New Blog

13th June 2018



This is a term you hear in CrossFit a lot these days, building your engine or conditioning. I know you are sitting thinking, Coach K I’m still very much lost in translation here. Let’s take a step back and let me start with saying that human beings are designed to be enduring. The more enduring we are, the more resilient we can be in life. The aerobic system is one of our genetic predispositions as humans and must not be forgotten in exercise prescription in fear of “losing strength”. The single greatest contribution a competitive fitness athlete can add to their program is CORRECTLY prescribed Aerobic Endurance Training.

Most people believe that aerobic training is just simply running, rowing or cycling for 30-45 minutes. In reality there are several levels of aerobic training and each “feel” different to the athlete and must be prescribed correctly for proper development.

What are these levels of training

  • Aerobic Threshold:Steady workouts at a moderate intensity to develop fuel efficiency (burn fat), muscular skeleton system, and aerobic endurance.
  • Lactate Threshold:Higher volume workouts with longer distance intervals at higher “threshold” intensities with less rest between reps and/or sets.
  • VO2 Max:Lower volume workouts, shorter distance intervals at higher intensities, and more rest between reps and/or sets.
  • Speed Endurance:Very low volume workouts with interval distances less than 60sec. Extremely high intensities. Used to recruit fast twitch fibres and force them to develop endurance. Full recovery between reps and/or sets.
  • Strength Endurance:Low volume workouts with high intensity intervals that include various explosive movements to recruit and develop your fast twitch muscle fibre

Let me start by characterizing aerobic training as a sustainable,repeatable and paced effort.This development can only be achieved at an intensity, which the complete oxygen-transporting system (aerobic system) is activated to the maximum, while lactate accumulation in the muscles is not yet reached. Training the aerobic system and its many levels, depends on the athlete’s current fitness and exercise history.
Once again, I can imagine your eyes glazing over with the above information, let’s break it down a little further. Just like we wouldn’t take a novice lifter and make them squat 200 kilograms on their first day of training, the same should apply with energy system training. Aerobic metabolism plays a vital role in human performance and is the foundation of energy system development.

What Are the Benefits of Correctly Prescribed Aerobic Training?

#1- Enhances transportation of oxygen to working muscles
#2- Increased enzyme availability for muscle endurance
#3- Liberate Free Fatty Acids for fuel (regulates body fat distribution)
#4- Speeds recovery between high intensity training sessions
#5- Improves cardiovascular health and function


First off, we need to look at ourselves in a critical light and identify our weaknesses, which allows for a baseline in aerobic activity. You can identify these weaknesses by looking atafunctional work capacity in simple exercises like; Running, Rowing, Ski-Erg, Assault Bike and Swimming. What might be “easy” work for one athlete may turn into threshold training (max efforts) for another.

We can identify this with simple visual markers that tell us they are NO LONGER AEROBICALLY TRAINING OR ARE LACKING AEROBICALLY.

  • Inability to pace, hits the redline and it’s all over red rover
  • Irregular breathing whilst training or cannot get enough air in
  • Using chalk or hands on knees to “get air”—stopping or walking around.
  • Focus is narrow; you can tell in their eyes if they are really working, they start looking for CrossFit baby Jesus for help.

The graph below shows three athletes. Athlete A has a strong base aerobically (Oxidative system), an above average anaerobic capacity (Glycolytic system) and an above average ATP-CP capacity from his HIT (High Intensity Training). Athlete B has an above average aerobic system but relies heavily on his superb anaerobic capacity. His ATP-CP stores are again above average. Athlete C is our weekend warrior for comparison

Conditioning and work capacity

While athlete A and B are quite close in their overall work capacity, Athlete A has a strong oxidative system. He has a high sustainable work capacity. Athlete B almost matches athlete A overall but will never be as competitive when activity is of long duration. He may be able to complete short intense workouts with similar or better performances than athlete A, but can only maintain high intensity for a short period.

Now with the above being said, I’m going to throw a test out for you guys, still unsure of where you stand aerobically and whether you need to more aerobic training? Below, I have listed an aerobic test you can perform to see where you stack up.

HOP SCOTCH (test Aerobic Threshold)

  • 200m run at easy pace
  • 100m sprint
  • 400m run at easy pace
  • 100m sprint
  • 600m run at easy pace
  • 100m sprint
  • 800m run at easy pace
  • 100m sprint
  • 1000m run at easy pace
  • 100m sprint
  • 800m run at easy pace
  • 100m sprint
  • 600m run at easy pace
  • 100m sprint
  • 400m run at easy pace
  • 100m sprint
  • 200m run at easy pace
  • 100m sprint
  • Total: 5900m

Workout Details:

This is a continuous (non-stop) workout. Your rest is the easy pace interval. Each athlete picks their ‘easy pace’ which can be a moderate intensity or a fast walk or anything in-between.

Workout Focus:

All your attention is the on the 100m sprints. This workout has a total of 9 x 100m sprints. Focus on your form. Your intensity should not be 100% max effort. Back off on your intensity (90-95%) to retain your form. Send me feedback once you have done this session, as I have tested this session out personally. God Bless you child.