Stairstep For Improvement

stairstep-improvementWell, I received a copy of my actual heart rate zones based on the lactate acid test that I did last week at GymJay.  I am hoping this information will help me to develop a training plan that will be a stairstep to improvement.

I plan on re-running the lactate acid test in late May to see how much improvement I have made. At least I hope there will be some improvment!

I will meet with Jay this coming week to discuss the best approach to training.  Last week I began riding my trainer for 2 hours a day; either 2 separate 1 hour sessions or 1 session 2 hours long.  All things considered, by mid-March I hope to be training for 3 hours a day.  This is a lofty goal, but if I plan on pedaling my 200 pound 66 year old body plus a 50 pound bike and another 50 pounds of gear 4400 miles cross country I will need a lofty goal.

The videos, discussed in a previous post, I am now watching help me pass the time while ‘visualizing’ a bicycle ride.  Well, I am getting excited about the ride: 103 days to go.

Zone Purpose Average Power Average HR Perceived Exertion Description
1 Active Recovery <60% <70%   <105 <2 easy intensity, light spinning, recovery from hard training
2 Low Aerobic Endurance  61-75% 70-85%   106-128 2-4 all day pace intensity, breathing more regular, base training zone
3 High Aerobic Stress  76-90% 85-95% 129-140 4-6 feel like it is work, breathing more labored, used in group ride, sometimes too much time is spent in this area
4 Threshold 91-105% 95-105% 141-152 6-8  area around lactate threshold point, effort is difficult for conversation, 1-2 hour race efforts, 2 days in this zone will require 2 days recovery
5 Speed Work  106-120% >106% >153 8-9 high intensity for 2-10 minutes, conversation is very difficult, leg burning and fatique, not done in consecutive days, 45 minutes maximum, used to improve high end speed
6 Anaerobic Intervals  >121%  N/A  9-10  very short bursts of high intensity effort, 30 seconds max, can fatique legs quickly, only done when conditioning is well advanced


Lactate Acid Test

Broken HeartWow, what a name!  The bottom line is that I went to GymJay today and had a Lactate Acid Test run to help determine the best overall Heart Rate zones for improving my overall fitness.  There are several sources on the internet that describe what lactate acid is and why certain thresholds are important: Rhino Fitness and Sports Medicine are just two.

Jay Marschall operates GymJay, and works with all types of bicyclists and others looking for improved fitness.  Jay was recommended by my doctor, who felt he (Jay) could do somethings to maximize my overall training for the cross country bicycle trip.

The first thing Jay wanted to do was determine exactly where my Lactate Threshold (LT) was.  Soooo, today we did the test using my bicycle set up on one of his six CompuTrainer systems.  This system was similar to an indoor bicycle resistance trainer on steroids.  There was a large video screen in front of the trainers that displayed an actual road course with several riders.  The trainer was connected to the display such that going up hills increased the resistance and downhill eased the resistance.  The overall level of resistance can be set based each individual bikers fitness level.  Ain’t it amazing what technology can do?

Jay had me warm up for about 20 minutes on the Computrainer.  What an experience.  First off, the 20 minutes went by in the blink of an eye.  The video kept my attention fully engaged as I watched the other riders and the scenery.  After the first few minutes it seemed as if I was actually on the road.  Also, going up and down hills required massaging the gear shifter to maintain a steady cadence.  Between buying the system, a computer, and a large screen TV you need some serious money to have one of your own, but, man-oh-man, are they a nice way to train.

Next, Jay began increasing the resistance manually while I maintained a steady cadence (80rpm).  Every three minutes he would ask how I was doing, based on a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being the maximum.  The idea was for me to reach a level 8-9.  At this level I would be close to my maximum heart rate and energy output and producing the maximum lactate acid.  I would only be able to hold this level for a very short time.  I finally reached what I considered the level 8 when my heart rate was ~165bpm.  I was supposed to hold that rate for one minute while he took a pin prick sample of blood to analyze.

Jay lowered the resistance back down so my heart rate was 127bpm, and he took another sample of blood.  He then increased the resistance so my heart rate would increase by five beats, took a blood sample, analyzed it, and repeated this process.  At these lower levels the lactate acid in my blood was going down, which indicated my body could absorb what ever was being produced.  He was looking for the point that the lactate acid started increasing, which would be the point where I was producing more than absorbing.  This occured between 137bpm and 142bpm.

