Thursday, April 21, 2011

What’s Lactate Got to do With It?

In my last Blogspot, I discussed the theoretical model for a World Record on the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge course. The assumption was that running full out, based on the fastest splits recorded (casually), 1:05 would be about it for a relay team. But for an individual, the limiting factor is not the time, but actually the lactate threshold.

Exercise that is performed as a “pay as you go” activity is called aerobic energy because you can metabolize glucose at a rate that allows turnover. But when the intensity is increased, the products of combustion- carbon dioxide, water and lactate cannot be dumped fast enough. Lactic acid interferes with the ability to shove more fuel in the furnace and at some point, something has to give.

Dr. Timothy Noakes, from the University of Cape Town is arguably the world’s leading authority on the subject of lactate measurement and its impact on sport performance. His research has changed a lot of how we think about Specificity of Training- the result being more efficiencies in recycling the lactate with a resistance to fatigue. For the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge, strength is not the issue; power is.

There may be some opportunities in the not too distant future to conduct some applied research among our Challenge competitors to understand better how specific training can create new breakthroughs. Measuring blood lactate in the field has benefited greatly through micro-electronics. In the early 90’s we were collecting blood samples in micro-pipettes from finger pricks and assaying them in a laboratory with the assistance of various chemical cocktails. Now, you can get the same data instantly with hand-held meters.

I’ve maintained from our inception that we can train a lot smarter, with less time and better results if we know where we are on periodization. I also believe that many of our athletes unfortunately subscribe to the theory that anything worth doing is worth overdoing. Fatigue increases the risk of injury; rest is an essential factor in recovery and must be planned for. Residual muscle soreness is a clue that you’re not ready to resume training.

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