Special thanks to the Chiropractic Sports Institute for this article!
by: Tom DeLong, M.S., C.S.C.S.
How is it possible that Lance Armstrong rides at a pace greater than 100 rpms pushing a big gear as well as keeping his heart rate greater than 190 beats per minute for over 40 minutes? These incredible statistics sound almost impossible – or are they?
Besides very good genetics, there is another explanation called the Science of Training. Knowing how to use this science is the key. Let us narrow this down a bit –VO2max. A high VO2max definitely gives one advantage; however, this is not the end all. When VO2max reaches it’s ceiling (close to one’s genetic potential), how does one increase aerobic capacity from here? Simple –train to use a higher percentage of your VO2max. This means training ANAEROBICALLY to increase aerobic capacity. Sound like a contradiction? Think again. Science tells us that interval training (anaerobic) done at high intensities and with adequate duration enables us tolerate higher levels of a nasty substance called lactic acid. The big picture is called adaptation. We adapt to higher levels of stress (yes – training/exercise is considered a stress upon the body) thus enabling we humans to perform at higher levels (i.e. run/bike faster for longer periods of time). In the case of using a percentage of VO2max, imagine having a decent aerobic capacity but only able to perform at a lower percentage of that max (e.g. A max of 62 ml/kg/min-1 and your lactic acid accumulation really builds up at around 55 percent of your max). Using interval training, you can train beyond your lactic acid build up level (affectionately called OBLA). Training in this capacity increases adaptation to perform at higher intensities thereby increasing your ability to utilize aerobic power.
If one were to create a picture of this information (using a graph), your crossover point would shift to the right indicating an increase in aerobic power. Better yet – there is also a shift to the left on the graph if you were to plot increased intensity relating to increased speed and lactic acid build-up. This shift is an increase in anaerobic power. By creating more lactic acid, you can tolerate higher levels thereby increasing your ability to perform at higher intensities without any noticeable depreciation in performance (i.e., run/bike faster for longer). Once again – Adaptation. The trick is to evaluate which of these categories (anaerobic vs. aerobic power) you need to improve.
Before embarking on an interval-training program, have yourself tested to evaluate your current level of fitness. A max aerobic test can give you valuable information telling you if your training program is working or not. Tests can also help guide you in the direction necessary to elevate your performance to the next level. Remember – there are different levels of tests. Low-cost fitness tests are available that give ample information for the novice athlete to improve performance. If you are truly serious about training, laboratory tests are available to measure exactly what you are trying to change. Just be sure the tester is qualified to interpret the data for you.
Lastly, remember there are many facets to training. The one major facet that is most overlooked is the one that is universal to performance at any level – strength. Increased anaerobic/anaerobic power depends on strength. Lance Armstrong certainly knew this – inevitably he had to be strong in every area to perform.