MEDIOCRITYVILLE

TRAIN SMART

Triathlon Magazine Canada - - FEATURES - BY JASPER BLAKE

One of the most com­mon er­rors ath­letes make in train­ing is de­fault­ing to an ef­fort level that re­sides some­where be­tween the aer­o­bic and anaer­o­bic, or lac­tate thresh­olds. In essence, not hard enough to get max­i­mal train­ing ben­e­fits, but too hard for re­cov­ery. Let’s call this place Mediocrityville be­cause, if you spend too much time there, you will likely see very medi­ocre re­sults. Ef­fort man­age­ment is fairly sim­ple when you know what the two pri­mary thresh­olds are and how to use them ef­fec­tively in train­ing.

Your aer­o­bic thresh­old, in sim­plest terms, is the point where your body tran­si­tions from burn­ing pri­mar­ily fat to burn­ing pri­mar­ily car­bo­hy­drate (glyco­gen). To be clear, glyco­gen is al­ways be­ing burned even at very low in­ten­si­ties, it’s the per­cent­age rel­a­tive to fat that mat­ters. As in­ten­sity in­creases, your body needs to uti­lize faster fuel sources so it taps into your glyco­gen stores. In tests where blood lac­tate is mea­sured, the aer­o­bic thresh­old is of­ten in­di­cated when lev­els reach 2mmol/litre.

The se­cond thresh­old is re­ferred to in dif­fer­ent ways and can be mea­sured through a va­ri­ety of meth­ods. Your anaer­o­bic, or lac­tate thresh­old, is the point where you be­gin to re­cruit anaer­o­bic path­ways to main­tain the work­load (anaer­o­bic mean­ing with­out oxy­gen). In sim­plest terms, this is the point at which you start to feel out of breath. If you were in­volved in a test where they de­ter­mined your lac­tate thresh­old, they would have mea­sured the amount of lac­tic acid in your sys­tem. As you work harder, you ac­cu­mu­late more lac­tic acid in the blood­stream. Your lac­tate thresh­old is the point where your body starts to pro­duce more lac­tic acid than it can get rid of. Both anaer­o­bic thresh­old and lac­tate thresh­old are usu­ally used to de­scribe the same thing be­cause they of­ten oc­cur at very sim­i­lar in­ten­si­ties, but, tech­ni­cally speak­ing, they are dif­fer­ent.

To get the most ben­e­fits from your train­ing you need to spend time in and around th­ese thresh­old ef­forts. You will stress your body and pro­mote adap­ta­tion. You can also im­prove by do­ing shorter, faster in­ter­vals that will push you be­yond your se­cond thresh­old.

When you end up float­ing around in be­tween th­ese two thresh­olds, though, you have ar­rived at Mediocrityville.

It’s easy to end up do­ing lots of train­ing at this level be­cause you feel like you’re work­ing hard, but not so hard that you risk throw­ing up. Work­outs that you’re sup­posed to do above your anaer­o­bic thresh­old are hard. It’s easy to slip down to Mediocrityville when the work starts to get tough.

You might be the tough­est per­son on the planet, but if you are try­ing to do in­ter­vals that are too long at too high an in­ten­sity, you won’t be able to sus­tain the ef­fort and you’ll end up in that mid-zone again. Sim­i­larly, rest in­ter­vals that do not al­low ap­pro­pri­ate re­cov­ery be­tween hard sets can limit your abil­ity to hit higher in­ten­si­ties.

The op­po­site oc­curs when you start push­ing too hard when you’re sup­posed to be work­ing aer­o­bi­cally. There are ben­e­fits to be had when you’re go­ing eas­ier: the uti­liza­tion of fat as a fuel source and the cor­re­spond­ing de­creased need for glyco­gen, which you store con­sid­er­ably less of than fat. Some­times you’re sup­posed to be do­ing an eas­ier work­out be­cause the goal is for ac­tive re­cov­ery. This of­ten hap­pens dur­ing group ses­sions when the pa­ram­e­ters and goals aren’t clearly laid out and peo­ple start to push the pace.

Most good train­ing pro­grams are de­signed to max­i­mize the ben­e­fits and adap­ta­tions that hap­pen around the two thresh­olds I’ve talked about here. The space be­tween is not al­ways bad, it’s just that too of­ten ath­letes end up there with­out re­al­iz­ing it and don’t reap the ben­e­fits of their work­out time. Man­age your ef­fort ac­cord­ingly and good things will hap­pen.

Iron­man cham­pion Jasper Blake is a coach from Vic­to­ria.

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