Few people start running so that they can increase aerobic capacity, however it's one of the best kept secrets and benefits of running. Many people start running and then after weeks of running the same course at the same pace…they get bored and quit. Initially when we start running, there are some real dramatic improvements in the way we look and feel. This can inspire and encourage us to keep going…and then we hit a plateau. The improvements seem to slow down and it almost feels like we’re not getting the same “bang for our buck” as we used to. What happened?? What caused the slow-down?
When we first start any exercise or workout routine, we are subjecting our bodies to a fair amount of stresses…good stresses. It’s with this stress that our bodies get stronger as we rest. If we keep subjecting our bodies to the same workout…it no longer becomes a challenge…we stop stressing our bodies. When we increase the intensity of our workouts gradually, we can increase our aerobic capacity and enable more of those improvements that we desire.
The study of aerobic capacity usually involves measuring “VO2 Max”. What in the world is that (you ask)?! VO2 Max is the highest volume of oxygen that a person can consume during exercise and has been used as predictor for human performance in endurance sports. A typical sedentary adult may have a value of 35 ml/kg/min, whereas endurance athletes usually have values between 60-90 ml/kg/min. So what is so important about this number? If we can improve it, we can perform better…faster….and get into even better shape!
If you want to increase aerobic capacity / VO2 Max, try adding a few extra repetitions to your calisthenics, or try a tempo run instead of your daily jog. The added intensity and repetitions will make you stronger, faster, and keep your routine from stagnating. If you use a heart rate monitor, you can use that to gauge your workout intensity. You can also use your rate of breathing as a guide. For example, a good pace for my VO2 Max running workouts is when I can barely talk (80-90% intensity). I usually try running a pace that’s equivalent to my 5k race pace plus 30 seconds.
It’s also a great feeling when you finish a hard workout or when you’ve run that extra mile. Push the envelope a bit…see what you’ve got. You may end up surprising yourself.
You can find Increase Aerobic Capacity and other motivational fitness information in the June 2007 article of The Bullhorn. You can sign up for this free monthly e-zine below.