Train Your Heart
Aerobic training is often classified into the ‘cardio’ category of training. We automatically think of running, step classes, swimming, basically any activity that is longer than 15 minutes of continuous movement and work. These are all examples of aerobics. Anaerobic exercise, is shorter bursts of movement. We might thinking of sprinting, baseball, or doing circuit workouts that last less than 15 minutes at a time.
The main thing to keep in mind, is that we want to be good at both of them. However, it benefits everyone to prioritize aerobic capacity prior to anaerobic threshold. Why? Simply put, it conditions the heart, lungs, diaphragm and entire body as one. Exercises that are slower in pace allow us to build more accurate awareness and control of our bones and joints, which helps us prevent injuries. Developing a higher cognition of how to move lets us train our muscles in ways that promote longevity of the joints and neuromuscular understanding of the tissues. Secondly, as humans we were built for endurance. A lot of our evolution has been centralized around moving place to place, or tracking animals, or being able to make slow to medium sustained efforts over a long period of time. On the same token, we also developed anaerobic capabilities, but that’s for another discussion.
Why aerobic? Having aerobic capacity is fundamental for your nervous system and your respiratory system to function in a seamless manner. If you get winded easily when doing some sort of physical movement, and aren’t able to reoxidize the blood in your muscles (see cellular respiration) efficiently, then you become stressed, fatigued, weak, dizzy, and have to stop whatever environmental stimulus is challenging you. Your redox potential weakens, your ability to get rid of waste products diminishes, and you will begin to struggle to take in new oxidized blood to your heart. Which then means you will struggle to pump that new oxidized blood to your muscles to sustain the activity you’re doing.
More Than Muscle
This is a long-winded way of saying that if you have aerobic challenges, chances are you have metabolic, respiratory, circulatory, and even pulmonary/arterial challenges. A kink in the chain doesn’t mean just a kink in that area, it effects the entire kinetic chain.
So why aerobic? Because it pertains to your daily life. Holding a lunge and learning to associate tension across large chains of joints is way more important than doing a bench press. Having a solid understanding of how to shift your weight from one leg to another relates more to walking than any amount of squats will. Fundamentally speaking, you will benefit greatly by mastering your strength using bodyweight, light weights, and resistance.
What does it mean to have a strong aerobic base? To be able to hold isolated positions and breathe, (easily!) would be the first step to building your base. Again, the longer sustained efforts you can make, while learning to redistribute muscular stress to different areas of the body, will better help you assimilate muscular functions of your body. Eventually, when you get good at isometrics, you add ‘kinetic sequencing’ or eccentric control of your body in space. These two approaches are the bread and butter for building your cognition and strength simultaneously.
Mind Body Training
So aerobic, like you may notice, can be a variation of styles. The arching theme is that it involves conscious breathing, muscular tension and active relaxation. Think about it, our evolution has made us to be aerobic animals. Whether it’s holding a posture, running a few miles, or doing exercises with mild resistance, we want to feel that our breath and body is unified as we train.
So keep doing your aerobic exercise, but ask yourself, have you mastered the basics? Sure you can run on the treadmill or deadlift repetitions of weight, but can you hold a lunge isometric? Can you eccentrically lengthen a muscle and breathe comfortably in an unnatural position? By going slow and training mindfully, we can actually create a high aerobic output, increasing muscle involvement, energy expenditure, and heart rate. So aerobic doesn’t need to be, pounding, high impact, fast, and random. it can be calculative, specific, and actually help distribute stress to the correct muscles, which will in turn improve efficiency!
Life is unpredictable, random, and not controllable. Most injuries happen out in the real world, interacting with our environments and responding to external stimuli. Training can be done in a way that is applicable to these life scenarios. That way if we miss a step, lose our balance, or are in the wrong place at the wrong time, we’ve trained our muscles to be able to reflexively react to the scenario. The joints, muscles, tendons, everything has been conditioned to understand whats going on. You can condition your posture at your desk, you can condition your core so that when you run you don’t compress unnecessarily onto your spine. It all starts with building aerobic awareness and capacity. And this isn’t only done by checking out and going through the motions. Its done by dropping into yourself.
Listen to how you breathe, feel how you move. Is your training improving the conditioning of your joints at muscles?
The silver bullet of training is to prioritize your aerobic capacity. If you do that, everything else will get easier and you’ll improve quicker. It is a simple, seemingly easy solution to a difficult problem.