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Physiological Testing?

Hi, i am new member...looking forward to picking all you experts brains as I take the plunge into the crazy world of triathlon! And, of course, sharing any experiences I have that may be of use to anyone! [:D]

First question...(and I did 'search' for this before posting but found nothing so apologies in advance if its been asked already!)

I am interested to hear if anyone has experience of proper lab / physiological testing? I saw a recent article that ultimately directed me to the 'British Association of Sports Science'. Apparently from here you can find a consultant, have a series of accurate tests done (ie VO2 Max, Aerobic threshold, lactate threashold etc) and then get a specific training program drawn up for you...all for a price of course!

Essentially my question is...is it all worth it? and what sort of "fee" are we talking ?

My "is it worth it?" bit is based on me reading that the estimation of '220-Age' for Max HR (from which most of the other HR training zones / estimations are driven) can be up to 20-30 beats a minute out...so when you think you are training at 70% you could easily be at 60% or 80%....which is obviously not what you want.

If any of this makes sense then I'd welcome advice ! [:D] Thanks...


  • BopomofoBopomofo Posts: 980
    Hi Jumbo, and welcome! [:D]

    Just to get some background, where are you 'taking the plunge' from... do you have a sports background, any experience in any of the disciplines, or are you (as many are) plunging straight off the sofa? [:D]

    It makes a difference as to whether or not this kind of analysis would be beneficial, or whether you'd be better waiting until you've got a good amount of base training under your belt then trying it.

    I can only speak for myself, but this is probably the kind of thing I'd go for when I'm trying to shave that last minute or two off my Olympic times to achieve my absolute best, not at the stage I'm currently at where I reckon I could go 15 minutes quicker.

  • toadtoad Posts: 104
    Lactate testing is a good way of identifying training zones so if you want to get technical thats the way to go.

    However lactate thresholds often vary per discipline, so for real accuracy you need to do the tests cycling, running and swimming. In order to see if your training programme is working ( eg lactate threshold is increasing ) you would then need to re test. This all becomes quite expensive so I guess it depends on how dedicated you are.

    I would agree with Bopos comment that physiological testing is probably better for those well trained triathletes that are looking for ways of improving their already competitive times.

    The money is probably best spent on pairs of running shoes, red bikes and porridge. As your distances and speed improves you will already know you are getting fitter.

    If you are still keen on a more scientific approach, hand held lactate testers are becoming available which often come with software that will inform you of your zones. These require you to prick your thumb or ear in order foor it to bleed, and then apply this to a type of paper strip which is then analysed by the machine.

    VO2 max is best done in labs, however if you have this done make sure they index it to your body weight ml per kg.

  • BritspinBritspin Posts: 1,655
    If you are committed to a testing regime, look at your local Uni if they have a sports science dept, they are often looking for guinea pigs to prod, poke, puncture & test to destuction, sometimes they may even pay you...
  • thanks for the tips!

    In terms of where I am now...I am relatively fit, having done a lot of sport in the past and have completed a few marathons in 3.10 - 3.20...

    Keen to step it up a notch and see if i can take even more pain![:D]

    I reckon swimming and running will be fine - think i will need to work on bike. Never been on a bike for more than about 30 mins !!!

    Sounds like approaching a Uni might be a good bet - i will do this and feedback on how far i get...

  • TommiTriTommiTri Posts: 879
    Loughborough do physiological testing. If you want more info I can speak to the one of the guys at the tri club, i think he works there. And you know its going to be dam good as thats where GB tri have theirs done!
  • TommiTriTommiTri Posts: 879
    oh, and going back to 220- age, I would ignore it. I havent got time to go into the details now (the weathers good, so out for a 4 hr on the bike), but I think its better to base your training zones on your lactate threshold. And yes, you could do it in a lab as suggested, but there are far simpler and FREE ways to measure your heart rate at lactate threshold and also your V02 max.

    And these tests have proven to be pretty accurate, it also gives you the scope of repeating the experiments every month or 2, rather than having to go back to the lab.

    I think the VO2 one is something like, see how many metres you can run in 12 mins, then divide by something, or something like that, there are also cycling based ones. You can also do the method where you run around a running track, gradually increasing speed until you hit ventilatory threshold etc. Will all the information together you should be able to get within 5bpm or so of you LT, which you should then base your training zones on. There is tonnes of info on the internet of how to do all this!
  • A couple of important things that might be useful to know, sorry in advance for the quick ex. phys lesson!:

    [ul][*]VO2 max is irrelevant as it has no correlation to aerobic performance, i.e. in this case triathlon. V02 max is simply the amount of 02 that your body can extract when working at maximum effort. The reason it has no correlation to aerobic performance is in the name; maximum effort is by definition anaerobic (above the lactate threshold) and is therefore not sustainable.

    [*]The important measure is lactate threshold (which is significantly below VO2 max). This is the point at which, as excercise intensity increases, the amount of 02 that your body can make available to the muscles is suddenly not sufficient to metabolise all the glycogen needed to produce the required amount of energy. What suddenly happens is that in order to stop the whole system stopping to wait for the next available 02 molecule it is instead shunted aside as a lactate molecule. Lactate dissolved in water (in the blood) is lactic acid which locally decreases pH and very quickly screws up the muscle enzymes, stopping the muscles working properly. To see this in action watch a 400m hurdle race and concentrate on 1 athlete's technique as it changes from snappy and low over the first few, to becoming much higher and less neat and straight over the last couple of hurdles. This is because the main muscles required are not working properly (due to low pH) and the body has to use other muscles which don't perform the action as well.

