Cardiorespiratory training: Anaerobic-endurance training

Anaerobic-endurance training is for those who have endurance/performance goals and/or are performing seven or more hours of cardiorespiratory training per week.  This training ensures that there is enough training volume, intensity, and recovery to promote performance changes that help you achieve your goals.  Kikkan_Randall_B_FIS_Cross-Country_World_Cup_2012-2012_Quebec_02You only need to have progressed through the aerobic efficiency training phase and be motivated to advance to this phase.  Most training (~80%) should be done at intensities where speaking is comfortable (RPE=3-4).  About 10% of training should be done above a very hard intensity or RPE=7.  Training in the ‘intermediate’ zone (RPE=5-6) does not provide the gains needed during anaerobic-endurance training.

To prevent over-training, alternating between ‘hard’ and ‘easy’ training days is a better approach than training the same very day.  In fact, you should not perform more than three or four high-intensity or very long training sessions per week.  Recovery training is a very important component of this phase.

During anaerobic-endurance training, you will improve your aerobic efficiency and build anaerobic endurance.  By increasing your anaerobic endurance, you will be able to perform physical activity at higher intensities (RPE=7 or above) for longer periods of time.  This will improve your endurance, speed, and power.

Training intensity during this phase of training should consist of 70-80% at RPE=3-4 (speak comfortably), 10-20% at RPE=7 or above (hard to very hard intensity and can only speak single words), and only short periods (less than 10%) at RPE=5 (moderate intensity).  This interval training that includes the higher intensity (RPE=7 or above)  should only be performed 1-2 times per week for individuals that are not highly fit.  The amount of training should gradually increase by <10% per week until the total weekly volume reaches a maximum of three times the expected duration of the event for which you are training.  Below is an example of an anaerobic-endurance training program.

phase 3 table


Cardiorespiratory training: Aerobic-efficiency training

You’ve been exercising habitually for weeks, performing moderate exercise for 60 minutes five times per week.  You feel good and want to move on to the next phase – aerobic efficiency training.  This phase concentrates on increasing the time of cardiorespiratory exercise and adds intervals.  This training improves aerobic efficiency, fitness, and health.spinning-771470_960_720

Aerobic efficiency training includes increased duration of sessions, increased frequency, and the introduction of interval training (increased intensity).  The warm-up, cool-down, recovery intervals, and steady-state cardiorespiratory exercise are done at a level where you can talk but is starting to feel uncomfortable when you do (RPE=3-4 or moderate to somewhat hard).  Intervals are added and they are performed at RPE=5 or hard.  Intervals start short, usually around 60 seconds, with a 180 second recovery interval (1:3 ratio).  This progresses to a ratio of 1:2 and eventually 1:1.  This increase should occur over several weeks, but depends on your goals and fitness level.  The exercise load should increase no more than 10% each week.

Many people do not progress beyond the aerobic-efficiency phase.  They may train at this phase for years.  As fitness levels increase, steady state exercise can progress to a RPE of 5, up from RPE of 3-4.  Below is a sample aerobic efficiency training plan.

phase 2 table

Once you are able to perform 50% of your cardiorespiratory training at this higher intensity, and reach seven or more hours of training per week, you can progress to the anaerobic-endurance training phase.


Cardiorespiratory training: Aerobic-base training

You’ve made the commitment to start moving, exercising at least 30 minutes Women Walking in Vasona Lake Parkthree times per week.  Let’s look at more of the specifics of this first ‘phase’ of cardiorespiratory training.  The focus of this phase is to establish a positive exercise experience that will help you become a regular exerciser.

Exercise duration can start with as little as 10 to 15 minutes, two to three times per week.  Increase your duration by no more that 10 percent from week to week, until you can perform 30 minutes of continuous exercise, at least five times per week.  Exercise should be performed at a low to moderate intensity, which will improve health and eventually build fitness.  Your training should be at a level that you can comfortably talk during exercise.  It’s important to exercise at a safe level until this foundation is established.  You will make gains in health and basic fitness with little risk of injury.  Remember, it’s VERY important to make exercise a positive experience.  If you start out exercising too strenuously you will be sore and even possibly experience an injury.  How likely are you to continue if this occurs?

