Posts Tagged ‘lactic acid’

Lactate Threshold – How to Improve?

November 13, 2008

part 3/4 of this series

When your muscles make energy they wish they could do it all with oxygen. But, alas, sometime we push ourselves and that is not possible. Sloths seem to have perfected it, nice slow easy movements, very efficient. Anyway, what happens when we need more than can be provided by oxygen alone is that the body takes a short cut. It turns glycogen into pyruvate to get at some of the quick energy, and then would like to finish taking the pyruvate to another process to release the rest of the energy using oxygen.

When that cannot be accomplished, that is there is no oxygen lolly-gagging around, it sticks it aside turning it from pyruvate to lactate. Lactate can still be combined with oxygen to get the last drop of energy out but it can also go mobile in the bloodstream to get taken care of elsewhere. The process to get it turned to energy is called the lactate shuttle. Lactate does not sit in the muscle but is whisked away in the blood and is turned back to glycogen by the liver, or ideally some oxygen shows up and the lactate shuttle thing is used right there in the muscle. If it cannot be taken away quickly enough it will build up. Lactate is not Lactic acid, but if lactate builds up it will be turned into lactic acid. The difference between the two is a hydrogen ion. Just one of those chemical things that if you get too much of something there is a process to do something about it. So ideally your circulatory system takes it away to be filtered out. When it builds up it turns to lactic acid, creating acidic environment for the muscles, called acidosis, that hurts and fatigues the muscles and makes them stop eventually because the process for making more energy does not do well in an acidic environment. It is a protection mechanism so we don’t blow ourselves up. 

The deal is you want to have a high level of lactate removal so you can work harder. The better job you do it the closer to VO2Max you can endure. Your lactate threshold always comes before you hit VO2Max, but how close you can get is an individual thing. The worse your body cleans this stuff out the less you can work. This is of course speaking of long term exercise like what is done by someone doing a triathlon, or a marathon or a century (100 mile) bike ride, or a swim across the english chanel… you get the picture. If you only need to work for a short period then this is not anything you need to worry about, you can curl up in a ball and payback the oxygen debt if you prefer once the 50 meter sprint or mile race is over.

If you want to go far… faster, you need to work on this lactate threshold. There is of course testing, and it measures the buildup of lactate in the blood. The test for lactate threshold simply measures your blood levels of lactate and once it starts to build up, this is considered your lactate threshold. A lab is your best bet if you want accuracy, but then we are talking several trips cause you are trying to improve it. The simple test is to get a treadmill and make like Roger Banister, that is experiment with your own body.

After you got the idea of the concept it will sort of become obvious how to test it on your own. For example, if you can run 8:30 miles one after the other and not have to stop before say 5 miles but could keep going longer if you really wanted to, then you can safely bet that you are not operating above your lactate threshold. But if you start it out and after 3 miles have trouble breathing and keeping your mind set on holding that pace and eventually slow down a bit then you are probably above the threshold. As a rough guide it seems to happen around 85-90% of your maximum heart rate but will be different for everyone.

The way to train yourself and improve your lactate threshold is to give your muscles a lactate bath and let them figure out how to handle it better. That sounds scary or unsafe, but we are talking about training hard, at 85-90% of your maximum heart rate. Run with a group that is faster than you and you feel like you are dying each day you run with them and wonder if you can make it. Your muscles and blood vessels will figure out how to do a better job of it cause they wont like it.

So keep in mind I am only trying to share the concept of lactate threshold here -the how it works and why it needs to be improved. It is as simple as thinking of it as a measure of how well your muscles and circulatory system can move lactate first out of your muscles and then out of your blood. It needs practice to get better. It can be like an interval workout as long as the rest interval is long enough to clear out all the lactate, go crazy hard for a minute and then move to below your threshold speed so you can attain an active recovery then once you are feeling all normal at that pace, do it again. Or it can be a longer workout where you go just above the level for a long period of time. Both of these will help, the interval one with longer active recovery periods will be easier. The longer workout just above the level (say 45 minutes) will also help you to improve your race times when you will be pushing yourself to do your best. By experiencing how you feel and how to push onward you will learn how to push all the chips in near the end of the race. If you never operate there you will likely begin to wonder if you are going to make yourself pass out if the first time you try it is race day.

Here are some links that go into a little more detail, and if you really want to get better testing methods or workouts than I have gone over then you are going to have to go see the google about that.

