Difference between Anaerobic and Aerobic training

Our runs can be classified as anaerobic or aerobic. There is only a small difference in spelling, but the difference in training intensity and energy supply is enormous.

With or without O2

The terms anaerobic and aerobic are based on the usage of air, or more specifically: oxygen. Aerobic roughly means “with oxygen” while anaerobic means “without oxygen”. In practice, it actually never happens that exercise is 100% anaerobic or aerobic. You will mostly experience a combination of both. But in most cases, one of the two will dominate and therefore have a completely different effect on you.

What’s the difference?

The main difference between anaerobic or aerobic training is linked to how quickly the needed energy is produced,  and how long the energy resource will last. For a 60 meters sprint, an athlete will rapidly need high amounts of energy, for just a few seconds.  Whilst for a marathon, an athlete will need to maintain his energy levels for a longer duration.  Most athletes will perform both anaerobic as aerobic training sessions as they will have their own characteristics and advantages.

Anaerobic training

Anaerobic trainings are high-intensity workouts that are of short duration, such as strength training, skipping rope, or sprints and intervals. Heart Rates will rise quickly. Our body has to produce energy rapidly for a short period of time. An anaerobic action comes a bit like a surprise: our muscles suddenly have to switch to full power. Because of this immediate action, there isn’t enough time, to provide our muscles with extra oxygen. Not even when we breathe at high frequency. That’s why we can only sustain this activity for a relatively short period of time.

Rapid energy supply for Anaerobic training

Carbohydrates can be rapidly converted into high peaks of energy. During anaerobic exercise, our body depletes the glycogen (blood sugar) that is stored in our muscle cells, to supply our muscles with a sudden high demand for energy. That’s why we can sustain this type of short, high-intensive effort for no more than ninety seconds. We simply cannot run at maximum pace for a very long time.


Aerobic training

Aerobic trainings are low-moderate intensity workouts that are usually of long duration. For example, walking, jogging, and long-distance cycling or swimming at low-medium heart rates. In this case, our breathing frequency is lower than during high-impact training.  Because of that, there will be enough time to produce energy in the muscles with the help of oxygen. Aerobic workouts can be maintained much longer than an anaerobic exercise.

Long-term energy for Aerobic training

During aerobic exercise, the energy requirement is less immediate, compared to anaerobic activities. Our metabolism and “energy system” can use oxygen.  And not only the glycogen (stored sugars in our muscles) will be used to produce energy, but also stored body fat. The biggest advantage of aerobic training is that we can sustain it longer.  Energy production by using fats may be slower, but it is much more energy-efficient.


Both types of workouts (aerobic and anaerobic) have pros and cons. Aerobic training improves our heart and lung function and increases our fitness and endurance.  It also speeds up our metabolism and maintains our energy levels

Anaerobic workouts will also benefit your fitness level and heart and lung function. It builds muscle power and improves speed. Before doing high-impact training, it is recommendable to have a basic fitness level because it can be very intensive for your muscles.

(An)aerobic Threshold turning point

The (an)aerobic threshold turning point is where the level of lactate in the blood first starts to rise. The heart rates become at a high level, and the aerobic system can no longer keep up with the body’s energy demand. It is the level of effort when your metabolic system changes the energy production: from aerobically (with oxygen) to anaerobically (without oxygen).  

Finding balance

To prevent injuries or other physical complaints, it’s important to find the right balance between both types of training and gradually build up. Proper breathing techniques may be helpful to make our aerobic workouts even more effective. Additionally, it is important to have our body fuelled up well for the type of workout you have planned.

I hope this article was useful to you. Should you have any further questions, please send me an e-mail at an*******@mo*********.com or leave the comment below and I will get back to you. If you liked this post, don’t forget to share. Thanks!

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