Anaerobic Training for Runners: Unleash Your Speed.

Running is a demanding sport that requires a well-rounded training approach to achieve optimal performance. While aerobic training and long-distance runs are essential for building endurance, anaerobic training plays a crucial role in developing speed, power, and overall athletic ability. Anaerobic training involves high-intensity exercises that rely on energy production without the use of oxygen, challenging the body in a unique way.
This form of training differs from traditional aerobic training, VO2 max training, and long run training in several key aspects. Unlike aerobic exercises, anaerobic training pushes the body to its limits, forcing it to rely on stored energy sources like glycogen and producing lactic acid as a by-product. By incorporating anaerobic workouts into your routine, runners can experience a range of benefits, including improved speed, increased lactate threshold, better muscular endurance, and enhanced running economy.
The frequency of anaerobic training should be carefully balanced with other training components to avoid overtraining and injury. Typically, one or two anaerobic sessions per week can provide significant performance gains. From hill repeats and track intervals to fartlek training and tempo runs, there are various anaerobic workout options to challenge runners at different levels and target specific areas of improvement.
Understanding the physiological changes that occur during an anaerobic running session is also crucial. This intense form of exercise puts significant stress on the body, recruiting fast-twitch muscle fibres, increasing breathing rate, and straining the cardiovascular system. By learning to manage and recover from these demands, runners can unlock their full potential and take their performance to new heights.


Understanding the Differences:

  1. Aerobic Training:

Aerobic training involves low to moderate-intensity exercises that rely primarily on oxygen for energy production. During aerobic activities, such as easy runs or long-distance training, the body uses oxygen to break down carbohydrates and fats for fuel. This type of training is essential for building endurance and improving cardiovascular fitness.


  1. VO2 Max Training:

VO2 max, or maximal oxygen uptake, is a measure of an individual’s aerobic capacity. VO2 max training involves high-intensity intervals or hill repeats designed to push your body to its maximum oxygen utilization level. This type of training is crucial for improving your ability to sustain higher intensities for longer periods of time. Read more on VO2 Max here.


  1. Long Run Training:

Long run training involves running longer distances at a moderate pace. It is an essential component of marathon and ultramarathon training, as it helps build endurance, improve fat-burning capabilities, and prepare the body for the physical and mental demands of longer races. LSD or long slow distance is written about in depth here.


  1. Anaerobic Training:

Anaerobic training involves high-intensity exercises that rely on energy production without oxygen. During anaerobic activities, such as sprints or hill repeats, the body utilizes stored energy sources like glycogen and produces lactic acid as a byproduct. This type of training is crucial for developing speed, power, and the ability to maintain higher intensities for shorter periods of time.

Benefits of Anaerobic Training for Runners:

  1. Improved Speed and Power:

Anaerobic training helps develop the fast-twitch muscle fibres responsible for generating speed and power. By incorporating anaerobic workouts, runners can improve their stride rate, turnover, and overall running economy, allowing them to run faster and more efficiently.


  1. Increased Lactate Threshold:

As runners train anaerobically, their bodies become more efficient at clearing and utilizing lactic acid, which is produced during high-intensity efforts. This can lead to an increased lactate threshold, allowing runners to sustain higher intensities for longer periods before fatigue sets in. Read more on lactate here.


  1. Better Muscular Endurance:

Anaerobic training challenges the muscles in a way that aerobic training alone cannot. By incorporating high-intensity intervals or sprints, runners can improve their muscular endurance, which is essential for maintaining proper form and efficiency during races or long runs.


  1. Improved Running Economy:

Anaerobic training can help runners become more efficient by improving their biomechanics, stride pattern, and overall running economy. This can translate into faster times and reduced energy expenditure at the same pace.


Frequency of Anaerobic Training:

The frequency of anaerobic training for runners will depend on individual goals, fitness levels, and training cycles. Generally, it is recommended to incorporate one or two anaerobic workouts per week, allowing for adequate recovery time between sessions. It is important to balance anaerobic training with aerobic and strength training to avoid overtraining and injury.


Examples of Anaerobic Training Workouts:

  1. Hill Repeats:

Hill repeats involve running short, steep hill segments at a high intensity, followed by a recovery jog or walk back down. This workout targets power, strength, and anaerobic capacity.


  1. Track Intervals: Anaerobic training session

Track intervals involve running specific distances or times at a high intensity, followed by a recovery period. Examples include 400m or 800m repeats, or Interval sets like 10 x 200m with recovery periods.


  1. Fartlek Anaerobic Training:

Fartlek training involves alternating periods of high-intensity running with periods of recovery or easy running. This type of workout can be done on the track, trails, or roads, and it helps develop speed endurance and anaerobic capacity.

         Anabolic Running


  1. Tempo Runs:

Tempo runs involve running at a comfortably hard effort, typically around anaerobic threshold pace, for an extended period of time. This workout helps improve lactate threshold and develops the ability to sustain higher intensities for longer durations.


  1. Strides and Accelerations:

Strides and accelerations involve short bursts of high-intensity running, typically lasting 20-30 seconds, followed by recovery periods. These workouts are great for developing speed, power, and neuromuscular coordination.


During an Anaerobic Training Session:

During an anaerobic running session, the body undergoes several physiological changes to meet the increased energy demands. Here’s what happens:


  1. Energy Production:

When the intensity of exercise exceeds the body’s aerobic capacity, the body shifts to anaerobic energy production. This process involves the breakdown of stored glycogen (carbohydrates) in the muscles without the use of oxygen.


  1. Lactic Acid Buildup:

As glycogen is broken down anaerobically, lactic acid is produced as a by-product. The accumulation of lactic acid in the muscles contributes to the burning sensation and fatigue experienced during high-intensity efforts.


  1. Increased Breathing Rate:

To compensate for the lack of oxygen during anaerobic exercise, the body’s breathing rate increases significantly. This allows for more oxygen to be delivered to the working muscles, although the demand still exceeds the supply.


  1. Muscle Fibre Recruitment:

During anaerobic training, the body recruits fast-twitch muscle fibers, which are responsible for generating power and speed. These fibers are more efficient at producing energy anaerobically but fatigue more quickly than slow-twitch fibers.


  1. Cardiovascular Stress:

Anaerobic exercise puts a significant strain on the cardiovascular system, as the heart rate increases rapidly to deliver oxygen and nutrients to the working muscles. This stress can lead to improvements in cardiovascular fitness over time.


  1. Recovery and Adaptation:

After an anaerobic running session, the body undergoes a recovery period during which it replenishes energy stores, clears lactic acid, and adapts to the stress placed upon it. Proper recovery is essential for maximizing the benefits of anaerobic training and preventing overtraining.


By incorporating anaerobic training into your running routine, you can develop the speed, power, and endurance necessary to improve your overall performance. However, it’s important to balance anaerobic workouts with aerobic training, proper recovery, and a well-rounded training program tailored to your specific goals. Anaerobic exercises can increase lean muscle mass and strength and improve power. Physical activity will improve your health, but anaerobic exercises can also improve fitness, cardiovascular health, and blood sugar control. Incorporate this training into your plan.






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