Thursday, May 24, 2012

I'm Getting Schooled... Part 2 of 5 (Lactate Threshold Test)

Before Coach Wadsworth could make me a suitable training schedule, we had to figure out what kind of shape I was in.  By shape, I mean what my lactate threshold is, and I'm not referring to when my mammary glands start milking.  For those that have no idea what I'm talking about:
Lactate Threshold is the exercise intensity at which lactate starts to accumulate in the blood stream.  That may insinuate that lactate is bad, but really it is just a byproduct of lactic acid along with hydrogen ions which are the real problem.  Hydrogen ions cause an acidic environment in the muscle, a process referred to as acidosis.  Acidosis interferes with muscle contractions, causing fatigue. 
So a lactate test is just another way to measure the amount of hydrogen ions that lead to acidosis, and therefore is an indirect marker for fatigue.  I spent about an hour studying that and trying to put it in layman's terms.  Is it still clear as mud?

So that's all well and good, but how does knowing all that help my training?  The answer is, by knowing what my threshold is I can train at the highest intensity possible for the longest time while improving my ability to conserve energy and fight fatigue.  Obviously, we can't train like that all the time or we would become "overtrained" or injured.  The general guidelines state that this intensity of workouts should only makeup about 10 to 20 percent of total mileage for the week.

On April 24th, I met up with coach at his training center.  To conduct the test, he had me put on a heart rate monitor, and warm up on a treadmill for about 10 minutes.  After that he started to increase the incline and the speed every couple minutes.  After each increase he would have me rate my perceived level of exertion on a scale of 1 to 10.  Then he would have me place my hand (while I was running) on the frame of the treadmill while he pricked it to get a blood sample.  He measured the sample with a digital machine and marked down my lactate level along with my heart rate.  To finish the test he turned into a sadist and upped the incline to 8% and the pace to 8 mph until I cried uncle.  He said he did that to find my max heart rate, but he was smiling a lot when he said it, so I think he was just wanting to see me suffer.

This is the lactate test kit that was used on me.  The white and blue tool at the bottom is used to prick fingers.
The black canister holds little litmus type strips of paper used to collect the drops of blood,
and the yellow device is a digital meter used to measure the amount of lactate in your blood.

This is simply a chart to record all the heart rate and
lactate levels as the test progresses.

Now for the moment we've all been waiting for:  Nathan emailed me a letter containing my results along with an explanation of the test.  I've posted the letter below in its entirety.

A treadmill graded exercise stress test was performed 4/24/12.  A 12.5-minute warm-up at 3.5-5 mph was carried out prior to the test.  During the first stage of the test, you maintained a running speed of 6 mph with a 0 degree incline.  The incline increased to 8%, while the speed increased to 8 mph by 16:30 minutes.  During the test, you reached a maximum heart rate of 197 bpm. The “will to stop outweighed the will to keep going” and “no finish line” were the reasons for ending the test, although a Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) of 9 out of 10 was achieved indicating a near-maximal effort.  Blood Lactate levels of 4.0+ mmol/L were achieved at 16:00, which means that your body has gone over the lactate threshold value.  This indicates a switch from having a surplus of oxygen to going into oxygen debt (or the amount of carbon dioxide that your body is removing by ventilation is greater than the amount of oxygen you are able to breathe in).  Namely, you have gone over your lactate threshold.

Improving lactate threshold and mechanical efficiency can be accomplished by performing interval workouts above your lactate threshold heart rate of 183 bpm.  Quality aerobic training needs to be carried out in the heart rate range of 130-180 bpm, which is below your lactate threshold.  Tempo runs at or just above or below your lactate threshold heart rate of 183 bpm will increase your lactate threshold and allow you to improve your aerobic fitness level.

Strides and tempo runs will help you to run faster and more efficient. Be sure to perform your recovery runs at a HR of 130-150 bpm.  This level will ensure that you are recovering adequately.  With the implementation of these suggestions you will be able to improve your running times.

Heart Rate Training Zones:
Easy/Recovery Zone:  130-150 bpm
Aerobic Maintenance Zone:  151-180 bpm
Threshold/Steady Zone:  181-186 bpm
Interval Zone: 186+ bpm

A re-test in six weeks would be beneficial and should show improvement.
Now with a lactate threshold in hand, a customized training schedule can be developed where some of my workouts will be ran at that threshold.  If you'll notice, Nathan also gave me zones for Recovery, Aerobic, and Interval.  This should help me to know how fast to run based on the day's objective.

For part III of my blog series, I get to hop on my coach's AlterG.

Go To:
Part 3 of 5 (AlterG)
Part 4 of 5 (10k Training Plan)
Part 5 of 5 (Coaching Costs)


Laura said...

I find this interesting as I have had the lactate testing done BUT the focus isn't on using the heart rate. My results showed me what paces to run per km for all of my training runs. (i.e. easy LSD is called a Zone1)
I find it a very effective way to train. Hope all goes well!

Jim ... 50after40 said...

Jon this was on an AWESOME post! So much stuff in blog world is simply BS or space filler (my stuff front & center) ... but this is great! Thanks for sharing this info - I'm gonna steal some of it - it's a great tool. Very interesting that you can improve your LT at aprx 10 bpm below your max. Did he say how long you're supposed to sustain that level? Or is it just keep improving until you can sustain it longer and longer? Great post man!

Meghan said...

This is so interesting! I'm a believer in this Biology stuff (maybe because I am a total nerd and majored in biology). This should really help you advance!

Rose @ Eat, Drink, and Be Meiri said...

This kind of stuff is fascinating. I've been meaning to test my maximum HR. Now I kind of want to get a LT test kit. Go science!

Paul said...

Really really interesting!

I wonder if there is a way to measure blood lactate without skin pricks. That would be really awesome.

Terzah said...

I really enjoyed this post, too. Of course I can't actually run, but I'm using my time on the bike to see what my heart rate does when I'm breathing at a certain rate. It will be interesting to have some firm data that tell me where I really am!

I'm also looking forward to your opinion of the Alter-G (I'm off for another session it this afternoon; have to take the kids; we'll see how that goes).

Char said...

I'd always thought that to improve aerobic fitness you had to keep your heart rate quite low. It's encouraging to read that you can actually have it up pretty high - because my heart rate really likes high.

Boston Bound Brunette said...

I am really enjoying these posts! You make me want to hire a running coach! I could probably benefit from it but I am sure it's expensive!

Fair Weather Runner said...

this is interesting stuff. i likey. it makes me want to hire nathan for myself!

Coy Martinez said...

I'm completely jealous! I wanna have one of these done. They do them in town here where I live. I think they're like $50 or something but I think the information can be so good to train with!!

Robin said...

This is all very interesting...looking forward to the next part!

The Slow One said...

I'm so confused. Ha!

Trent (Scott) Lorcher said...

One of the first people to experiment like this was Roger Bannister who, in addition to becoming the most famous miler ever, was a doctor. You'll be breaking the four-minute mile soon.

Nelly said...

Interesting stuff indeed! I think my max heartrate might be right around that figure, so I can almost use your exact zones listed below on the chart, haha

And the first comment you left on my blog is dead on! That's why I put almost the same comment in my own post! I was excited to finally put up a race recap lol. My right ankle did feel sore last Sunday, but it actually feels okay now, I did 30 min run with no ankle brace, and it went fine. I did wear my left knee patella strap, I think I was getting some runners knee symptoms again - the patella strap today kept all the left knee pain away it seemed.