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Rule of Thumb for Aerobic Training

With a new year comes some of the basic questions and problems I see all to often.  Probably the biggest cause of plateau’s and sticking points comes from people doing their aerobic training too fast. Simply stated, they are walking, jogging, swimming, etc….too fast for their current level of fitness.



Most people think that aerobic training is walking, jogging, biking, swimming, etc…which it is. However, if you walk, jog, bike, etc too fast for your current level of fitness you will be triggering ‘anaerobic’ metabolism – not aerobic metabolism. The difference is that aerobic metabolism will burn fats for energy, whereas anaerobic metabolism will burn calories from the breakdown of carbohydrates and proteins. exercise should trigger aerobic metabolism, but if you are training too fast – your body will switch to anaerobic metabolism.

FYI…It’s not so much, how many calories you burn, but did your burn calories from the breakdown of fats or did you burn calories from the breakdown of carbohydrates and lean muscle (proteins)?

The problem with activating anaerobic metabolism is that it is Stress Producing on your body and triggers the breakdown of carbohydrates and lean muscle, NOT Stored Fats.

Aerobic exercise is low to moderate intensity and is something you can do for long term or hours. When you start activating your anaerobic system you start producing more cortisol and adrenaline, your stress hormones.

Your aerobic workout should be easy and stress reducing, whereas strength training should be fairly stressful. The problem is that most people have been told that their aerobic or fat burning zone is between 60-85% of their maximum heart rate…which it is.

Unfortunately, a lot of people, regardless of their current level of fitness, assume they can train at 80% of their maximum heart rate and still be aerobic. The simple fact is that ONLY elite marathoners and triathletes can train at 80% of their max heart rate and still be aerobic.

So, if you’re not that well conditioned elite endurance athlete, it would probably be smarter to train at 65-75% of your maximum heart rate. Otherwise you could be over-stressing your body, specifically your adrenal glands. This could than be why you have hit that sticking point, your body (adrenal glands) are exhausted and it would be a good idea to check and see if your adrenal glands are over-worked and fatigued.

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The best way to measure your heart rate is with a heart rate monitor, but here is a simple rule of thumb you can use.

Rule of Thumb. At the completion of your aerobic workout, ask yourself if you can do the exact same workout, again, right now, kind of back-to-back? If your answer is, are you crazy! I’m spent! I can’t do the same workout, I need to rest!

If that’s your response, more than likely you were triggering anaerobic metabolism, which is depleting your body and adrenal glands. You many not have thought you were training all that hard, but your little heart muscles was probably pumping a lot harder than you thought. This is again why wearing a heart rate monitor can be a real eye opener for a lot of people.

You could be over-stressing a body that is already exhausted. In other words, the supposed easy workout you are hoping to get is a lot harder on your body than you think.

Don’t make one of the biggest mistakes that I often see with patients and clients. It’s not about training harder or longer – it’s about training and dieting smarter. Hope that helps.

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