Time for Testing! RUN TESTING!
Training for the 2020 season and looking at Training zones and Intensity prescription. As athletes what do we do!!??
Every year athletes begin the season analyzing and testing their training intensities. You might use "zones" as your language. Training in zone 1 for recovery, zone 2 and 3 for aerobic base building, and 4 and 5 for anaerobic threshold. You may go by heart rate! 65% or below for recovery, 65-80% for aerobic base, 80-90% for threshold, and 90-100 for anaerobic. You may use terms such as tempo, critical power, FTP, maffetone HR, but my question is...what is the right zone? How do we truly know that we are training at the right intensity for what we want to train?
I have to admit, I am partial to my testing. If you don't have a laboratory and can';t look at VO2 max ( a measure of maximum oxygen consumption) or lactate threshold (a measure of when lactate in the blood begins to increase exponentially) then you are left to testing that you can measure with stop watches, power gauges, heart rate, and maybe just rated perceived exertion.
So, what are my favorite testing methods? Here is my list of my favorite testing procedures if you don't have a laboratory and a pocket full of cash to pay for such testing.
1) 12 min Cooper run test for running paces
Ok, so one of the most utilized tests in academic research is the VO2 max. This test is usually done as a graded exercise test, or RAMP protocol where every so often the intensity is increased until the person participating voluntarily quits. Hopefully the person runs to a point where they are hyperventilating and they are near their maximum heart rate (HR). Many studies utilizing training protocols have been based off of VO2 max in order to increase lactate threshold, 3000 meter run performance, and other variables (Esfarjania F, Laursen P., 2007). When running a VO2 max protocol, the idea is to fatigue the person performing the test somewhere between 8-12 minutes. any longer and the person becomes too tired to hit their maximal values, and any sooner the body may rely on non oxidative means of metabolism, which means you're not stressing the oxygen demand of the body to its max. We want to stress that system!
So in my view, the 12 min Cooper run test is a winner. It's in that window of 8-12 minutes and it allows someone to reach that peak! Remember we need the participant to reach a maximal work load. If I tell the person 20 minutes, they may pace themselves and fatigue before the end of the test, not reaching that maximum stress level.
How does the Cooper 12 min test work? you need either a track, a gps, and a stop watch. What is the goal? Run as far and as fast as you can in 12 minutes. At the end of this test you should have a distance and a time. That is then placed into an equation to give you your estimated VO2 max, your anaerobic threshold, and off those numbers you can calculate different paces and zones. Hopefully the test gives you a value close to your maximum HR as well, so you'll have three important values.
So, your velocity at VO2 max will be = (distance covered in meters) / (12 min x 60 s/min)
You then will have some value like 4.2 meters per second. This is your velocity to run at to elicit VO2max (theoretically).
Now! with your maximum HR and your velocity of VO2 max (vVO2max), we can calculate training zones.
Aerobic easy Intensity: 65-80% Max HR
Aerobic high intensity: 80-90% vVO2 max
VO2 max development: 90-100% vVO2 max
Lactate Threshold: 110% vVO2 max
Now, as for training intervals and values, this vary's across the board. Some may say 2 minutes of 3 min at 85-90% VO2 max with 1 minute recovery in-between for VO2 max development. Anaerobic development you'll need way longer rest...3....4....5 min of rest because you're stressing a completely different system. At the end of the day, run in the zone you want to develop, and then how much rest do you need to then run the same interval at the same pace....and then do it again...and again...8-10 times before you slow down? Next time can you do it with less rest.....or maybe a bit faster?
A couple take aways....no system besides a lot of laboratory testing is accurate. Eliot Kipchoge cat run at 90% or more of his vVO2max because his lactate threshold is soooo close to it! Some people have a lactate threshold that's 85, 80, or maybe even 75% of this VO2max. How will you learn your true values!? When you run! ALOT! Also, not everyone is the same! You can't take a room and apply them to the same model because their all different. I have athletes who are 38 that reach over 200 bpm and I have other that barely touch 170 that are younger. You can't have them train off the same 220-age predicted value! I honestly believe there needs to be a mix of HR and pace values for good training. I also believe that nothing should be written in stone. You learn more about your athlete as you coach them, and you learn more about yourself and what you're capable of as you run! Get out and run, and learn how your body works!