An aerobic base is the cornerstone of any running related sport. You cannot build a sound physical condition without a sound aerobic base. The natural progression of movement from birth is to roll, crawl, walk, run. Endurance sports are no different. Weather you play football, soccer, hurling, running, triathlon, tennis, it is irrelevant. The basis for achieving your potential is grounded in a solid aerobic base. Only then should you engage in anaerobic training.
How do we get energy?
The body has the ability to produce energy using oxygen (aerobic) or without oxygen (anaerobic). All living cells contain a number of organelles, the most important, from an energy point of view is the mitochondria. The number of mitochondria vary in our cells, and can be increased by aerobic training. Mitochondria metabolise or break down carbohydrates and fatty acids into carbon dioxide and water, and give off chemical energy(Adenosine triphosphate/ATP) which allows our muscles to contract.
So, what is aerobic training?
Aerobic training is the ability to use oxygen to produce energy. The key word here is oxygen. Oxygen is so important because every metabolic reaction in the body relies on oxygen directly or indirectly. During aerobic exercises, one molecule of glycogen produces 38 molecules of ATP. Anaerobic exercise allows for only “two”. Aerobic metabolism is therefore more efficient than anaerobic metabolism as it allows us to derive more energy from a given amount of fuel.
The body’s fuel of choice while aerobic is fat. Top professional athletes can run very fast marathons while staying aerobic relying on their fat reserves to fuel them. Only when it comes down to the last few miles and the pace kicks up do they dip into their anaerobic system and use glycogen (carbohydrates/sugar) to fuel them. Their large aerobic base allows them to utilize more of the oxygen they breath. With this in mind, if we can increase our aerobic system we can utilize oxygen more efficiently, create more mitochondria, produce more energy and spare our glycogen reserves until we really need it.
Everyone has heard the running term “hitting the wall”. This is as a result of being in an anaerobic state for too long. We can only maintain an anaerobic state for about 60 minutes until our muscles require oxygen to help them contract. Regardless of your chosen sport, football, running, cycling etc, if you have a lower aerobic base you will go anaerobic sooner and eventually slow down.
How to build your aerobic base.
Your aerobic base is easily built with a bit of persistence, consistency and discipline. Within a periodized approach to training, your aerobic base is usually built in the off season when competition is not on your mind. Steady state running at a comfortable pace in a relaxed manner, just before it begins to get hard, is the ideal pace to start building a good aerobic base.
Your training needs to be consistent with regard to the number of sessions. The more you practice/train at a certain discipline, the better you get at it. You need to be disciplined with regard to intensity or pace. It is fundamental to stay in the aerobic zone in which you are trying to develop. Persistence in what you are doing will allow you to see increased performance. Consistent training allows you to reinforce what you have done previously.