Training for endurance

Fundamental Concepts in Physiology Relevant to Endurance.

To understand endurance training it is important to have an understanding of some basic physiological concepts. 5 of these principles are:

VO2 Max
VO2Max refers to the maximum amount of oxygen you can take in, transport and use when working flat out. In endurance sports, VO2Max is often referred to  as a “pre-requisite” for good performance – ie it does not determine good performance but is necessary for good performance. VO2Max is expressed in millilitres of oxygen absorbed per kilogram of bodyweight per minute. ( In body weight supported sports such as cycling and rowing VO2Maxis expressed in litres per minute (l.min-1)

 VO2 Max Machine Peter Nowill VO2 Max

Peter Nowill (pictured right)  has one of the highest VO2 Max's ever tested at the QAS. (He was a very successful 3000m Steeple Chaser and Marathon runner. Pictured left is a VO2Max test being carried out. 

Lactate threshold (LT)
LT used to be known as “anaerobic threshold”, but this term  fell out of favour because it implies that with increasing exercise intensity there is a sudden switch from aerobic to anaerobic metabolism resulting in the production of lactic acid where there was none before. In reality though, this doesn’t happen because lactate is produced in low levels even during low intensity exercise. LT is  therefore often taken to be the exercise intensity at which lactate begins to significantly accumulate in the blood.

Relationship between VO2Max and lactate threshold.
Having a good VO2Max means an endurance athlete has the potential to perform well. Being able to sustain a high percentage of that capacity with relatively low blood lactate concentration usually suggests that good  performance will be a reality because there is little accumulation of muscle fatiguing lactate even at higher oxygen uptakes.  When athletes are tested in the laboratory and information on both current VO2Max and LT is gathered, scientists can express the exercise intensity at LT in terms of a percentage of  VO2Max. The fitter an athlete becomes, the harder  they can work (ie the greater percentage of  their VO2Max they can use) before they reach LT point.

Fractional utilisation
The percentage of VO2Max that can be sustained whilst exercising at race pace, dependant on both training status and exercise duration.

Maximum lactate steady state (MLSS)
The maximum steady state exercise intensity that can be sustained without a significant increase in blood lactate . Moving beyond this point would gradually take the athlete into significantly anaerobic training territory.

Exercise Intensity v Oxygen Consumption

Have you learned about VO2 Max in endurance sports? Share your knowledge in the comments below.

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Topics: Insider, Fitness, endurance, Fit Science

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