'Aerobic capacity training' can help boost your VO2 max

VO2 max — the amount of oxygen consumed in one minute of maximal exercise — is widely considered the standard test for aerobic conditioning.

Improving VO2 max is one crucial step in maximizing endurance performance.

The higher an athletes VO2 max is, the greater the contribution of the aerobic system to energy production.

Increasing aerobic capacity requires activating the fast-twitch muscle fibers for extended periods. While beneficial to any endurance athlete, these workouts are especially effective for athletes racing in international-distance or shorter triathlons.

Optimal intensity for aerobic capacity workouts is the pace at which the energy to increase speed comes almost entirely from anaerobic sources. Training faster yields almost no aerobic benefit. Learning to perform these workouts at optimal intensity is critical.

Train too slowly and the fast-twitch muscle fibers will not be recruited. Train too fast and the recovery cost of the workout increases dramatically without aerobic benefit.

To determine your optimal intensity for aerobic-capacity workouts, conduct a time-trial of approximately six minutes in duration. This is the intensity you should use for all aerobic capacity workouts.

These efforts should be hard, but not maximal effort. Intensity can be monitored through swimming speed, cycling power or speed, and running pace or heart rate. Due to the repetition duration, speed or power may be more precise than heart rate.

Intervals lasting 30 seconds to three minutes, with equal duration recovery periods, are most effective at improving aerobic capacity, while minimizing recovery time.

Ken Mierke is a triathlon and cycling coach for Fitness Concepts as well as an Associate Coach for Joe Friels Ultrafit. Ken and his wife Melissa, both Exercise Physiologists have lost a combined 160 pounds and both gone on to win Triathlon National Championships. More information is available on www.Ultrafit.com or www.Fitness-Concepts.com

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