This is a follow-up of Mike’s previous report on his lactate testing experience:
In my last entry on the Triathlon Lab Blog, I shared my experience with Blood Lactate/VO2 Max Lab testing. This time I’m going to talk a little bit about what it’s like to put those numbers into good use. I completed separate bike & run tests with Coach Gareth Thomas @ Trio Performance Lab in order to establish proper training zones for my build up to Ironman CA 70.3 Oceanside on March 31, 2012. I am sort of treating myself as a sports-science experiment over the next few months. I am now following a very specific training program written for me by Coach Gareth that is specifically based on my lab testing results. I will follow the plan and then get re-tested periodically to see how my body is adapting to the training. I have dabbled in some periodization for training programs in the past but never had the scientific understanding or coaching power behind it to really get the most out of it. The variety in workout duration, focus and intensity throughout each week is keeping the training interesting. As someone with a history of injuries I also have regular visits to the gym built in for core-strength and regular yoga. In addition to training changes, my diet is also changing as I try to alter my body to primarily burn fat at aerobic intensity. This very scientific approach to training is very different from the more subjective and less scientific approaches which some people favor.
I recently read an article by a well-known and extremely successful professional triathlete in which he argued that triathletes should put away the heart rate monitors and power meters to train more by feel and “perceived exertion”. The problem with this very subjective approach is that many people without loads of experience in endurance sports, like me, don’t really know what those middle intensity zones feel like. I grew up playing team sports like football and baseball. Everything was all out, on the field, in the weight room and on the running track. There were rarely easy days, no tempo days, and certainly nothing as complex sounding as a lactate threshold effort. As a result, I know what it feels like to go all-out but everything besides that is open for interpretation. Improvement in endurance sports requires training at a variety of specific intensities, a very different approach than the sports that most of us grew up playing. Having those training zones established, quantified, and accessible via a heart rate monitor or power meter, allows for the body to safely adapt at an optimal level. This helps those of us with less than Armstrong-Wellington-like-genetics improve towards our potential without wasting any training time. The professional athlete that recommended abstaining from heart rate monitors and power meters, is a full-time athlete with over 20 years of professional racing experience. I’m sure he knows exactly what his lactate threshold feels like but for the rest of us, we might want to consider a device to aid in the quest for training time efficiency. It’s not that training based on feel and “perceived effort” is wrong, it’s just an unscientific approach to training.
I should probably note that I’m a totally unscientific guy in every other aspect of my life. For example, I love cooking but I don’t bake anything–too many formulas involved. As an 8th Grade History teacher, my students sometimes ask for help on their Math or Science homework during lunchtime. I have no clue about algebra or ionic bonds. I think this is why I’m so intrigued by the ideas behind sports science. It’s all so foreign, but I’ll try anything for 16 weeks. I’ll update the blog periodically with some of my favorite Coach Gareth workouts and progress reports.