As part of our track workout on Friday, we had the opportunity to participate in a two-step blood lactate test. This is something that Corey Hart, the Beasts’ physiologist, does with the elites, only he will do a four or five step test.
What is the blood lactate test?
The blood lactate test measures how much lactic acid you have in your blood. Long story short, lactic acid is produced when you exercise as your body breaks down glucose for energy. As your body needs more energy, the demand for energy also increases… which means that there will be more lactic acid in your blood.
So, the harder you work, the more lactic acid, which will show up in your blood. At some point, you will max it out because the amount of oxygen that your body supplies can no longer keep up with what your energy systems are requesting. For Dr. Corey, this is interesting for the elites because it can show where they stand in their training and what workouts might help them increase the amount of oxygen that they can use in their bodies.
What I learned from the blood lactate test
Since we were doing a short track workout, we didn’t have time for a four- or five-step test. We did a two-step test… one at rest, and then one after we did an “easy” warmup. This is honestly the one thing that I see people doing wrong the most in training –> going too hard on their easy runs.
I was guilty of it! I remember the first time I trained for a marathon, I was like that’s a cool idea, but my legs feel fine and I should go harder. But the easy run has a number of benefits. Here’s a sciency explanation from a RW article:
On easy days, you’re using mostly slow-twitch muscle fibers. They have a higher density of mitochondria, high levels of aerobic enzymes and greater capillary density than fast-twitch fibers, which are more involved in higher-intensity training, says Dan Bergland, principal sport physiologist at Volt Sportlab in Flagstaff, Arizona. On easy days, “You increase mitochondria and capillaries and blood flow to those muscles, so they’re better able to utilize oxygen,” he says. “Without that, you can’t do the intense runs.”
Many people call these junk miles and think they are a waste of time. But they are not. They are so important to your training and the bottom line is that they help your body become more efficient without putting added stress on your legs and muscles like those hard workouts.
[it feels like you’re getting your ear pierced! well, a little less painful than that]
So, we started with a blood test right when we got to the track and my “level” was 1.1. After we did a 10-minute warmup at my “easy” pace (which is about 10 minutes per mile), I headed back to Dr. Corey and found that my level was 1.3.
What that means? My easy run pace is right where it should be. We were targeting for a number that was about 1x or less larger than the initial number. Anything higher than that was indicative that my slow pace was not slow enough for my body.
How to know if your easy run is easy enough
I think this is SO important to know. If you don’t have a blood lactate test handy, you can check whether your easy run is “easy” enough:
- Can you have a conversation or sing a song without being out of breath? When I went to my coaching class, the instructor said he typically tells people that your easy pace should be slow enough that you can sing the Brady Bunch song without gasping for air. That’s a good way to gauge it.
- Is it at least one minute slower than your long run pace? I generally use this rule of thumb for determining what my easy run pace should be. On some days, if I’m feeling really sore or tired from another workout, I will go even slower.
- Do you feel as sore as you do after a hard workout or long run? The easy run should work your muscles, but not the point of making you more sore than you are after a hard workout or long run. The easy run will often make you feel better, especially if you are sore after another workout. However, I will caveat this by saying that you should watch this based on your body… for me, I know that if my easy run is an easy pace, it will make my muscles feel better. For some people, it may make you feel more sore if you had a hard workout the day before. So, pay attention to your body and see how it reacts.
Have you ever had a blood lactate test? What did you think?
Do you struggle to run your easy runs slow? Do you think they are just “junk miles”?
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