Good Luck


Weight Training

June 19, 2008

So I signed up at the YMCA. It was my wife’s idea that we do this, but I am taking the bull by the horns and creating a whole program for myself that includes using the membership to it’s fullest. The first thing we are doing is to use the gym for weight training. When I was about 20 years old I did a weight training program coupled with a 5 mile walk 3 times a week and that was the last time I was my perfect weight. I was in shape boy…  

I still have fond memories of when I worked at a Shari’s restaurant as the baker (yes guys can bake too). I wore a tight fitting (on purpose it was still cool then) pair of white jeans with a long sleeve white button up shirt and a white apron and just couldn’t wait to take them pies out to the front display case. The waitresses and customers alike would take an interest in me prancing around. (I didn’t admit to prancing now, I am just saying that someone else might describe it that way.) I loved it cause shortly before then I had been overweight and was not getting these seductive flirtatious glances and attention; the change was nice. I want to get back to the days where a girl will look me over when I walk by or flirt a bit given an opportunity. It just feels good.

From 22 years old on the rigors of college (yeah I started late) and working in restaurants as a cook and baker put me back on track to be in the Clydesdale classification. (Over 200 pounds). I topped out around 250 right as I graduated in ’96. If left to my own stupid choices I hit equilibrium around 230 after I was out of school. With the South Beach Diet I have been as low as 197 last year, but this week I started my new program at 216.2.

Since the diet alone has not really done it for me I decided, seeded from the idea my wife had to join the YMCA, to do the weight training and attempt another triathlon so as to require the training to do so. I want to fit in my old 34″ levis and weigh something like 175-180. The real target is how I look though not my actual weight, but I can’t know until I am close.

We did the orientation at the YMCA and got a little tour of all the weight machines. There is one I don’t like too much cause it just doesn’t feel right. And another that the guy told us not to do until we had a little time under our belt. But the rest I am going to do.  I try and rest for 30-45 seconds between sets and less than that to the next machine. I found I can use the rest time to stretch other muscles that have been completed. I feel like a quivering blob of jello by the time I get warmed up and am half way done with the weights. I am going to have to eat or drink something that gives me a little more energy before these workouts I think.

Sure enough according to this article I need to eat a bit earlier, something like 2 hours before my workout. I ate about an hour before so my body was working more on digestion. I will have a little trouble doing this since we eat right when we get home from work then go to workout. I think I will try a lighter meal and a bigger snack that day to have some substance in me earlier so the fuel is ready when I am lifting.

Here is a list of the weight training I will be doing:

  • Leg press           100#2×15
  • Leg curl              40#2×15
  • Leg Extension    40#2×15
  • Abdominal          40#2×15
  • Abductor            60#2×15
  • Adductor            70#2×15
  • Back Extension    65#2×15
  • Rear Delt             55#2×15
  • Peck Fly              55#2×15
  • Chest press        30#2×20(10 each handle)
  • Lateral Raise       30#2×15
  • Lateral Pulldown 70#2×15
  • Shoulder press    30#2×15
  • Seated Row          40#2×15
  • Seated Dip           65#2×15
  • Arm Curl             30#2×15

I am almost embarrassed to admit there is one machine that is doing me in. It is the arm curl which works the bicep. I am doing two sets of 15 reps and the thing is killing me at 30 pounds. I started a little higher the first day, 40 I think, and couldn’t finish the second set. Then my biceps felt tight and in pain the next two days. Last night I then did my second day and started at 30 but dropped it to 25. Again, it feels like the muscles are in need of constant stretching.

As I write I cannot extend my arms without pain in my biceps. They aren’t injured, just very sore from all the lactic acid that can’t seem to get out of there. HOLD UP, I just realized that I need to do a little research about that lactic acid thing cause I am thinking that because of what I learned as a kid in high school. It turns out lactic acid is not the cause of my pain. Silly me, it is muscle microtrauma.  

I am going to have to drop it down to 20-25 pounds for a bit and let them poor muscle fibers heal up. I hope no one looks at the weight I am lifting, it seems so.. well.. insufficient.

I work out on the treadmill for 20 minutes before the weights to get the muscles warm and a good sweat going so I have a reason to take the little paper towels and spray bottle to wipe the machines down when I am done. Nobody wants to see my sweaty butt-print outline after I get done. I got a pair of them moisture-wicking bicycle-type shorts (without the butt pads) on underneath a regular pair of shorts so the outside ones have all the sweat delivered to them.

I decided how I am going to measure my warmup heart rate. The first 5 minutes I will run it at 2% incline at 3.0 miles per hour. Then take the peak heart rate as my measurement. It was 111 yesterday. I also tested my resting heart rate at 56 during the day. If anyone wants to share their numbers I would be interested to see where I fit in.

I only have my mini-triathlon left to figure out. I will be swimming this Saturday and hopefully I can get the running and biking in before then. I need to get a baseline before I get too far along. I want credit for all the improvement! I would love to hear what others can do for a min-triathlon. Just measured as your best time in each category not all the same day or with transition times, sort of an ideal benchmark for your body. 100 yards swimming, 1 mile running, and 5 miles biking where you end at the starting point to account for hills. I will post my results next monday. If anyone thinks the numbers should be different let’s hear why.