Saturday, October 2, 2010

Aerobic vs. Anaerobic - What's the Difference?

A lot of people ask me what the difference is between aerobic and anaerobic states while running and how they can tell themselves.  To put it simply, aerobic means "with oxygen" and anaerobic means "without oxygen".

Running, hiking, and biking are all typically aerobic...although you can enter into an anaerobic state if you're not careful.  When you working out anaerobically, your muscles get tired faster.  You can be walking fine, and then go up some stairs and all of a sudden you're winded and need to take a rest.  That's anaerobic.  It's your muscles getting fatigued due to the sudden bursts of energy.

You can go out and buy a fancy heart rate monitor to tell where you are in your workout, (which is not a bad thing at all...don't get me wrong) or you can use my simple trick:  If you can hold a "winded" conversation while running, you are in an aerobic state.  In other words, you are breathing somewhat heavy, but not quite Darth Vader.  If you're not "winded", or breathing hard, you can probably afford to pick up the pace a little. If you can barely talk during a run and can only grunt a reply, you are in an anaerobic state and need to slow down if you are trying to run for distance. 

Obviously, sprinters are in an anaerobic state while running.  Distance runners are in an aerobic state.  In the races, distance runners need to run right up against the top of their aerobic threshold...just on the border of being anaerobic...also called the metabolic threshold, but I don't want to get to technical...this is supposed to be fun!

Hopefully that helps you with an easy way to tell the difference.  Happy trails!

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