Thursday, September 19, 2013

Part 3 Optimizing Training

This article is the Second Part of a Series on Optimizing Run Training

The first two parts of this series can be found here:

Interestingly enough this applies to any exercise that crosses multiple energy systems.  So this is perfectly applicable to many mid range, with respect to time, workouts.

Lactate Threshold Training Programs and Workouts
There are some excellent guidelines you can follow in generating training programs and workouts in order to enhance the lactate threshold levels. Training programs that are a combination of high volume, interval and steady-state workouts have the most pronounced effect on lactate threshold improvement.

Training Volume
Initially, the best way to improve the lactate threshold levels is to simply increase training volume, whether their endurance activity is cycling, running, or swimming. Increased training volume should be gradual and in the order of approximately 10-20% per week. For example, if an individual is currently running 20 miles per week, the increase in training volume should be 2-4 miles per week. While this approach may appear conservative, it will help to prevent over training and injuries. Additionally, intensity during this phase of training, when volume is being steadily increased, should be low. The maximum training volume an individual attains is dependent on numerous factors and can be best gauged by determining the overall physical capacity and motivation.. Factors such as training status, age, body weight, and training time will all determine the training volume you are realistically capable of achieving. The premier benefit of increased training volume is an increased capacity for mitochondrial respiration, which, as explained earlier, is important to improvements in lactate threshold.

Interval and Steady-State Training

Following an adequate build-up in training volume, the next aspect that should be addressed is interval and steady-state training. Correct training intensity during this phase, which will be focused around an individual’s lactate threshold, is key to the continued success of your training program. 
Most individuals will not have access to scientific laboratories, where the lactate threshold can be accurately determined from blood sampled during an incremental VO2max test. Consequently, alternative methods have been recommended for the non-invasive, estimation of lactate threshold, including relative percentage of heart rate reserve (HRR) and rating of perceived exertion (RPE) scale. Research has shown that the lactate threshold occurs at 80-90% HRR in trained individuals and at 50-60% HRR in untrained individuals.

Steady-state workouts.
Steady-state workout sessions should be performed as close as possible to the lactate threshold (using the talk test). The length of these bouts can vary depending on training status, type of endurance-activity being performed, and distance of endurance-activity. The novice runner, training for 5-k road races, performing their first steady-state run may only do a workout 10 minutes in duration. A semi-professional cyclist, training for multiple-days of racing 80 to 100 miles distances, may complete a steady-state workout of an hour in duration.

Interval training
Interval training workouts are high-intensity training sessions performed for short durations of time at velocities or workloads above the lactate threshold. Similar to steady-state workouts, interval workout times and distances are dependent on training status, type of endurance-activity being performed, and distance of endurance-activity. The novice runner, training for 5-k road races, may complete three, 1-mile intervals at or faster than race pace, with adequate recovery time between each repeat. 

The key to successful steady-state and interval workouts is careful monitoring of training intensity. While it is necessary to perform these training sessions at an elevated intensity, avoid the pitfalls of racing these workouts, as it will eventually result in over-training. Furthermore, it has been suggested that steady-state and interval workouts should not exceed approximately 10-20% of total weekly training volume.

The Bottom Line on the Lactate, Ventilatory, Anaerobic and Heart Rate Thresholds
Hopefully, you now feel much more comfortable with much of the terminology, physiological mechanisms, and understanding of the lactate, ventilatory, anaerobic, and heart rate thresholds. The task of designing the optimal endurance-training program preparation for a 5K road race should now be less formidable. 

Lactate threshold is the most important determinant of success in mid distance endurance-related activities and events, and the main goal of endurance training programs should be the improvement of this parameter. This can be accomplished by first focusing on developing training volume, and then the incorporation of steady-state sessions (at the lactate threshold) and interval workouts (above the lactate threshold). 

Finally, remember that correct training intensity is essential to the success of any endurance-training program. Utilization of both the relative percentage of heart rate reserve (HRR) and the rating of perceived exertion (RPE) scale are proven methods for monitoring the training intensity of your clients during their workouts.

Lactate is not the Cause of Fatigue
The classical explanation for the cause of fatigue, denoted by sensations of pain and the muscle ‘burn’ experienced during intense exercise, is lactic acid build-up. Coaches, athletes, personal trainers, and scientists alike have traditionally linked lactic acidosis with an inability to continue exercise at a given intensity. Although the lactate threshold indicates that conditions within the muscle cell have shifted to a state favorable for the development of acidosis, lactate production itself does not directly contribute to the fatigue experienced at high intensities of exercise. 

It is the proton (H+) accumulation, coinciding with but not caused by lactate production, that results in decreased cellular pH (metabolic acidosis), impairing muscle contraction, and ultimately leading to fatigue. The increased proton accumulation occurs from a few different biochemical reactions during intense physical exercise, most notably in the splitting of ATP at the muscle myofilaments for sustained muscle contraction.

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