To get the most out of anaerobic training, do it in the afternoon or early evening
This study by Bernard et al. (1998) looked at differences between the results of three different anaerobic power tests: a 50m dash, vertical jump, and max cycles sprint at three different times of the day. A group of 23 men undertook each of the three tests on three separate days at 0900, 1400, and 1800 hours.
Results showed that anaerobic power and max running speed were significantly lower in the morning compared with the afternoon, with 5 to 7% greater power achieved in the afternoon. There were no differences between either afternoon test time. This suggests that for fitness testing procedures, trainers need to be consistent with the time of day when the tests are performed.
Also, this finding suggests that the best time of day for anaerobic training is in the afternoon or early evening. This is consistent with other research into circadian rhythms which shows heart rate, body temperature, and muscular strength are all higher in the afternoon than in the morning.
The purpose of this study by Hue et al. (1998) was to see if any differences existed in the 10k run immediately following a 40K cycle (Olympic distance triathlon) compared with 10k running alone. A group of male triathletes completed two testing sessions on two different days:
Cardiorespiratory data was collected during both runs and stride length, and frequency was analysed using videotape. The researchers found that for a run (1), the oxygen cost was greater (51.7 ml/kg/min vs 48.3 ml/kg/min), heart rate was higher (175 vs 168) as was ventilation rate (55.8 vs 49 breaths/min).
In contrast, the biomechanical variables between the two runs were unchanged. This suggests that the cycling section before the run in a triathlon competition places an extra physiological demand on the run. This could be due to a variety of factors, which reduce the physiological economy, such as increased lipid metabolism, increased body temperature, and dehydration status.
However, it would appear that the biomechanics are unchanged, although only stride length and frequency were analysed in this study, and other variables exist that can affect efficiency. For instance, the degree of knee flexion would be an interesting variable to study since this is related to the biomechanical economy.
This research supports the practice of combining cycling and running in the same training session, as the transition between bike and run seems to alter the physiological stress of running.
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About the Author
Brian Mackenzie is a British Athletics level 4 performance coach and a coach tutor/assessor. He has been coaching sprint, middle distance, and combined event athletes for the past 30+ years and has 45+ years of experience as an endurance athlete.