Why measure anaerobic threshold?
You spend valuable time training with determination, passion and dedication but often do not obtain the expected results. You find your performance decreasing over time and often run out of energy during a race that was very important to you. Why?
In endurance sports such as cycling, it is fundamental to know your individual threshold ‘numbers’ if you want sustainable performance improvement. You have to know what and when to ask to your body what is required so you can achieve the best results possible and still finish strong.
The evaluation - threshold | lactate test
The most precise and informative test that lets us fully comprehend our cardiovascular (aerobic) engine capacity and function is the threshold test through the analysis of blood lactate. Thanks to the accuracy of this evaluation the results allow for more specific ‘numbers’ to structure a personalized training plan according to specific goals and races entered.
First, let’s say that there is not an “absolute and definitive interpretation” of the values achieved since they need to be analyzed according to the races we are going to do.
To give some examples: your body needs to be trained in different ways depending on your goal – a full marathon, a 10K race, a short or very long cycling event. Moreover, the data should be interpreted according to the level of the athlete: a good runner will run the half marathon at a speed that is close or even slightly higher than the threshold speed, whilst a beginner will choose a speed between low and high tempo.
If during a running event, speed is mostly constant, the situation is different when cycling, where a number of external conditions (road inclination, draft, wind) constantly requires differences in power expression. On a race with short climbs it will be possible to overcome the threshold power for a few minutes, whilst on longer races and long climbs it would be important not to go above threshold values to avoid getting into ‘trouble’ where you can’t sustain the duration.
This occurrence is described as ‘hitting the wall’ that some marathon runners face at a certain point of their race (typically above 30 km) or the hunger crisis of a cyclist on long endurance races. No matter when, the sudden decrease of performance always has the same outcome: an intensity that is too high with a consequent depletion of glucidic storage. To avoid these risks, knowing your ‘numbers’ is fundamental to plan both your training and racing.
Planning your training
Let’s give some examples: marathon runners or triathletes (1/2 Ironman or Ironman) should be trained to maximize fat utilization and to accumulate the least amount of lactate as possible. Their performances in fact lasts some hours without significant changes in intensity. That is why their sessions should be designed around low and medium tempo training with some progressions (fairly long) up to threshold. This is the correct way to train muscles to use the aerobic metabolism.
The training for a 10 km or for a 50Km event will be significantly different. For these competitions, it will be important to train the capacity on maintaining thresholds or above thresholds values training at those intensities. These athletes, thanks to their different physiological make-up can produce a higher level of lactate.
The reference value of the anaerobic threshold (expressed in mmol) is subjective and should be interpreted by an expert trainer. Normally, in athletes involved in long distance at a constant intensity the threshold is generally lower than 4 mmol, whilst in athletes competing for 60/90 min max or with constant intensity variation the values can be much higher.
When should a threshold test should be done?
I can’t do the test with professional supervision. What can I do?
Although it is ideal to do the tests in a controlled environment under the supervision of a professional that will subsequently analyse the results, this it is not accessible to everybody. However, there are other ways of conducting threshold tests with estimated values to analyse the relationship between power and heart rate – such as an incremental intensity test leading to exhaustion.
In this case, it is the Technogym Maximal Test available on the Mycycling app . The evaluation protocol, developed by the Technogym Scientific department provides a maximal ramp test, designed on the athlete’s physiological characteristics. During the warm up phase, an analysis of the heart rate is done and the increments in power that occurs every minute are chosen accordingly to get to the maximal effort within 15 to 20 minutes. Then an algorithm predicts the relevant values: heart rate, cadence and power at threshold. Subsequently a training program called Technogym Neuromuscular Training is generated.