country’s population. But if you’re training for, say, a 10K marathon or bike race, you’re going to have to do better than the 20% who do actually exercise for physical fitness. You’re going to have to get into aerobic training.

Aerobic training improves the heart and lung’s strength, as well as muscle function. Aerobic training is designed to develop sports performance and enhance an athlete’s training response. Training response is the physiological changes that occur when the body undergoes a program of physical exertion.

Examples of Aerobic Training Exercises

Aerobic training exercises are fitness activities that elevate the heart rate and render breathing somewhat more strenuous. For the exercise to be effective, the activity you are engaged in must be constant and uninterrupted. Examples of aerobic exercises are:

  • Walking or hiking
  • Running or jogging
  • Biking
  • Swimming
  • Rowing
  • Stair-climber or elliptical machine exercise

In contrast, weight training is not an aerobic exercise because it is conducted in short gusts, lasting for a few minutes each.

How Aerobic Training Builds Endurance

Aerobic training elevates the rate at which inhaled oxygen is transferred from the heart and lungs to the bloodstream for the muscles’ utilization. Athletes who are aerobically fit can exercise harder and longer before a feeling of exhaustion sets in. In the course of exercise, these athletes’ heart and breathing rates are slower, experience less muscle fatigue, and have more energy. Furthermore, recovery happens more rapidly for them after exercise.

An athlete’s aerobic fitness can be measured in a controlled setting, such as a laboratory, while engaged in exercise on a stationary bicycle or a treadmill. This is referred to as VO2 max or maximal oxygen uptake.

A VO2 max test is performed while connected to a machine designed to analyze the athlete’s expired air. This test provides data on the oxygen level you utilize as you exercise and computes the maximum amount of oxygen you can use during intense exercise. This is a premier measurement of an athlete’s endurance.

Training Frequency and Duration

To achieve a notable training response, you should exercise for at least 20 minutes to an hour, three to five times a week. Your fitness level can be enhanced with a minimum of ten minutes of exercise as long as you do it two to three times a day. If your objective is to lose body fat, you should also exercise 30 to 60 minutes, at a minimum. If you are relatively out of shape, you will need to start with less frequency and duration. You can gradually add more time as your levels of endurance improve. To prevent muscular overuse or injury, you need to increase your level of exercise by just about 10% each week.

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How Hard Should You Train?

To improve your endurance, you may maintain the intensity levels of your training activities in the low to moderate range. This should be sufficient to see improvements in your endurance levels. This level of intensity is generally more enjoyable and reduces the likelihood of injuries than high-intensity training.

However, note that it is vital that your aerobic training program is designed to match your fitness level. There are three ways that you can measure the intensity of your aerobic training:

  1. The “talk test:” In the middle of a workout, try to talk. You should be able to speak a few words comfortably, pause to catch your breath and be able to resume talking again. If you encounter difficulty in doing this, then it likely means you need to slow down. However, if you can still speak effortlessly without running out of breath, then your training exercise is probably not intense enough.
  2. Heart rate: You will know that your aerobic training is working when, during exercise, your heart rate is between 60% and 90% of your maximal heart rate. You can compute your maximal heart rate by subtracting how old you are in years from 220. Say, for example, you are 35 years old (220-35=185). If your heart rate during exercise is anywhere between 111 (60% of 185) and 166.5 (90% of 185), then you know that aerobic training is in effect.
  3. Level of difficulty: To determine if your aerobic training is effective, you can gauge an exercise’s difficulty level on a scale of one to ten based on your perception and referring to the Borg Scale of Perceived Exertion. The ideal range for effective aerobic training is anywhere from two to seven.

Other factors can affect your body’s aerobic training response, such as your baseline fitness level. The more out of shape you are, the higher your training response is. As your fitness level increases, you will need higher intensity training to improve.

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