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Don’t Go Breaking My Heart….

Don’t Go Breaking My Heart….

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Each and every runner hits that wall, that moment when you struggle to move any faster. Despite all the hard sessions you put in, you just can’t seem to progress to the next level. Let’s say for instance you’ve been losing weight, you’re getting stronger and your 6:30km split has turned into a 5:30km split. But then as you venture out on your weekend run, a runner passes you at a speed you can’t fathom, and he doesn’t even look like he’s trying. You pick up your pace, and dig deep, but no matter how hard you push, the speed just isn’t plausible, at least not for long. You head home confused and a little defeated.

 

What was that guy doing differently that helped him run at such lightning fast pace? And more importantly, how can you get to that level?

The training theory required is known as athlete development. By understanding your body’s aerobic and anaerobic thresholds, your heart rate training zones, and how making use of these information to improve your running performance. All important factors that impact the ability to develop a strong and consistent running paces, capable of taking you to that next level and keeping you there long term. So let’s break this down.

Heart rate zones are critical to understanding your body, and how it will react at different paces. There are 5 zones, 1-5 and they typically start at around 120bpm and max out at 185-190bpm. What’s important to know is your breakdown of zones, and at what point you cross over the lactate threshold that quickly sends you into a crash.

 

“There are 5 zones, 1-5 and they start at around 120bpm and max out at 185-190bpm”

As an example, my 4:30km pace might see my heart rate sit at around 140bpm, which has me comfortably running in zone 2, which is great for building endurance and burning fat. Your 4:30km pace however, may tell a very different story. Let’s say for the sake of my example, at that speed your heart rate has now climbed to 165bpm (beats per minute), and pushes you into Zone 4, borderline Zone 5. This means you’re quickly exceeding your lactate threshold and are only minutes from hitting the wall, thus ending your run abruptly and with little benefit.

Have you ever felt this? Mid race when you try push a pace you know isn’t comfortable, and despite that little voice in your head telling you to slow down, you just can’t?

This is known as hitting the wall, and it sucks. This is the point when your lactic acid build up has reached a point where it can no longer be cleared quick enough, and your muscles begin to work inefficiently. Soon enough, your legs start to feel heavy and fatigue shows it’s nasty face.

 

So what can you do learn about your heart rate zones?

Going to a sports science lab and getting tested gives you the platform to gain accurate understanding of not only your heart rate zones, but also your lactate threshold, which are critical to long-term development, and to assist in becoming a race ready athlete. The biggest eye opening moment will come when you realize you’ve been training much harder than required, and likely to the detriment of your development. It’s an easy mistake to make, to think running hard and fast will develop you into a stronger and faster runner, but the reality is quite the opposite.

 

So what’s next?

Get yourself checked out to gain an understanding of what’s possible. See what’s waiting for you should you decide to take that next step, go after a sub three hour marathon, or chase down that sub 4:00min split. The potential within you is limitless, it’s just up to you, and how much you want it.

 

This guest post was written by SydneyTrailRunner.

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Dwayne Dixon – @SydneyTrailRunner
Ultra Marathon and Marathon
Morph Performance – Social Ambassador
Sydney, Australia

 

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Train Smarter, Race Faster with Lactate Threshold Testing

Train Smarter, Race Faster with Lactate Threshold Testing

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Regardless if you are a newbie, competitive age grouper or elite athlete, the amount of time and effort put into training for your upcoming endurance event is pretty sizeable. It’s probably more than you can afford each week, but you still get out there and put in the mileage. Something worth considering is the effectiveness of those miles and if it’s really giving you the biggest benefit.

Good news is with lactate threshold testing, the accurate data significantly improves the quality of your training and racing. To keep things nice and simple, the following article highlights how it all works.


What is lactate and lactate threshold?

Lactate is a fuel source produced when your body breaks down glucose for energy. When training at an easy aerobic intensity, lactate is converted back into energy and it’s concentration in your blood is kept constant. This process is called lactate clearance and this ability differs for everyone.

When pushing a higher intensity, the energy required goes up and more lactate gets produced to cope with the demand. Since your body effectively clears lactate at a fixed rate, the blood lactate concentration will keep rising till it eventually goes out of control. This tipping point is referred to as the lactate threshold.

To better explain this process, try pouring water down a funnel at a steady rate. Then gradually increasing the amount being poured. The funnel can only handle a fixed volume of water passing through and will overflow once maxed out.


Why is lactate threshold important?

Lactate threshold is a performance marker that determines your output (i.e. speed or power) at the point when you stop clearing lactate. Pushing past this point not only depletes your limited glycogen stores aggressively, it also significantly reduces your muscle functionality. A classic example is going too hard at the start and blowing up in the back half of a race.

By knowing your heart rate and output at threshold, you can work out your clearance zone and it’s corresponding heart rate range. Training within this specific zone programs your body to be more efficient and improves your threshold output over time. This results in you fatiguing less on hilly courses and being able to sustain a quicker pace for longer periods of time.

Without accurate threshold data you often end up training too hard and missing out on building a bigger aerobic base. This limits your potential to improve, minimises your performance gains and runs a higher risk of overtraining.


Lactate threshold testing

Lactate threshold testing is suited for athletes of all levels and is the most accurate method of determining training intensity zones. Follow up testing tracks improvements and current data is used to develop effective race pacing strategies. This test runs for about 30 minutes (depends on the number of stages) and the workload increases with each stage till lactate threshold is achieved. Heart rate is tracked and blood lactate is measured from finger samples at the end of each stage. It’s a sub-maximal test and only requires a harder effort in the final stages.

 

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The above graph shows the test result of a fit age-group athlete. Lactate threshold was achieved when the reading crossed 4 mmol/L (in blue) at which the measured speed was 14.11 km/h and heart rate was 174 b/min (in green).

Despite clocking a good threshold speed during the treadmill test, the early stages at lower intensities were all above 2 mmol/L (in purple). Since lactate concentrations were high and more energy was required to produce the sustainable speeds (in red), the athlete needs to spend time training in the clearance zone to effectively bring these readings down by the next test.

 

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This next graph above shows the result of an elite endurance athlete. Notice how well lactate is cleared even at high speeds. Achieving this result is possible if you train specifically and spend time in your optimal heart rate zones.

 

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This final graph above shows the result of a sprint distance athlete. With an evidently poor ability to clear lactate, sustaining race pace for a long period of time is not possible in an endurance event. To significantly improve lactate threshold, retraining is necessary to first establish an acceptable base level of clearance.


What to do after getting tested

Completing your first lactate threshold test will give you a pretty good idea of where your ability stands as an endurance athlete. The result serves as a baseline measurement to compare with future tests to track your improvements and trend your progress. It’s important to evaluate the test data, detail a development strategy and apply these learnings to your training plan.

Getting tested right before a big race is also useful to measure your level of fatigue. If you are not recovering well, changes can be made to your tapering process to get you racing optimally. Use the test results to put together an effective pacing strategy to perform at your best on race day.

Be wary of reports that bombard you with lots of numbers, technical jargon and don’t offer much useful information. If you have never done testing before, it helps to ask beforehand about the test results and their application with training and racing. The response you get should be pretty telling if it’s going to be good value on your investment.

With exception to lactate clearance, fat burning is another glaring weakness seen in most endurance athletes. Regular testing provides you and your coach with concrete evidence of improvement, in both short and long-term development. If you are serious about achieving peak performance, give it a try and start training smarter and racing faster.

Jon Fong is a High Performance Coach and Master Sports Scientist for Morph Performance.