For the elite triathlete, there are three different sports that need to be analyzed to maximize performance. It would be great if the three sports could be broken down into equal amounts of volume or intensity but this is simply not the case, as a lot of the training is based on previous background and strengths of the athlete.
Here is a recent example of a elite triathlete that came in for testing: His bike and run numbers were good but not great. The swim was his nemesis, as he lacked the background that most other triathletes possess. The keys for this particular athlete were: increase swim time from 3-4 times a week to 6-8 and include some double days (volume 15K to 20-30K). His running needed some intense efforts to raise his physiological roof which was limiting is aerobic speed. His cycling required some longer aerobic work which helps build the ‘engine’ and will improve low end power.
After testing, it’s obvious if your body is built for the rigors of doing heavy endurance work. There are a few key numbers we look for in assessing the abilities of the athlete. These are: watts/kg on the bike, aerobic speed for the run, and swimming lactate levels after a time trial. All these numbers show how an athlete is going to perform in a race.
The ideal situation is the athlete comes in after their season is complete and gets tested in swim, bike, and run over the course of a week. This will show their peak form for the season. After their break, they re-test to see see what direction their training should take them. Then twice during the season they should come back in to make sure they are improving in each area.
All these tests show the athlete and coach a clear picture of their training. Questions like: “Is it working?”, “How much have I improved by?“, or “Why am I not improving?”; these questions are all answered from the test results. Fine tuning an elite athlete can be a tough process without looking at their physiological output (max power, anaerobic power, aerobic power). What’s great about using a tool like a lactate test is we can easily see where an athlete can fine tune their engine a little further so they can keep progressing.
Our job is to assist athletes at any level in their education of what needs to be done in order for them to improve. Sometimes they need to do cross-eyed intervals and other times, it’s ‘girl friend workouts’ where aerobic power needs to be improved. The test results show what you need. We then provide the direction on how you can get there.