Depending on your fitness level, the length of this phase may be as short as two weeks or last for several weeks.  Below is a sample aerobic-base training plan.

phase 1 progression

You may have long-term goals of achieving a certain fitness level or even sports performance, but you must start with this foundation phase.   Once you are exercising regularly and can exercise 30-60 minutes (can be broken into shorter intervals) most days without tiring, you can progress to the aerobic-efficiency phase.


Cardiorespiratory training: Components and guidelines

Components of a cardiorespiratory workout session

There are three components of a cardio training session:  warm-up, conditioning, and cool-down.  The warm-up is light exercise preceding the conditioning portion and should last 5-10 minutes.  It should start at a low to moderate intensity and gradually increase.  As a general principle, the harder the conditioning, the more intense the warm-up should be.  The conditioning phase should be designed taking frequency, duration, intensity, and modality into account.  Higher intensity components of should take place early in the conditioning and this phase should end with more steady state exercise.  The cool-down should be approximately the same duration and intensity as the warm-up. The cool-down helps to prevent blood pooling in the extremities, which may occur when exercise ends.  Consider stretching following the cool-down to improve flexibility.

Cardiorespiratory training:  Frequency, intensity, duration, modality, and experience

Frequency:  Moderate intensity aerobic exercise should be performed a minimum of five days per week.  Vigorous intensity aerobic exercise should be performed a minimum of three days per week.  A combination of moderate and vigorous intensities should be performed 3-5 days per week.


Intensity:  Exercise intensity is the most important aspect of exercise training to monitor.  There are various methods monitoring exercise intensity including:  heart rate, RPE, and the talk test.  Heart rate: This is probably the most widely used way to monitor exercise intensity, but the common formula of 220-age to calculate the maximal heart rate (MHR) is not valid, with a standard deviation of 12 bpm.  It also does not take into account resting heart rate, as well as several other factors that can affect an individual’s MHR.  Two alternative formulas are 206.9-(0.67 x age)(Geelish et al.) or 208-(0.7 x age)(Tanak, Monahan, and Seals), which offer a standard deviation of 7 bpm.  Ratings of Perceived Exertion (RPE):  The RPE systems work well for ~90% of people, but is subjective.  The newer category ratio is a scale of 0-10 and ranges from Nothing at all to Very, very strong perceived exertion.  A rating of moderate (3) on the RPE scale is ~70% of heart rate reserve (HRR), while strong (5) is ~80% HRR, and very strong (7) is ~85% of HRR.  This is the recommended exercise training intensities range.  Talk test:  If a person can talk during exercise, a person is exercising at a level that does not require increased breathing to compensate for the increase in lactic acid levels in the blood.  Once a person can no longer talk comfortably while exercising, the intensity has increased to a point where breathing has to increase to rid the body of the increased lactic acid.

Duration:  Exercise duration is the time spent performing the physical activity or the exercise quantity (run three miles, walk 10,000 steps).  Exercise can be done in one continuous bout or throughout the day in a minimum of 10 minute bouts.  Greater benefits come from greater quantities of exercise.  Physical activity utilizing ≤1000 calories per week improves health (e.g., lower blood pressure and cholesterol).  Physical activity utilizing ≤2000 calories per week promotes weight loss and improve fitness.

A competitor in the Headquarters Battalion Sprint Triathlon competes in the swimming segment at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Honolulu May 8, 2010. The triathlon included a 500-meter swim, an 11-mile bike race and a 3.5-mile run. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Alfredo V. Ferrer/Released)

Modality:  Any activity that utilizes a large amount of muscle, performed in a rhythmic manner, and performed more than a few minutes can be classified as cardiorespiratory exercise.  Examples include walking, cycling, swimming, jogging, rowing, elliptical training, stepping, dancing, cross-country skiing, soccer, basketball, and racquet sports.  There is equipment-based exercise (treadmills, elliptical machines), group exercise, circuit training, outdoor exercise, seasonal exercise, water-based exercise, mind-body exercise (pilates, yoga), and lifestyle exercise (daily chores, gardening).

Experience:  The exercise experience should be enjoyable, increasing the likelihood of adherence.