Train Smarter, Not Harder

Guest blog post by: Jon De La Torre, B.S. Kinesiology, ACSM CPT, CrossFit LF-1

“The faster you run, the faster you’re done.” Such a simple statement, but yet such a complex theme. How are you supposed to get faster, if you can barely run in the first place? What do the terms, Aerobic Base (AB), Anaerobic Threshold (AT), Maximal Volume of Oxygen (MAX VO2) and Lactic Acid (LA), mean and how do they affect my training performance? This article strives to help athletes understand the basic fundamentals of speed and interval training, as well as covers the three different intensities of running and their specificity.

First things first, your body utilizes two forms of energy, fats and carbohydrates. Depending on how intense you’re working determines how much of each fuel is utilized. Aerobic Base, or roughly 50-55% of your overall max effort, is the exact intensity where your body is utilizing the highest amount of fat per each calorie burned. Anaerobic Threshold, or roughly 75-80% of your overall max effort, is the exact intensity at which your body switches from using fat to carbohydrates as its primary fuel source. Finally, your MAX VO2, is the highest amount of oxygen that your body can absorb and utilize at one time and is also the exact point at which your body is primarily burning carbohydrates, and no longer fats as its fuel source. Regardless of overall body weight or composition, everybody has an unlimited supply of fat sources and a very limited supply of carbohydrates. Physiologically speaking, this is why you can exercise “forever” at your aerobic base intensity, aka tons of fat fuel sources, and also why you must stop so quickly when you’re at your anaerobic threshold intensity, due to carbs not being readily available or accessible.

In addition to which fuel is being utilized, it is important to also understand the production of lactic acid and its effect on overall performance. Lactic Acid is a byproduct of glucose breakdown and oxidation and is always occurring within the body. However under more intense conditions, such as cardio or strength training, the body begins producing more lactic acid then it can process, which can lead to slower muscle contraction, aka less production and eventually being forced to stop movement completely. Lactic Threshold and Anaerobic Threshold, though not exact, are normally interchangeable within 5-10 bpm, and either can be used to accurately estimate the other.

Now, for the good stuff. How do I use this information to benefit my training and overall performance? Train Smarter, Not Harder.

 IF your goal is to lose weight and/or increase your overall endurance, or ability to exercise at a consistent pace/intensity for a period of time than AB is your zone!

The main goal here is to train your body to become more efficient at utilizing fats, the more fat burned, the more weight loss. From an endurance standpoint, the more fat utilization at a higher intensity, means you can maintain that intensity or pace for a longer period of time. The more time spent within your Aerobic Base, the higher intensity threshold that can be reached and maintained. For weight loss and/or endurance, AB is the most bang for your buck!

 IF your goal is to increase speed or power, to get faster or improve on mile/pace time, and/or recruit more fast twitch muscle fibers than AT/MAX VO2 is your jam!

The main goal here is increase your body’s ability to breakdown and utilize carbohydrates for fuel. This type of training promotes speed and power, as well as the recruitment of fast twitch muscle fibers, which allow for faster contractions, aka overall ability to produce faster movement! The more training within your Anaerobic Threshold, the more power produced and the faster pace achieved! To drop your overall mile time and/or improve overall peak performance, AT/MAX VO2 training is where its at!

For more info on training intensity/fuel utilization or to get a custom designed training program, please contact us at JON@JDLT.ME or (805)300-3276. Coach Jon is also available for online coaching services, as well as in person personal training and run coaching around the San Francisco/Bay Area. Check us out at to learn more!