Rules of Intensity for Anaerobic Workouts
by Brad Kearns Perhaps
the #1 problem hindering fitness progress and optimum health among endurance
athletes is too much anaerobic exercise.
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If you want to succeed with your efforts to
reach and maintain your ideal body composition, you must not conduct anaerobic
Anaerobic workouts can be a powerful tool
for fitness improvement, but they can also be your worst enemy, leading to
burnout, sugar cravings and an inability to efficiently burn body fat.
Here are my Four Rules of Intensity - simple
guidelines that will help you efficiently manage energy output for continued
fitness progress and prevent burnout.
Rule #1: Always develop an aerobic base
before engaging in ANY anaerobic exercise. For beginning exercisers this
may take up to a year of steady aerobic workouts. Experienced athletes find a
two-month period at the beginning of the exercise season is sufficient to
develop a base. You can measure your aerobic development with MAF performance
tests to ensure your base building is successful.
Rule #2: Only do anaerobic workouts when
you feel 100% physically energized and mentally refreshed. Anaerobic
workouts are intense, physically stressful efforts. You should never force your
body to exercise at high intensity if your spirit is not willing. You will not
recover adequately nor will you obtain the desired fitness benefits if you push
a tired body through an intense workout.
Diligent exercisers have long been under the
mistaken impression that fitness progress is measured by workout difficulty or
workout frequency. When you treat your body like a rock ("push it hard enough
and it will progress"), you violate the laws of nature and balance.
Your body needs a constant balance of stress
and rest. Even though it may be an enjoyable "release" from other forms of
stress, anaerobic exercise is merely another form of physical stress. Thus, it
must be placed on the same side of the balance scale as all other forms of
stress in your life.
This stress needs to be moderated by
energizing aerobic workouts and other pursuits that help restore and replenish
your physical and mental energy.
Rule #3: Never conduct anaerobic workouts
for longer than six consecutive weeks without a break. Even if you only do
one anaerobic workout a week, you are engaged in an "anaerobic training phase."
After six weeks of anaerobic workouts, you must take a minimum rest period of
three weeks. During this time, drastically reduce your workout frequency and
never exceed your maximum aerobic heart rate during any workouts.
Over the next three weeks, you can rebuild
your fitness base with aerobic base training. For each block of anaerobic
training during the year, plan an equal block of time afterwards to refrain
from anaerobic workouts.
Every time your body is exposed to anaerobic
exercise, it needs an adequate recovery period afterwards to fully absorb and
benefit from this intense training. Only then will you experience the desired
fitness benefits from intense workouts.
Rule #4: Never exceed 10% of weekly
workout time at anaerobic heart rates. During your carefully controlled
anaerobic training phases, it is essential to minimize the total time you spend
at anaerobic heart rates to ensure that you do not exceed 10% of your total
workout time for the week.
For example, if you do three 40-minute runs
per week and two other cross-training cardiovascular workouts totaling 90
minutes, this is an accumulated weekly workout time of 210 minutes (3 1/2
hours). Thus, your anaerobic efforts are limited to 21 minutes for the week.
This would entail one typical interval workout.
For the 10% rule, you are counting actual
exercise time at anaerobic heart rates. While your interval workouts may last
40 minutes, typically only 12-20 minutes are conducted anaerobically, with the
rest devoted to warm-up, cooldown and recovery between anaerobic efforts.
Following these 4 Rules of Intensity
requires a discipline and focus that may feel frustrating and stifling at
first. You will sacrifice some of the spontaneity of your workouts and have to
constantly temper your competitive instincts.
Following these guidelines will diminish the
measure of short-term gratification that you experience from pushing your body
to an exhilarating, maximum effort on a regular basis.
However, the reduction in short-term
gratification will be more than compensated for by the tremendous benefits you
enjoy through a carefully planned training that emphasizes aerobic exercise:
increased energy levels, optimum health and continued improvement in your
Brad Kearns is a former national champion
and #3 world-ranked professional triathlete and popular author, speaker and
coach in the fitness world for the last 16 years. Brads Power
Month book/CD offers a focused, 30-day program with daily Action Plans to
improve dietary habits and food choices, goals and heart-rate based
periodization training schedule, general health and stress management and
personal growth issues. His www.Bradventures.com offers a healthy, holistic approach to
performance nutrition and healthy, balanced lifestyle practices.