Adjusting training for a slow-to-go aerobic system

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  • #58411
    Melanie Hunter


    I’m catching up and just listened to the last zoom call about aerobic threshold. I had an “aha” moment when Maya made a comment that some people’s aerobic system can take 30 minutes to get fully online. This is definitely me. When I used to do long road rides I sometimes went almost a full hour before I felt like everything was finally online. More relevant to now, I think I’ve spent the first 20 minutes of my (three so far–this is my 3rd round of FUA) aerobic threshold tests still warming up. That is, 20 minutes AFTER I’ve already done a 15-minute warm-up and started the test.

    My assumption is that for the test, I should take as long as I need to get warmed up before I start?

    What about my normal hour-long aerobic workouts? Should I add any warm-up time or just let the warm-up take as long as it takes and use what I have left in the hour accordingly?


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    Anonymous on #58412

    Hi Melanie, for the first question. Yes take as long as you need to warm up then start the watch do the test. For your second question, since a warm up is built in to the hour, but you know you are slow to warm up, it would be more than reasonable for you to add 15min of a mellow warm up to the full hour of training. Especially since you have been with us for three rounds and your body is well adapted to consistent training.
    Sending my best,

    Jane Mackay on #58430

    Melanie, my body is exactly the same way. It takes minimum 30 mins, typically 40-60 mins for the system to come fully online. For this reason, I always do a 20-min warmup for the AeT test, knowing that the first 10 mins are going to be continued warmup, but wanting to balance warming up well enough with not warming up so much that I’m then starting to slow down by the end of the hour because I’ve been going for almost two hours.

    Regarding regular training runs, it’s good to know I can add a little time to them to allow for how long it takes to warm up. I always feel like a 30-min run is pointless because right as I’m about warmed up it’s time to stop!

    Melanie Hunter on #58441

    Hi Jane–right? My experience sounds just like yours-I often feel most ready to go at the end of my workout. And when I’m warming up, I can feel it when my system finally decides to click on; there’s that little “aha yes, now I’m plugged in!” moment.

    Thanks for your answer, Carolyn. It will be interesting to see how implementing a slightly longer warm-up will influence things. As a survivor of the “let’s overdo everything all the time” mentality, I will proceed with caution!

    Jane Mackay on #58445

    there’s that little “aha yes, now I’m plugged in!” moment.

    Exactly! It’s a clearly perceptible moment.

    amy skei on #58968

    This is a fascinating concept and I would love to hear a little more description of your clues regarding the cardio system being fully online or slow to activate. Coaches and Melanie and Jane, would you mind elaborating in this regard, either in your own case or what you’ve observed in clients?

    Anonymous on #58981

    Hi Amy,
    This is somewhat subjective, having been coached or training myself for 35+ years I have seen a shift in my physiology that I can feel, at 18 I was a beast off the line needing little warm up, at 35 maybe 10-15min of suffering and I felt my engine going strong. Now in my 50’s I feel the same warm-up need but the time till I’m feeling good takes longer, sometime 20-30mins and some active mobility. Additionally I’ve observed some athletes who run hot like a Ferrari and some warm up more slowly like a Diesel engine, not having access to a lab and test with them my experience is that has to do a lot with genetics, gender, athlete training history. Additionally for a AeT the super Elite really need a quality warm up to get a solid test. The point being is listening to your body is key, and also honoring that output is output and not just tacking on 30 mins to your training each time just to do more. Realizing that if you normally warm up in “x” amount of time but today is taking longer it could be due to a need for more recovery, too little sleep or other issues. So where there isn’t a “test” or a simple answer understanding that we are all a bit different and that will change with each decade of life is a key to effective training.

    amy skei on #58989

    That is very helpful context Carolyn! As someone with long-term sleep challenges, maybe I will try to build in longer warm ups and see how that feels.

    Melanie Hunter on #58994

    Hi Amy,

    I’ll yammer on about this for a bit and hope some of this might be useful to you.

    My personal “clues” about whether I’m online or not: in addition to just not feeling all that “with it” for the first few minutes after I get going, my heart rate takes a while to go anywhere. For example, when I’m hiking, there is a short steep section that if I’m doing a longer loop, I hit at about 30 minutes. On shorter days, I start at that point. When I start cold with the steep hill, I can get all the way up to the top without my heart rate moving much at all–it usually stays below 110, whereas if I’m fully warmed up, (and moving at the same pace) my heart rate on that hill usually hits about 118-120. My heart rate is also much more stable when I’m warm. Otherwise it likes to dip down.

    I’m 48 now and I definitely notice the changes Carolyn is talking about, but interestingly, this slow-to-go thing has always been the case for me. My dad used to take us up mountains in Colorado when I was a kid and I remember having that same feeling of just being a little out of it for the first hour or so. Once I came online, I felt great.

    I started training with a HR monitor in my early 20’s and noticed the same thing–even when I was very young and very fit, if I’m doing anything endurance wise my HR just takes a while to go anywhere. AND I do not feel too wonderful at first. I also figured out back then that if I tried to get my HR up too quickly (like if I had some target training HR I was trying to hit), I ended up never feeling good for the whole workout. Or even for the rest of the day.

    I’m not sure if it’s related, but genetically I am very much in the “sprinter” category and endurance did not come naturally to me.

    So that’s my 2 cents! Good luck with the sleep stuff. That can be tough.

    Jane Mackay on #59018

    Hi Amy,

    My experience is different from Melanie’s in that my HR is different every time I go out, which is likely attributable at least in part to the widly varying hormonal fluxes of menopause. So I have no HR marker. What I can say is that until the system comes fully online, whatever I’m doing is effortful and I feel sluggish, and whatever the sports watch is indicating is immaterial. I think Carolyn’s analogy of a diesel engine is great. Some days it only takes 20-30 minutes, others it’s a full hour, but there is a distinct moment when it’s like a switch is flipped — suddenly I’m “going”. I don’t know that I can describe it any better than that, sorry!

    What has been your experience in this regard?

    Jane Mackay on #59020

    ps. Actually, I think there is kind of a HR marker in that during the “pre-online” period it is usually really hard to get my HR up, but when I’m online, then it goes up into what the AeT test indicates is “normal” range for the level of effort. I haven’t tracked this, so I can’t say if it’s always that way, but looking back now it does seem to be typical.

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