THE SCIENCE OF SPEED
Stop Working Out, Start Training
by Dan Moser, Ph.D. & Jeff Devlin
The key to this type of approach requires the use of specialized workouts, conducted at predetermined training intensities, designed to achieve specific goals. By identifying important races, the training schedule for the year then can be divided into base training, competition training and transition periods. Each general period is further broken down into more specific training blocks or cycles where a focus is placed on one or more of these specialized workouts such as “VO2″ or “lactate threshold” (LT). Last month we discussed a few of these physiology buzzwords. Now it’s time to focus on how to interpret the results of a lactate threshold or ventilatory threshold test to set accurate training intensities and maximize the benefits of your hard work.
The type of event(s) you are trying to “peak” for and what your personal strengths and weaknesses will determine what type of training will be done during each training period. Base training period isn’t always long and/or slow and competition period isn’t alway short and/or fast. The training done during the base period should lay the foundation for either higher volume or higher intensity training (or in some cases both) during the competition period. (Ah, but this will all be tackled in another article) For the moment training intensities or “zones” the coach considers are aerobic, lactate threshold, VO2 Max and anaerobic.
Aerobic training is performed at roughly 65% HR max (for recovery bouts you may go as low as 60%) up to 90% of lactate threshold (not of HR max). The high end of the aerobic zone or aerobic threshold corresponds to HRs at lactate levels of 2-2.5 mmol. on your lactate threshold test. It is the intensity at which most athletes will complete longer and ultra distance races or events. Most aerobic training is best performed at well below this threshold, as this may lead to ineffective training, or even peaking or burning out well in advance of the key race.
Lactate threshold training can fall anywhere from 75% up to about 92% HR max depending on your level of fitness (fitter means higher percentage). However, the low end of the “LT” zone corresponds to HR’s at lactate levels of 2.5-3.5 mmmol. Roughly 94% of lactate threshold. This might be thought of as “marathon pace” for you sub-3:30 guys and gals. At the high end of this zone (102% of lactate threshold) lactate levels are typically 4-5 mmol. This is usually the maximum pace or intensity that can be maintained for about 1 hour.
VO2 or aerobic capacity training is usually done via interval training – most often 3-5 minutes per interval – where the final 1-1.5 minute is approaching a maximum effort. Ouch. Actual VO2 pace can be maintained for up to about 10 minutes. Ouch. The heart rate you are shooting for is about 5-6 beats higher than your heart rate at lactate threshold and up to about 98% Hr Max. Double Ouch. This is training where you swim, ride and run out all your frustrations. Do not try these paces every day or you will be watching your peak race from the sidelines. Allowing for full recovery and incorporating plenty of easy days with these intense days will go a long way to preventing injury.
Anaerobic training, sometimes called lactate tolerance training, makes use of shorter, even faster paced intervals and heart rate is not really applicable. The pace could be 95-110% of your pace at VO2 Max (vVO2) – knowing your actual pace or power output is the best way to gauge your intensity for this type of training. A summary of aerobic to anaerobic training is listed in Table 1.
Get out your calculator and let us illustrate the training zones with some sample HRs. Suppose your HR max is 185 bpm, and your LT is 87% of HR max, or 161 bpm, and your VO2 max pace (vVO2) at the end of a stress test is 6:10/mile. Most of your aerobic training will be performed from 65% HR max, or 120 bpm, up to 90% LT, or 145 bpm. Some recovery bouts may be as low as 60% HR max, or 111 bpm, but do not spend much time there or you are just wasting your precious training time. Your lactate threshold training would be between the 94% LT, or 151 bpm up to 102% LT, or 164 bpm. VO2 work would be above LT, up to 98% HR max, or 181 bpm (~6:10 pace). Anaerobic training would be performed at up about 5:25/mile.
Near-LT & LT
Well above LT
HR and Lactate range:
60% HR max- 90% LT (1.5-2.5 mmol)
94% LT 102% LT (2.5-5.0 mmol)
>LT (>4.0 mmol) up to 98% HrMax
>LT (>5.0 mmol) up to 110% vVO2
Long Distance (but not too slow)
long or short intervals, short recovery
Long intervals full recovery
Short intervals, long recovery
So stop just “working out”, apply some patience (and math), and go for it! Remember, train smarter, not harder, and your PR this year may surprise even YOU.
Dr. Dan Moser, Ph D, is the director of research and clinical services at ELITE Health & Wellness (http://www.elitewellness.com). Coming from a background in track and field, he has more than 10 years of experience testing professional and recreational athletes, including triathletes, runners, cyclists, in-line skaters, and hockey players.
Jeff Devlin is an endurance coach and former professional triathlete, who offers practical insights into the application of the latest science. Jeff holds five national championship titles and two 3rd place finishes at the Hawaii Ironman. He runs his own international coaching business, Human Performance Engineering (http://www.jeffdevlin.com).