Aerobic Capacity & Threat Protection
Having higher levels of fitness is always more desirable than being a couch potato.
One of the things our aerobic system can actually help us with is attenuate overall threats in the body, which can reduce our sensitivity to pain and handle more external stressors before being pushed over the edge.
Fatigue opens the door to injury potential threats to the body. As we become tired, our movement efficiency and recovery diminishes upon repetitive efforts. When recovery can’t meet the demands, our body starts to let us know and will use a stress response to try and push forward.
Essentially the fight or flight system is triggered at this point, which is our way of escaping danger. When we are in this state for longer periods of time, our body will break down and be in a constant state of threat, causing us to be less efficient by shutting down our rest and digest system.
Our rest and digest system is where we actually rebuild from stressors and threats placed on the body, adapting us to have a stronger system the next time we face the same intensity again.
When we have a heightened fight or flight system at baseline because we don’t have a way to discharge the stress, pain can ensue as a response to alert us of danger, despite no physical damage is done.
By developing our aerobic system, we can expand our body’s capacity to handle threats and make larger threats much smaller over time. This will let us avoid a painful response, even when our body is stressed from other factors such as poor nutrition, poor sleep, mental overload, etc.
(Your body under threat. Maybe it's a little much, buy you get the point. )
So how can I improve my aerobic system?
First you want to track your resting HR so you can have a baseline and objective measure to tell you that things are improving, aside from overall mood.
Joel Jamieson has been the leading expert in training energy systems for athletes and gen pop clients, so we will use some basic guidelines that he has laid out.
Start by having 2-3 conditioning days/per week to start, then you can move down to 1-2x/week for maintenance.
The goal is to perform continuous work for a minimum of 30min, up to 90min with a HR at 120-150. If you don’t have a HR monitor, just work in a range that does not keep you huffing and puffing. It should be difficult enough where you are at the brink of needing to breathe through your mouth, but can sustain through the nose.
Some options can be cycling, running, walking, sled pushes, stair climber, swimming, etc. You can even cycle between multiple exercises, as long as you stay in the HR range for the desired time frame.
Another option is tempo work.
This is where you would perform an activity such as running or cycling on an Airdyne for 15s on and 45s off. The intensity of the run would be a 6-7/10 effort, but nothing harder than that since we want to recover fully. After 4 reps of 15s on and 45s off, you will rest 2 min and then repeat 3 more times.
These are simple ways you can incorporate aerobic training into your workouts and improve your bodies overall threat protection system.
There are many other ways to address this, but the ones states above are a good start.
Have questions or want more options?
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Dr. Peter Dionisopoulos is the owner and founder of Dynamic Performance & Rehab. He has worked with many high-level athletes and military personnel, but his true passion is to help active adults maintain their lifestyle by providing information and potential solutions to their aches and pains so they can continue with the activities they love.