Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Lactate Threshold! Are you in the correct Zone?

So I've been banging on and on and on about lactate threshold so I suppose I should tell you how to find yours. I need to outline that there are many methods of finding this data. The use of very expensive machines is probably the most accurate. But if you are like me and don't have access to one of these hi-tech, high-spec machines here's how it can be found using any basic heart rate monitor. This is how I find mine. This method is not something I developed, it is a common method used by many running and triathlon coaches in the USA, Australia and Europe.

This test takes 30mins exercise time, followed by about about 5mins brain power time. So I carb up but not on sugars!
I do a short routine of functional stretching before starting. I set out with my Garmin powered on but the stopwatch not started. I do a 10min warm up run slowly pushing my heart rate up to about 80% of my maximum or until I'm exerting myself to 8/10 of my ability. After 10mins I stop, wait for my heart rate to drop to about 50% of my maximum (this takes about 40-50seconds) and then I get ready.
I start my Garmin stopwatch and run as fast as I can for 20mins maintaining the same pace throughout and the ability to keep good technique. This takes a little practice. The first 2-3 times I went out too fast and my pace dropped for the last 3-4mins. I must explain that you must run as fast as you can for 20mins and not as fast as you can run period. A good way of achieving this is to know the rough distance you will cover in 20mins. Depending on fitness I usually cover 4.8k-5k averaging about 14.8kph -15kph. If you start too fast, correct your pace and continue as best you can.
As soon as you reach 20mins (regardless of distance covered) stop your watch.

When finished view the data. The average heart rate for the 20min run is the important number. This number + or - 3 beats per minuet (bpm) is your Zone 4. Subtract 20bpm from the original number, take this number + or - 3bpm and you have your Zone 2. Anything in between Zone 2 - 4 is, surprise surprise, Zone 3. Anything below Zone 2 is Zone 1 and anything above Zone 4 is,,,,, Zone 5. Simples!

So where is the lactate threshold?
The moment you enter zone 4, you have crossed the lactate threshold. Here yo are no longer using slow twitch muscles fibres, therefore you are not using fat as a fuel source.
Zone 2 or if you want to be a bit more specific, the high end of Zone 2 is where you want to be if you want to increase your lactate threshold. So training in the low end of Zone 2 will be the best place or pace for any endurance athlete or anybody trying to lose weight. If you are above this number you are in the "grey" Zone doing "junk miles" and your progress will be limited.

Lets take the female I used in the blog post "running faster", we said she reached lactate threshold at 120bpm. So 120bpm is the high end of Zone 2, which means Zone 2 is between 114-120 bpm (remember + or - 3bpm). That puts 117bpm right in the middle. Add 20bpm to 117 and you get 137bpm. She must have ran for 20mins and had an average heart rate of 137bpm when she finished. Her training Zones would look like this;

Zone 5 140-180bpm (above 180bpm is above maximum heart rate)
Zone 4 134-140bpm
Zone 3 120-134bpm
Zone 2 114-120bpm
Zone 1 90-114bpm (below 90bpm is considered in normal range for daily activity)

This is a standard 5 Zone breakdown. There are literally hundreds of ways of doing this, some with 3,4,5,6,7 Zones. I like this one! It's easy (I know it doesn't read too easy) but it does take 2-3 attempts to get it right. I've been doing this for quite some time and I don't need a heart rate monitor anymore to know what Zone I am in, I do however still use a Garmin on almost every run and on every cycle.

If you are doing this test on a bike, it is recommended to cycle as fast as you can for 40mins and proceed as advised with the data.

I think this is enough to digest for now. Give it a go and please ask Q's or comment below. The next post I will explain the junk miles and grey zone areas of training.

I am due to do a Lactate Threshold test this week. I will explain this again and use my data as another example to try and clarify it a little more. Sorry it's a bit geeky but it can't really be made any easier without losing the key points.