19 Sep

Have You Been Doing Your Aerobic Training All Wrong?

If you are a client of Central Athlete you have most likely seen the word “MAP” used to describe aerobic conditioning within your personalized training program. Coined by James Fitzgerald of OPEX, this acronym stands for Max Aerobic Power and the principles around this style of training are important to understand for anyone looking to improve performance or health in some capacity. 

This training method is one of the most systematic approaches to improve performance across many different modalities, from preparing for a half marathon, improving your speed and power within metabolic conditioning pieces in the sport of CrossFit, or just being able to recover quicker between intense muscular contractions. 

We have used these principles to support individuals trying to improve their times in obstacle races, develop cardiovascular resiliency, compete in the sport of CrossFit on a local, national, or world level, and even those trying to improve strength and much more. In each of these cases, the time domains, rest periods, intensity levels, movements chosen, etc. are extremely important in supporting each individual, where they are currently, and their unique training goals. 

So, what is MAP training and how do we use it?

This system progresses you from MAP 10 which involves 60 minutes of continuous work at a sustained pace all the way down to MAP 1 which involves 30 seconds of work, followed by 30 seconds of rest for multiple sets at a repeatable effort. As your time of work decreases and your aerobic abilities improve, your power output should increase. 

Unlike anaerobic training, where rest should be anywhere from 4-15x your timed work (example: 20-second assault bike @97% effort followed by three minutes of rest x4 sets) to ensure adequate recovery, aerobic training will rarely include rest periods longer than work periods. Meaning, for an individual completing three sets of 15 minutes of sustained work, their rest will range anywhere from three to ten minutes between sets. Again, the rest periods chosen will depend on the specific individual, where they are currently, and their goals! 

It is essential to understand that the key to any proper aerobic training is to ensure your work is sustainable, continuous, and repeatable! If it does not follow those guidelines, you are no longer honoring the principles of aerobic training and are most likely tapping into other energy systems such as the anaerobic system or fatigued based aerobic training. Both of these have benefits of their own for a very small percentage of individuals, but will not help to improve aerobic capacity!

In order to know if the work completed is sustainable, continuous and repeatable, it is important to complete multiple sets and time each one with a goal of finishing every set with the exact same time with the same perceived exertion. If the times show positive splits or each set results in less work done the principle of repeatability has not been met. If an individual has to slow down their pace within a working set they have not honored the principle of sustainability. And lastly, in order to ensure your work is continuous, it is important that the individual stays moving throughout the working set. If one must stop to rest and recover within a working set, they are no longer honoring the principle of continuous work!

Properly developing the aerobic system takes years to accomplish, so it is important to honor the time needed within each phase of your MAP training. In order to do so, I have listed a few more principles that are important to understand in order to properly progress through the continuum. For beginners, oftentimes it is imperative to move from endurance to power, from cyclical to mixed, and lastly from static to dynamic movements. 

Moving from endurance to power means starting with a much longer time domain performed at a low intensity while progressing slowly to shorter time domains with increasing power. 

Moving from cyclical to mixed work means starting with a single modality that is easy to pace such as the assault bike or ski erg before progressing to sets that include mixed work; multiple movements repeated over and over for a specific time frame. Mixed Modal work is more challenging as your breath rate and muscular contractions change based upon the movements used, making sustainability much more difficult. 

Lastly, when you start implementing mixed aerobic work into your aerobic training, moving from static contractions to dynamic contractions is essential to ensure sustainability and repeatability are met. 

Static contractions are those in which there is no movement and are great to implement within longer MAP sessions. A few examples of a static contraction would be planks, wall sits, passive hangs, handstand holds, etc. Carries are another great way to slow down the heart rate within a mixed aerobic session to ensure the individual can recover while keeping a steady pace; this includes but is not limited to: farmer’s carries, suitcase carries, contralateral carries, etc. 

Dynamic movements are quite the opposite and display a visible movement of load. Instead of remaining still the muscle forces change while the load is being moved. A few examples are squats, burpees, crawls, power cleans, wall balls, handstand walks, pull-ups, push-ups, and so much more! Again, the movements chosen each have their level of difficulty within an aerobic setting so it is important that the correct exercises are chosen for each specific individual to ensure the principles of aerobic training are able to be honored. 

Understanding how to implement various movements into an aerobic setting while maintaining consistency within each working set takes time and varies from individual to individual. Moving too quickly or trying to beat the system will lead to plateaus and the inability to improve your power output while continuing to utilize the aerobic system. 

We use these principles for the majority of our Central Athlete clients as the benefits are extremely high regardless of their needs. Understanding the client and their goals are essential. Some individuals may never progress past MAP 6 (five-minute intervals followed by two to five minutes rest repeated four to twelve times) because it is not necessary for their goals. And, once the foundation and volume have been met, certain individuals may train a specific time domain for an extremely long period of time. An example being that individuals competing in the sport of fitness respond very well to repeated MAP 5 (three-minute) intervals whereas 10k runners respond extremely well to MAP 8 (fifteen-minute) intervals. 

As always, the individual dictates where they start and how slowly or quickly they need to progress. We believe that the best programs come from a deep understanding of the individual, therefore, at Central Athlete all of our clients undergo an extensive assessment before starting their personalized training plan with continual consultations throughout their journey! 

If you are interested in learning more about how Central Athlete utilizes personalized fitness to ensure results for each client regardless of their goals, click the link below to speak to a coach today!

In Health, 

Aerobic Training and Recovery 


Aerobic Training & Cardiovascular Resilience


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