Monday, January 26, 2015

A Lot about Lactate thresholds, Heart Rate, Cadence, and a VO2max test

Sports Performance Lab - Aubagne
Last week Liam had the opportunity to do some testing in a local sports performance lab.  The main test of the day was a VO2max test. It is a tough and painful experience, but one that is invaluable when it comes to getting future training right.  Essentially, the test involves putting on a device that measures the amount of oxygen you are breathing while you ride a bike. Other equipment is used to measure blood pressure, heart rate, power output, cadence, and left and right pedal balances.  Concurrently, blood lactate levels are being measured to determine the athlete’s lactate threshold (a point at which the body can no longer flush lactic acid from the blood).

 The whole setup looks like something straight out of a futuristic cyborg movie. The mask makes it pretty difficult to breath. The test starts with a relatively low power output, and then slowly the power output requirement is increased until the point of exhaustion is reached.  During this effort a mask completely covers the nose and mouth, making breathing relatively difficult. The athlete is being pricked periodically to measure blood lactate, and a cuff to measure blood pressure is squeezing the arm every few minutes.  Liam loves a good suffer fest so he was willing and eager to step up and take on the challenge. 

Up until now, we had never done any performance testing, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I know that Liam can go really fast on a bike, but how was that going to translate to quantifiable numbers?  Well… the numbers were quite good!  Liam has an extremely high VO2max for his age.  Although this alone is not a indicator of performance on the road, it certainly is a good indicator of his potential. 

Instant feed back with data points as the test rolls on
Although the test “hurt like hell”, it was a huge confidence boost for Liam going into the season ahead.  By getting the numbers such as aerobic threshold, lactic threshold, maximum power, and sustainable power, Liam is now better able to plan his training.  I don’t know if it had anything to do with it; but, three days after his visit to the sports lab, Liam was able to go out and score his first victory of the 2015 season at the Criterium d’Hiver in Beaumont-de-Pertuis.  Liam was able to ride away from the field with another rider in the final ten minutes of the very hilly course. But this time instead of being content with second place (as was the story of the majority of the last season), he unleashed a sprint like a man possessed and was able to win the race!  So much of racing is mental, and I think the lab results have given Liam just that little extra bit of confidence that he lacked in the past. After the race, I asked him how that sprint finish felt.  He said that it was tough, but when compared to the VO2max test it was relatively easy…

First win of the 2015 Season!
 2015 is off to a great start! Liam has several friends he races and trains with.  They all seem to motivate and inspire each other to reach for their cycling potential.  It is a lot of hard work; but, at the same time, it is also a lot of fun. 

Life Strong, Train Safe, and Live Well!

This is Bill and Liam signing out.