I should start by quickly defining the difference of aerobic and anaerobic exercise. The typical definition is that aerobic exercise is with oxygen, and anaerobic exercise is without oxygen. This is a bit misleading and based on internal bodily functions, but that science is a bit complicated to explain in just a few hundred words.
A better definition, for the purpose of this article, is to base the two exercise types on intensity and duration (time). Aerobic exercise is a lower intensity, should not increase the heart rate above 40-60% of the maximum heart rate, and will last anywhere from 20-60 minutes and more. Anaerobic exercise is higher intensity, will get the heart rate between 60-85%++ of the maximum heart rate, and can last between 10-20 seconds to 3 minutes per working set. With an overall work load of up to twenty minutes, based on the intensity of the exercise. In general, when doing anaerobic exercise you should practice a 1:1 to a 1:3-10 work to rest ratio. Again, the amount of rest between intervals will depend on the intensity of the exercise.
The benefits of anaerobic exercise are 1. Increased calorie burn over time (5-12% and more over a 48 hour period) 2. Increased strength, muscle efficiency, and muscle mass 3. Increase heart and lung functioning (heart pumps stronger, and more oxygen is delivered via to the body) 4. Increase amount of work time before muscle failure (increased lactate threshold) 5. The ability to do more work in less time.
Most runners simply want to run; faster, farther, or longer. The general idea is that running more will get you better at running. Based on the Specificity Theory, it is true that you must train for what you want to get better at, but recent evidence shows that cross training will also aid to train for that event. That is where anaerobic training comes into the picture.
Adding anaerobic training, because of the benefits listed above, will increase your ability to run farther, faster, and longer. Plus, adding anaerobic exercise is a great way to add some variety to your training regime. Incorporate 2-3 days/week of circuited weight training, sprint intervals, and anaerobic exercises such as burpees, kettle bell swings, mountain climbers, and jump rope, and you will see your running reach new heights. Not only that, but you will get stronger and fitter as well. You can thank me later.
Jason is the Owner and Personal Trainer at J Nichols Fitness in Charleston, SC. For more fitness tips see him at jnicholsfitness.com or on Facebook at j nichols fitness.