Do we really need slow long distance aerobic work for optimal fitness?

Please read the WHOLE article properly before you express your comments. There are plenty of misconceptions regarding aerobic exercise. All the scientific data backing this up can be found for free on PubMed.

Now, so you know, I have not trained only power athletes, most of the sports I developed programs for had some aerobic fitness component. For example, three times Olympic biathlon medalist Myriam Bédard needed high levels of aerobic fitness. All the NHL players I trained needed some aerobic power and capacity. The key being that there is a difference between optimal and excessive.

1. Optimal fitness is an individual thing. All based on goals and needs. If you are training for single maximal effort (i.e. throwing events, Olympic lifting, powerlifting ), you sure want to avoid aerobic as it negates both neural and hypertrophic adaptations. Aerobic capacity is also an OPTIMAL thing. In my experience 55 ml/kg/min is sufficient to play at the top level in the NHL. In rowing, you need at least a Vo2 max of 75 to make national level. Simple rule: do you need maximal neural power (i.e. weightlifting, shot put, hammer throwing? Stay away from aerobics.

2. Exercise is something one should be happy with, if running 10 k 6 days a week improves your mood, go for it. Maybe it is because you have a nagging spouse, and you are running figuratively away from home : )

3. It is a myth that one needs an aerobic base before undergoing anaerobic training. Plenty of research on that. One of the best players to handle penalty kills goals in ice hockey was Olympic silver medalist Brian Rolston. His career improved dramatically once we cut out completely the aerobic work, and did interval training, strong man training, and strength training. Actually, I made my name in the NHL by training hockey players with zero cardio work, and yet they would have the highest Vo2’s on the team. Players use to sell me to their teammates by the improvement in conditioning, and the simple maxim “Go see him, he does not like cardio”.

4. A high V02 max is not a guarantee of doing well in aerobic sports. It is the ones who can maintain top speed at the highest percentage of their respective Vo2 max that do best in aerobic events.

5. Adaptations to aerobic activity are specific to the work being done. Non-specific aerobic work typically has minimal carryover to another activity. For example, being conditioned on a rower doesn’t mean that you will be conditioned for ice skating.

6. Studies with our national team athletes in rowing, biathlon, alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, showed that maximal adaptation for aerobic capacity were not significant after 6 weeks of aerobic capacity work. Another 4 to 6 weeks of aerobic power was sufficient to achieve top condition for the periodization plan.

7. In my opinion, if your sport needs various physical qualities you will get far better results doing a combination of all energy systems: anaerobic alactic power, anaerobic alactic capacity, anaerobic lactic power, anaerobic lactic capacity, aerobic capacity and aerobic power.

8. In anaerobic training the power should be trained before the capacity. It is the reverse for aerobic training.

9. For Joe and Jane average, I believe that the ratio of anaerobic training to aerobic training should be between 4 to 1 to 8 to 1.

10. The more aerobic volume, the more your brain ages. Therefore, senile dementia in Olympic athletes is proportionate to the annual volume of aerobic works.

11. Slow long distance aerobic work is not a guarantee of cardiac health. Actually top cardiologist Dr. Bijan Pourat considers it “junk exercise”. He espouses resistance training for cardiac patient.

12. You are as old as your arteries. Last September, at age 51, my arteries were percentile 100 for 18 year old males. I achieved the same score at age 47. What keeps my arteries young? Cardio? Hell no! Dr.Mark Houston advances that my daily consumption of carnitine and omega 3s is most likely the reason for superior arterial health. The same day I also scored percentile 100 on the stress test for my age group, blood pressure recovery from maximal aerobic stress. Cardiovascular health does not equal aerobic fitness.

13. Resting ECG’s are useless to measure cardiovascular health, you can evaluate the functionality of the heart only when you put it under stress. A treadmill test with an ECG test paints a much better of your heart’s health.

14. Strength training and interval training improves the performance of aerobic athletes. The reverse is not true.

15. If you enjoy aerobic work, please do it. Do yourself a favor, measure things like cortisol curves, immune and inflammatory markers. If it works out to be all fine, enjoy your runs.

As you can see, aerobic work has it place depending on how you define optimal fitness. Whatever the goal, enjoying your workouts is paramount.

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