Aerobic Training

Aerobic means “with oxygen”

As exercise extends beyond 2-4 minutes at a sub-maximal intensity, the muscles are depleted of stored energy and begin using oxygen, glycogen, and stored fat for fuel. During this stage there is little muscle discomfort as the metabolic waste products in the muscles are cleared as quickly as they accumulate due to the slightly elevated frequency and depth of breathing.

Effects of Aerobic Training (Cardio)

The body adapts in a positive manner by training the cardio-respiratory (heart-lung) system.

After a training period of 6-8 weeks some benefits will include:

  • Perceived Exertion is Decreased
    • Muscles accommodate to exercise, delaying the onset of fatigue
    • A given sub-maximal exercise intensity is easier to complete due to lower blood lactate levels (lactic acid) at that same exercise intensity. For example, running at a pace of 6 miles per hour on a treadmill will feel easier after 6-8 weeks of training.
  • Cardiac Changes
    • Resting heart rate decreases
    • Heart rates drop to resting levels faster following exercise
    • Heart rate at sub-max exercise decreases For example, the heart rate while running at 6 miles per hour on the treadmill will be lower after 6-8 weeks of training.
    • Stroke volume increases – the heart is able to pump more blood with each beat
    • Improved VO2 values – training improves the body’s efficiency in extracting oxygen from blood at sub-max and maximal exercises, such as sections of a program run-through
  • Lung Function
    • Improved pulmonary function – training improves the ability of the lungs to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide with each breath
    • Increased lung volumes due to improved pulmonary function –an increase in the volume of air that can be maximally inhaled and exhaled in 1 minute
  • Muscular Changes
    • Increased capillary density in the muscles (the number of blood-carrying vessels in the muscles) elevates the amount of blood and oxygen (fuel) brought to working muscles during exercise
    • Increased mitochondria in the muscle cells lead to an increased capacity to generate ATP (the energy source needed in the muscle tissue)

In addition, fat is catabolized during aerobic training, making aerobic exercise an ideal component of the training program if decreasing body fat is a goal. A regular training program also decreases blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels, increases the breaking strength of bones, and increases the tensile strength of ligaments and tendons.

Signs of Aerobic Deconditioning

  • Early onset of labored breathing with exercise (not associated with EIB or asthma)
  • Increased muscle fatigue or burn with exercise
  • A prolonged recovery period after exercise before the heart rate returns to resting rate.

Limitations of Aerobic Training for Figure Skating

Though aerobic training has several benefits, it does not mimic the exhaustive nature of a skating program. Aerobic training is used to develop the aerobic base for the athlete in the early part of the training year. High Intensity Interval Training builds upon this foundation and further prepares the skater for demanding peaks in exercise intensity during the programs.

Compare Aerobic Training (Cardio) and High Intensity Cardio Training (HICT)

The Ice Dynamics® program incorporates two different strategies for cardio training.

  • For Aerobic Training: Cardio, the athlete maintains the heart rate within the 75-85% maximal heart rate range for the duration of the effort.
    • Continuous, rhythmic exercise elevates the heart rate into the training zone with a specific exercise that is enjoyable and low impact (biking, swimming, inline skating, etc.).
    • If a higher impact exercise such as running is preferred, make sure to wear appropriate running foot wear and choose surfaces that are not too hard.
    • Figure skaters who jump sustain landing forces up to ten times their body weight; reducing impact forces in other aspects of training helps to reduce the overall exposure to high impacts.
  • High Intensity Cardio Training (HICT) in contrast, exposes the athlete to alternating and equal times of strength and cardio. The heart rate range varies between 60 and 85% maximal heart rate when doing either strength or cardio sets respectively for an overall cardio benefit. HICT is generally perceived to be more demanding than steady-state Aerobic Training: Cardio.
  • Both types of cardio are important parts of the training program for preparing the aerobic base early in the year and allowing for active recovery throughout the year.



Aerobic Training - Cardio: Exercise intensity is maintained between 75-85% of maximal heart rate for the duration of the workout. The exercise intensity can oscillate within this range for brief recoveries. Notice the slight valleys and plateaus on the chart. Though breathing deeply, the athlete should be able to speak in sentences during aerobic - cardio exercise.



High Intensity Cardio Training (HICT): Exercise alternates between strength and cardio for a total of 8 sets, alternate 30 seconds of strength exercise (intensity approximately 60% of max) with 30 seconds of high intensity cardio exercise (intensity approximately 85% of max). After the 8 sets (4 sets each of the first two exercises), rest for 2 minutes at a walking intensity (approximately 30% max) before starting the same pattern with two different exercises. Continue through all exercises

More in this category: « The Warm Up Anaerobic Training »