I dragged myself to the gym today. It was one of those days, where I just absolutely was NOT feeling it. As I walked into the gym, the first thing I did was ask the girl at the front desk whether there were any cardio-y resistance-y classes going on. Sadly the answer was no. Then I decided to look for trainers I knew, who would be willing to play with me (or rather kick my a**). Sadly the only one I knew, Sarv, was busy with a client. I could feel myself holding back my frustration and tears at this point – this meant I had to push myself through a workout.
Finally, after pondering around the gym procrastinating, I decided to do an Abs & Arms workout in which I would superset resistance with plyometrics. I don’t know why the hell I decided to do plyometrics on the day I was drained of energy….beats me. Anyway, I started off with Ball Plank Mountain Climbers (sounds intense eh?! it was!) followed by Jumping Jacks. For my second superset I combined Bicep Curls with Burpees. My heart rate was getting up slower than it should have been because I really wasn’t pushing myself to the limit. At this point, I think the universe felt bad for me, and sent Sarv to come save me. Sarv found me and said he liked my enthusiasm and would make time to play. YIPPEEE! He’s a Muay Thai fighter by sport, so when we play, I toss on boxing gloves, and he holds punching blocks and bags, while I take out all my love and rage on him.
I have always wanted to take up a martial art for fun. It is such a killer workout and really gets your heart rate going. The beauty of muay thai, kickboxing, tai kwon do, and other martial arts, is that it trains you anaerobically.
“Anaerobic” basically means without oxygen, which means the body resorts to other forms of fuel in the body, like glycogen (the way carbs store in our body, so this system burns carbs off). This system can only function up to 2 minutes – any longer than that will cause you to fatigue (because the anaerobic system’s by-product is lactic acid…and what does lactic acid do? gives our muscles that burn, forcing you to stop). So, HIIT (high intensity interval training) would be using the anaerobic system because you are going on short intense bouts.
“Aerobic” on the other hand, basically means with oxygen; so this is the system where your body will use glucose as its main source of fuel (so mainly fat is being burned in this system). Aerobic activity is sustained for longer periods of time; which would naturally have to be slower (or else lactic acid would build up, and you would be forced to stop).
So you ask, which is better? The answer is the same to all my answers: depends on what your looking for and no one system is more superior than the other.
Training of both systems will improve your cardiovascular (and increase your VO2 Max, which is the maximum amount of oxygen you can use in 1 minute; it is a good indicator of your physical capacity – a pro hockey players might have a VO2 max of 85) ability and decrease body fat. However, training aerobically will decrease muscle mass, power, and even strength. Ever noticed how marathon runners are so incredible thin? Well here you go, they predominantly train aerobically. Anaerobic training will maintain or even perhaps increase muscle mass, strength and power; and it can actually better your aerobic capacity. The latter being said, you need to have solid aerobic conditioning in order to optimize your anaerobic system. I would never encourage a beginner or someone with no cardio conditioning to start doing HIIT on the treadmill; they might end up throwing up everywhere and really burn themselves out. Also, the beauty of anaerobic training, like HIIT, is that it keeps your metabolism revved up for hours after. The only real down side to anaerobic exercise is that it can lead to overstraining. You need to make sure that you are not performing more than 20-30 minutes 2-3 times a week. Do not do HIIT everyday – that’ll surely set you back and cause you to burn out fast and perhaps even plateau! If used properly HIIT can actually inhibit plateaus. More is not better in this situation.
When I was “training” for my first proper timed and planned 10K run last summer, I ran maybe 5, maybe 6 times in the 2 months leading up to the race. Instead I started doing crazy intense HIIT on the treadmill and I was able to shave off TWENTY minutes off my time!!!! I finished in 56 minutes! I was aiming for 60 minutes and WOWED myself at the finish line. I also could hardly breathe by the end of it!!!
So, my final words are: you should obviously incorporate aerobic exercise into your life, to maintain a healthy heart; but also throw in some anaerobic training to really rev things up and prevent plateaus. Mix it up!
Speaking of mixing it up, I think I need to mix up my workouts. I must be getting bored of them since today’s workout was so ridiculously excruciating to conduct.