In 2017 I completely shifted my endurance training method. When I re-learned all about the ventilatory threshold – the imperceptible “line” that differentiates the pure aerobic zone (where we are burning primarily fat for energy) and the glucose-burning zone. In the latter, we are burning the far less abundant but far more accessible glycogen and glucose.
Because we continually need to replenish glucose (and not all of us are out there running with honey straws), and also because many of us want to be burning fat for fuel, it is more desirable to stay in this aerobic zone, right?
The research studies have demonstrated that you can still improve your endurance (increase your ventilatory threshold) by training just below the ventilatory threshold. And you will be burning fat, which is a near bottomless tank.
How do we do this?
1. Run the smile test – while you run (or while you do whatever form of exercise it is that you do) smile! If you cannot, dial down your activity work rate until you can.
2. Sing – for real.
3. Talk – if you are exercising with someone else this is easy, you can jog and chat.
4. Breathe in and out through your nose.
You could practice #1 and #4 during your yoga practice, while hiking, or even while running. I remember when I first learned about all of this, I would be running on the treadmill smiling or around the track singing a quiet jingle, I got some funny looks.
Another benefit of this type of training is that you won’t become as fatigued, you will have a faster recovery, and you will avoid adrenal stress. You certainly want to stay below the lactate threshold, where your body struggles to buffer the acidity and it begins to accumulate in the muscles. This will happen if you train too hard particularly if you are out of shape, you can reach this quickly and it is very stressful to the body.
A solid routine of walking/jogging/swimming/biking/yoga-ing (insert your endurance work) will successfully build your endurance and improve your overall health. It will increase the density of your mitochondria and the capillaries in your muscles. With consistent light to moderate sustained exercise the delivery of oxygen to your muscles will become more efficient.
Remember, your body can only burn glucose and glycogen for a short period, but even for the leanest folks out there, we have a limitless reserve of fat. So what doe this mean?
Slow down in order to train within the aerobic zone, eat a diet full of healthy fats, and tap into your fat metabolism!
This will spruce up the environment in your body, you will gain more mitochondrial power centers and sprout new capillary pathways so that even more fat can be metabolized at future workouts. Essentially, the more mitochondria and capillaries we have the greater our ATP production, and our muscles can contract faster and stronger without fatiguing.
The heart will be happy with this type of eustress (optimum dose of physiological stress). Neovascularization and biogenesis occur (the heart grows new blood vessels, mitochondria, capillaries, and cells remodel). Again, our network of oxygen and nutrient delivery is improved.
Yoga is certainly one great form of exercise where it is easier to stay below the ventilatory threshold, because we are constantly practicing breath-work. Come run the "smile test" with me, I would love to see you for tomorrow's yoga practice! Join me for Sunday Yoga tomorrow November 28th from 8am-9:15am HST (10am-11:15pm Pacific) via Zoom. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for the link and passcode to join!