I was re-watching the 2010 Hawaii Ironman yesterday morning and one story of an 80 year-old competing in his 20th ironman stuck with me. At 80 years old, to still be biking, swimming, and running…surely this competitor had something to share with all of us. His words of wisdom were to go anaerobic every day. He said, “It’s pretty simple, your body has a limit and you go until it stops you.”
This is some great advice for all of us. In order for your body to adapt, to get stronger, to resist aging, it has to be stressed. Reaching your anaerobic threshold during your daily exercise is a great way to stress your body. This means that you go to an effort level that can only be sustained for short amounts of time. It can typically be marked by a shortness of breath that will eventually cause you to stop or to reduce your effort level. When we are younger, we all go anaerobic without even thinking about it. This happens when we are playing tag, running to the top of the sledding hill, and playing organized sports (remember running lines at the end of practice?).
As we get older, our free spirit play is typically more limited so we need to push ourselves in our workouts to our anaerobic threshold. This can be achieved by increasing speed, by climbing hills, or working against increased resistance. A great lesson for us to learn is that a comfortable, sustained effort, although it may feel good, is not going to help our body adapt and achieve our training goals, whether that be weight loss, faster times, increased strength, or change in body shape.
So if you are the picture of consistency, always choosing the same form of exercise, the same route, and going for the same time…you may need to spice it up a bit. Go anaerobic two to three times per week and see and feel the change. Challenge yourself to be better, to be stronger, and to stay that way for years to come.