Viola’, my very own personal LT was about 140 bpm.  Below this level I should be able to ride for an extended period of time, and above this level I could only ride for shorter periods, depending on how far above it I am.

Next, Jay is going to put together the information from the test, then determine my specific heart rate zones, and finally, he will make some training recommendations based on my particular body and the goals I have set.  If I dilegently follow his recommendation my LT should go up, indicating that I am able to put forth more effort for longer periods of time.

Well, to say that I am excited would be an understatement.  With only four months left till we leave I need all of the help that I can get.  We agreed to re-run the test the end of May to see how much improvement I have made.


Training Programs

ConcernedIn my previous post, on Heart Rate Zones, I talked about the concern I had with whether or not my training was helping or not.  Key word NOT.  It turns out that over training  is actually worse than undertraining.  With under training you just don’t reach your peak, but with over training you can actually regress past where you started.  This seems to occur because the ol’ bod doesn’t get sufficient time to recover between training sessions.

Sooo, what is a good training program to attain maximum performance?  Okay, in my case, maybe not maximum performance but at least some sort of performance.  Well, back to the internet and some various recommendations.  Again, most of the training sites, including Livestrong, were focused on upright bicycle racers, and they all tended to agree with some general training principles.

Ah yes, and now for the disclaimer to try and keep the lawyers away: I am not a doctor, I have had no medical training, I have interrpreted the information on several different websites, I have offered up this general information for information purposes only, I do not know anyone’s physical condition, sooooo, don’t try any of this without getting your doctor’s A okay.  Okay?

Training Sessions Ideas

  1. Endurance (aerobic)
    1. This is the first piece of the training program to be undertaken.
    2. The majority of all training should be spent in Zones 1 and 2 to provide the most benefits for building the cardiopulmonary system.  This maximizes the use of stored fats and carbohydrates.
    3. This piece of the program should last from several weeks to six months.  This will improve the cardiopulmonary (aerobic) endurance.
  2. Performance (anaerobic)
    1. This should not be done until the endurance phase is complete and the cardiopulmonary system has been sufficiently improved.
    2. This training is done in Zone 3.  It is difficult, and the intensity and physical effort can have a negative effect on health and performance.
    3. This training phase can take anywhere from 1 to 4 months.
    4. It is suggested that each day of performance training should be separated by 2 or more days of easy (training).  The better your condition the more recovery days are needed (this is due to the better trained person being able to exert more effort in the workout.
    5. Performance (anaerobic) training improves the ability of the body to use carbohydrates and tolerate resulting buildup of lactate in the muscles.
  3. Training Tips
    1. Endurance
      1. 5 – 10 minutes warm up in Zone 1
      2. Majority in Zone 2
      3. 5-10 minutes cool down in Zone 1
      4. Make sure the body has recovered before repeating this
      5. Train easy during recovery (Zone 1)
    2. Performance
      1. 5-10 minutes warm up in Zone 1
      2. 4-6  intervals in Zone 3 for 4-6 minutes
      3. 5 minute rest in Zone 2 after each interval
      4. 5-10 minutes cool down in Zone 1
      5. Allow 2 or more day for recovery
      6. Train easy during recovery (Zone 1)
    3. Monthly Training
      1. Keep the training consistent for a week
      2. Increase the training by ~10% each week
      3. Train for 3 weeks
      4. Train easy for 1 week (Zone 1) to allow the body to recuperate

All of the websites talk about a recovery time.  What to heck is a recovery time and how long should the time be?  The easy definition seemed to be, ‘when your body has recovered from the previous workout.’  Sounds simple, at least to me it did.  On second thought, how do you know when the ol’ bod has recovered?

If the ol’ bod hasn’t recovered and you do another heavy training session you end up using more juice out of the battery before the battery has recharged.  Eventually the battery is drained and burnout occurs.  Worn out, no desire to train, sleep issues, and irritability are a few of the issues that occur with over training.  In general, your body is regressing instead of progressing.

If the ol’ bod isn’t being used enough then you reach a certain level of fitness and then plateau.  You don’t get worse, but you don’t get better.  Reaching a plateau can be a mental drain because no matter how much time you put in there is no improvement.

Livestrong has an article on the dilemmna between over and under training.  I am going to investigate some method to better help me determine where the ideal spot between not enough and way to much occurs.  More later on!