News Letter February 2013
Hello and welcome to my News Letter for Feb 2013.
Following on from January's discussion all about training with Heart Rate Zones and how we might get the best measure of the all important Threshold, I thought I'd offer some advice about preparation before going for a Blood Lactate Test.
Firstly, you should be aware that there is more than one way to ascertain your Threshold so if you've not yet decided which route to take, just be aware that test-protocol and consistency are considered more important than the actual type of test used.
Ok, so you are thinking about a Blood Lactate Test.
If done properly, a BLT is probably as accurate as you need to be in identifying Threshold, however there are some potential pitfalls to be aware of.
Prices vary enormously so its important to know exactly what you're getting for your money, it's also sensible to know how to best use the data that you receive.
To make this sort of testing worthwhile, you will need several tests throughout the season. If you are not buying a package that includes follow-up tests you should find out in advance how much the subsequent tests will be. Some providers will attract customers by offering a reduced fee for the initial or pre-season test then hike-up the price thereafter. You should re-test every 12-20 weeks depending on the nature of your training.
Concerning the actual test, ask the provider how many sample readings will be taken and at what intervals of intensity. For cycling, use Power as a priority over HR and for running, use Pace as priority over HR. There is nothing wrong with using HR [as the load indicator], it just requires greater consistency and control of variables.
As a guide there should be 7-9 stages with a minimum of 4 minutes at each level of load/intensity. That is, 7-9 blood samples (droplets), typically taken from the finger tip or ear-lobe. The starting point is therefore very important as we are looking for the "step changes" in both lactate and cardiac response to occur in the latter region of the test. In terms of Heart Rate, this will occur at around 85%HR(max).
As a way to reduce costs some test labs may only use 5 stages or increase the size of load-step then apply smoothing-software to fill-in the gaps. There needs to be an appropriate number of data points (samples) if the step-change is to be captured, too few will miss it and hence negate the benefit of having this type of test.
Given the variability of test protocols its vital that you dont jump-ship to different test labs once you've had your pre-season test done. You should also try to minimise the number variables both pre and during the test. Treat the test as a Cat A event, which means no last-minute training that may leave you under-recovered or stressed prior to the test. I suggest planning 2-3 weeks in advance.
Elite-level triathletes will be tested for each discipline, the reason for this is that each discipline there are different demands placed on the cardiovascular system from each set of muscles and movement patterns.
Have your initial BL test done pre-season, just before you embark on any specifc endurance training. Re-testing every 12-20 weeks will allow plenty of time for your training to take affect. A favourable response will be indicated by a right-shift of your step-change marker. In other words, the point at which lactate starts to spiral upward should shift to a higher load or stage of effort. **** If your test lab is using too few stages or load changes that are too large, it may not be possible to identify any [favourable] training responses ****
Given the cost of having each BL test, it would be sensible to have a training programme that is at least going to produce a favourable result.  Rather than wait for 20 weeks to find that your training programme is inaffective, you should take regular progress test every 3-6 weeks following each rest cycle. These should be of sub-maximal effort or distance (typically 1/3 Race Distance) as this allows for greater repeatability.
Good luck and happy training!

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