I have often pressed all of you to step up your exercise routine, to push it a little bit harder, and in most cases shorter. Â I have given you some reasons, but I want to give you more reasons. Â To go beyond the Growth Hormone and the increased leptin sensitivity, and to talk very specifically about lactate threshold.
Next – those other letters after my name, the MS, they are for a masters degree in exercise physiology. Â I must say, that I learned a lot of good functional stuff in my masters studies, I learned a lot about lactic acid, and the lactateÂ threshold. Â But after all of that classroom discussion, nothing held a candle to actually living it, and pushing it, and learning it based on choice.
So a quick understanding of the lactate threshold (closely tied to the anaerobic threshold) will help. Â Basically, you have a point where the blood becomes acidic because the build-up of lactic acid (waste product of cellular respiration – or a waste from utilizing energy). Â Reaching this state happens when you are exercising REALLY hard. Â It can happen very quickly if you exercise REALLY, REALLY hard, or if you are simply beyond your aerobic capacity for a longer period of time.
Aerobic capacity is the rate at which you can remove lactic acid, and CO2 while delivering ATP and O2. Â Better known as VO2 max, it is a measure of how well you can utilize oxygen at highly intense exercise.
OK – now that is out of the way, sorry, I know it is boring. Â But here is the kicker, HOW do you improve your VO2 max? Â How do you increase your lactate threshold? Â Most athletes work to improve their VO2 max by pushing themselves aerobically for hours, and in so doing hope to also gain in their lactate threshold. Â But this is actually one of the worst ways to improve your lactate threshold, and only holds up for pushing VO2 max if you are training at an elite level of hours.
If your goal is to simply improve your 5k time, or pick up a step on the tennis court, or really any other sport outside of elite level marathon running,Â triathlonsÂ or elite level cyclists; then you should be pushing these up by pushing to complete exhaustion on short term exercise. Â The feeling that you get when you completely cross over into your lactate threshold, is a bit painful. Â So ease into it, but when you arrive, you will know it. Â If you are wondering if you are getting to that level, then you are not there. Â All wondering will be done, when you reach this point!
Let’s go through the physiological changes that take place in high intensity exercise. Â You demand more oxygen, so you increase your ability to pass O2 through your lungs into your blood stream, you increase your O2 carrying capacity by increasing the red blood cells in your blood stream, and you improve the ability to pass that blood across capillary beds into tissue. Â This also improves the rate that you remove lactic acid, and CO2.
Today I did a workout that took 3 minutes and 12 seconds. Â At the end of the workout, my arms would not work. Â I started to get really stiff throughout my body. Â I cramped a little in my forearms, then after about 5 minutes, everything started to work again. Â This workout brought about an increase in O2 carrying capacity. Â I had not worked this hard in 3 minutes in awhile, so I realize that I was not at an optimal place for this time domain.
This workout brought about a positive change in the ability to carry O2 and to work at a high level without reaching fatigue. Â So the carryover is huge. Â If i were to turn out a performance at 70% of my capacity, I could continue that for a very long time because I have improved my lactate threshold and VO2 max from this short 3 minute workout. Â But if I need to generate a lot of power over a very short duration, I can do that as well.
Many of you know that I regularly Adventure Race with Andy McCann and whomever else we can find to come join us. Â We train in these short bursts, and it fully prepares us to go out and race for 6,9, 12, 24 or more straight hours. Â The crossover is incredible. Â So please, take advantage of the workout of the week when I post one here, or take that step to try out The Garage. Â The gains for your life and health are huge!
And lastly. Â Whenever you are sore a day after a workout, or two, or more… this is a process called DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). Â This is NOT lactic acid. Â You would be a very sick individual if your body kept lactic acid in the blood stream at high levels for days.
Work hard, be well – Dr. E