    This drop in pH causes the body to try to raise the pH as best it can as quickly as possible by getting rid of another a source of acid in the body, carbonic acid. This is basically by blowing off carbon dioxide as fast as possible (sprinters at the end of a race aren't breathing hard to get 02 in, they are trying to get CO2 out)

    With this brief ex. phys lesson you can probably now figure out a way of getting your lactate threshold without having to resort to an expensive lab: at the point of lactate threshold your ventilation (breathing rate) will suddenly increase and that can be measured easily by someone standing next to you on a treadmill or turbo trainer (have them measure number of breaths per 10 or 15 seconds during a steadily increasing effort). What happens is that if you plot ventilation rate against intensity it increases in a linear fashion until lactate threshold at which point it suddenly spikes upwards more steeply. You need to also measure HR during this and you can easily see on the resultant graph the HR at which you reach lactate threshold: Voila, no money spent and the ability to do it every 2 months or so as long as you have a willing helper to count your breaths.

    Once you've got your lactate threshold all manner of wonderful training sessions are now open to you!!!

    [/ul]Disclaimer for any ex. physiologists out there; I know it's a quick and dirty explanation!!

  • AmazonAmazon Posts: 57

    I think niobark has given some very sound advice. I'm a post grad sports science student at Exeter Uni, which is currently has the best and most up to date testing facilities in the country (even better than Loughborough!!), and I Would say that spending money to undergo tests would be a waste of money that could be much better spent elsewhere - like decent equipment as already mentioned.

    This is unless you are already a very good athlete and competing to a high level, in which case tests could be done to highlight specific areas of weakness, which can then be targeted in a specific training program.

    VO2 max tests have no relevance to endurance exercise at all, step tests as described above hold more relevance, but still not really essential. Following the advice above will give you enough info to get target zones in the right area.

    There is very little chance you would get paid for being a test case if you were to put yourself forward to testing at a uni, from my experience anyway, as there is not usually too much difficulty in finding willing students to take part - but it is a way to get some testing done free if you really wanted it.

    However bare in mind that the student would be undertaking specific tests for their data collection and so you may not get everything done that you listed above for e.g. lactate testing.

    If you wanted to see improvements, and you have the spare cash, it could be worth investing it in a good coach who will provide a decent program. Consistency in training is the key to tri in my opinion, and any tests you do now would be out of date within a couple of months - hence a waste of money.

    If your new - just go enjoy!! Plenty of time to worry about all this stuff later!! :)
  • toadtoad Posts: 104
    niobark wrote:
    [ul][*]VO2 max is irrelevant as it has no correlation to aerobic performance, i.e. in this case triathlon. V02 max is simply the amount of 02 that your body can extract when working at maximum effort. The reason it has no correlation to aerobic performance is in the name; maximum effort is by definition anaerobic (above the lactate threshold) and is therefore not sustainable. [/ul]

    I agree with your comment on VO2 max however I think it needs to be mentioned if expressed relative to body weight and time it is a very useful measure for a triathletes fitness.

    As the muscle cell adapts to endurance training it becomes more mitrechondria dense and efficient at using oxygen in the mitrechondria and in the krebs cycle reaction which produce ATP(energy). The net result being a larger pool of ATP available to meet energy demands, this delays the onset of the cytoplasmic glycolytic reaction of which you quite rightly say results in lactate being produced due to an energy mismatch.

    Some examples of Vo2 max/kg body weight

    Average fitness 42ml/kgmin-1

    Elite triathletes 80ml/kgmin-1

    Cross Country Skiers Sometimes 90-100ml/kgmin-1

    I admit there is obviously a genetic limit in elite endurance athletes however for someone who is trying to improve their endurance fitness these can be good measures of a successful training programme.

    I agree it has no relevance in sprinting and power sports, however it certainly has its place in the endurance arena if expressed as above.

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  • toadtoad Posts: 104
    Hi Niobark

    I was not disputing that improving your lactate threshold is more advantageous in training than monitoring vo2 max. I was just simply stating that Vo2/kgmin-1 can be a useful measure of the success of adaption to aerobic training..... as you quite rightly point out elite athletes with lower vo2max have run faster times than athletes with higher vo2max however we are not talking massive differences.

    Someone who has just started triathlon and has vo2 max of 40ml/kgmin-1 , and then 2 years later following training now has vo2 max of 60 ml/kgmin-1 can only have acheived this change from training, hence this measure will indicate to them that they have improved.

    I dont advocate expensive testing however if people get the chance having Vo2max/kgmin-1 can provide them with useful information.

    Question ? most muscle lactate is produced from muscle glycogen stores, in higher intensity endurance exercise these can rapidally deplete (I think within about 2 hrs if you dont feed ) once these are depleted what energy system are you going to use to continue to compete say in ultra distance marathon or iron man ...... how is high shorter intensity training going to help you here ?
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