As a Strength & Conditioning coach, I’m always interested to know what athletes are doing for their off season aerobic conditioning. For some, it’s supposedly a time to relax and enjoy a few months off weekend sport and the constant grind of training after school or work. But for most of us, we see it as an opportunity rather to train more, work on our weaknesses, and come back even stronger for next season!
Everyone’s body will respond differently to load, and I’m all for having a week or two off to recover mentally, and physically. After this unwinding period, it’s probably time to start building the body back up. This time can be an opportunity to target some weaknesses, whether that be an athletic quality, ongoing niggle or injury, or just simply working on mastering the skills of your sport.
What I often see during this time that could be done a little bit better, is long slow jogs! Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind this. You are building your aerobic base for your sport, you are getting out and exercising, and staying active before a grueling pre-season. However, if you are involved in a multi-directional sport, with multiple energy systems at play, you could probably get more bang for your buck doing more specific energy system training that is individualised to your conditioning, and will help you improve your aerobic fitness for your sport quicker.
Best Off Season Aerobic Conditioning For Sport
If you are wanting to spice up your individual aerobic training, instead of just going for a slow jog, give Maximal Aerobic Speed (MAS) Runs a crack!
MAS runs are a great way of improving your aerobic capacity or Vo2 max for your sport. They can be broken up into long intervals, or short intervals. For the purpose of adding a little bit more speed and variety into your individual training, I will focus on short interval MAS runs in this article.
My favourite short interval MAS workout, is the 15 seconds on, 15 seconds off approach. Basically, you run to a set distance in 15 seconds, rest for 15 seconds, then go again for a repeat number of times. We normally want to do about 1-2 sets of 12-20 repetitions, depending on our fitness levels, and how hard we are trying to work. This can be done 1-2x a week. Remember, it’s the off season, so take it easy, and build slowly.
Unfortunately, there’s a little bit of maths involved. I know, I’m sorry, this upsets me too, but don’t stress. Here’s an example of how to workout your set distance, with a link provided with a speed, distance, time calculator that will do all the maths for you.
How To Calculate Your MAS
To calculate your MAS, you first need to do a basic time trial. Usually the distance can vary from 1.5km-3km. Let’s say in this example you do a 1500m time trial, and you get a time of 6 minutes. Now convert this to seconds, and your time was 360 seconds. I hope I haven’t lost you yet!
To calculate your true MAS (or 100%) from this, you divide the distance ran in metres (1500m) over the time it took in seconds (360 seconds). 1500/360 = 4.17m/s. This means your true MAS in metres per second, is 4.17m/s. This is the average speed you were running at in the time trial.
For the purpose of training, when doing short interval MAS runs we want to push slightly above our Vo2 Max. This will improve our aerobic conditioning, especially because we get those recovery periods that allows us to push abit more. It will be uncomfortable for you, but you are actually saving a lot of time doing this, in comparison to a 30-45-minute jog, which is longer and less effective!
You now know your 100% MAS is 4.17m/s. But you need to work a bit harder. You need to add 20-30% to this, so you are training at 120-130% MAS. To calculate your MAS for 120%: 4.17 x 120% = 5.0 m/s Therefore, 120% = 5.0 m/s
To calculate your MAS for 130%: 4.17 x 130% = 5.42 m/s Therefore, 130% = 5.42 m/s
Remember, I said we would start off light, so in the example we will do 120%, not 130%. To calculate the distance, you need to calculate speed x time. We know the speed you need to go is 5.0 m/s. We also know the time will be 15 seconds. Therefore, 5.0 x 15 = 75 metres.
Now that we know every rep is going to be 75 metres, all you really need is 2 cones and a stopwatch to do these runs.
Short Interval MAS Example:
- 15s on 15s off:
- Sets – 2
- Repetitions – 12
- Distance – 75 metres every rep
Note: After you complete your 1st set of 12 reps, rest for 2-3 minutes then go again for your 2nd set!
You are only doing a total of 3 minutes of running each set when you add up the reps. This means overall, you will end up doing only 6 minutes of running, but you’ll be working hard.
This may be a difficult read for those that get nausea at the thought of doing maths. However, if you do this based on your fitness levels, you are training with purpose. Best of all, you will benefit so much more than random conditioning training. Now if you just don’t get the maths, I have included a table below for you to follow based on how you think your aerobic fitness levels are. Remember, every sport, your age, and position you play will have slightly different requirements. As such, it is difficult for me to give you an accurate benchmark.
The below tables will probably be more appropriate benchmarks for soccer (football), or hockey players. The benchmark would be slightly higher on average for AFL players, and much higher for middle distance runners (more running involved). The benchmarks would probably be a little bit lower for rugby league players, and combat sport athletes (less running involved).
You can always bump up your distance by 5 metres, if you are able to successfully achieve 2 sets of 20 repetitions.