So if you're like me you may have spent most of your time in your HS or college biology or physiology class drawing anatomically incorrect pictures of the teachers. And that's OK. Hopefully you've grown up a bit!
But now those dorky kids that sat next to you and moaned about needing an A on the test are certified exercise physiologists and physical therapists who speak and understand a language that you, as an athlete, discovered you want to understand. In this article I'll help simplify the scientific aspect of multisport training.
The first concept you need to accept is that all the charts, measures, values, and terms are only useful as tools and general guides for applying training techniques. You may 'know' your numbers, but the time will come when those numbers are meaningless and you need to throw them out the window and just race. That being said, let's break it down.
The three major terms you want to get comfortable with are aerobic training, anaerobic training, and lactate threshold.
"Aerobic" means a few things, depending on how you say it:
- This 'energy system' uses oxygen and fat stores to create energy.
- You can maintain this exercise intensity for long periods of time (many hours).
- Your heart rate (HR) will be somewhere around 50-85% of it's Max value (MHR).
- Your perceived exertion (PE) will be 'easy' to 'moderate.'
- This energy system uses muscle and liver glycogen (stored carbs essentially) to create energy.
- You can maintain this exercise intensity for short periods of time (5 to 90 minutes).
- Your HR will be anywhere between 60-95% depending on your fitness level.
- Your PE will be moderate to very hard.
- You will be at or beyond your lactate threshold (LT).
Now, we need to define lactate threshold (LT):
- The point in your exercise intensity where your muscles are utilizing the anaerobic energy system to such a degree that they (your muscles) produce more lactate then your body can get rid of.
- Known as your LT point.
- Sometimes referred to as the Anaerobic threshold (AT).
Finally, we also need to break down what lactate/lactic acid is:
- Byproduct of glycogen breakdown.
- Little green protons that sit on your muscles at the microscopic level to slow you down!
- (Check the link at the bottom for more in-depth info).
So, now we also need to clarify a few more terms:
- How you feel in a given state and effort level of exercise.
- Can be very easy to "freaking hard, dude."
- Can vary significantly due to your environment and current state of health or fitness in relation to both your "aerobic" or "anaerobic" states.
- An interesting little value that tells you how well your body is able to intake and process oxygen from your environment and is measured in ml/kg of body weight. Lance Armstrong is at around 80. Mine is around a more pedestrian 60. A good indicator of who's going to win the Tour de France and who's going to get an office job - but by no means does a 'low' value mean you won't succeed, judging by a few of the plaques hanging on my wall.
- You can work around a 'low' V02Max by improving your LT, pain (lactic acid) tolerance, mental strength, and economy.
- V02Max in athletes can only be slightly improved through exercise.
- How much energy you need to spend at a given pace.
- Improved form results in improved economy.
- Improved economy results in the ability to spend less energy at same pace or go faster with same energy expense.
- Do your form drills!
- how well you metabolize everything; how quickly you eliminate lactic acid; how 'fast' and 'economical' your body is as a dynamic system.
- The highest HR you can hold for a few seconds without having a heart attack or suffering other dire consequences.
- Racing, or reaching race-effort levels in training to simulate as well as possible actual racing conditions.
Slow twitch muscle:
- Muscles that respond well to the use of the aerobic energy system (aerobic training).
Fast twitch muscle:
- Muscles that respond well to the use of the anaerobic energy system (LT training).
- Physiological changes affecting the efficiency of your systems in response to the workloads placed on them (stonger muscles, increased endurance, stronger & bigger heart, lower resting HR, increased circulation, increased capillarization (tiny veins to muscles), higher LT point, and so on)
So now that you know what all this means - so what? Well, check out the pyramid:
Basic Endurance Athlete Training Structure
Now, all you need to do is take the scientific mumbo jumbo and pop it into this pyramid in a periodized macrocycle to achieve maximum athletic performance.
"Oh, crap," I hear you say, "what the eff is a periodized macrocycle?"
Thatís when you break a year (or so) of training into smaller periods (mesocycles) and work on different systems throughout the cycle. Typical periods are called base, build, peak, taper, & recovery. Iíll write something up on those next time, but in the interim you can find a plethora of information on the Internet and in numerous books dedicated to the subject. You can also hire me or someone like me to do the planning for you ;-)
Exercise Physiology - Lactate Threshold Summary
My training articles
The Triathlete's Training Bible by Joe Friel
The USAT Coaching Certification Handbook
A billion other articles on the internet, in magazines, etc.