Benefits of testing:
- Prevent fatigue in the latter stages of racing. The results give you training zones to help you train and race more efficiently.
- If your huffing and puffing too much, you may need to slow it down. A lactate profile will show you what may be over or underdeveloped.
- Weight loss or weight gain. Lactate is a metabolic function which shows when your body switches to using mostly carbohydrates as energy (see Chris McDougall example below).
- Added performance. Testing allows you to focus your attention on what you need most.
- Plan your future. Using the test results, a training plan can be built towards your goals.
Over the past several months, lactate testing has been popping up everywhere. Coaches, researchers and authors alike, are seeing the benefits of testing. Here are just some of the headlines that I came across:
Joe Friel (Triathlon coach and author of The Triathlete Training Bible): This is yet another good reason not to use maximum heart rate (220-age) as the standard by which heart rate zones are established. Lactate (or anaerobic) threshold seems to be much more stable with changes in fitness.
Christopher McDougall (Author of Born to Run): “Nearly all runners do their slow runs too fast, and their fast runs too slow. So your training your bodies to burn sugar, which is the last thing a distance runner wants. You’ve got enough fat stored to run to California, so the more you train your body to burn fat instead of sugar, the longer your limited sugar tank is going to last.” – p. 207
Tim Noakes (Author of Lore of Running): “The rationale behind using frequent tests to establish whether your body is adapting effectively to your specific training program is that, as you become fitter, your heart rate after exercise will return more quickly to its normal resting value.” – p 288, Fourth Edition
Triathlete, How to train like an Olympian: At the end of each segment, the tester takes a drop of blood from the subject and measures its concentration of blood lactate. The subject’s heart rate and rate of perceived exertion are also recorded. After the test, the athlete’s results are plotted and the tester uses a formula to determine the athlete’s lactate threshold, the exercise intensity at which blood lactate concentration and fatigue start to increase dramatically. The athlete’s lactate threshold is then used to determine all of his or her training zones.