What Are All These Thresholds? Introduction

j0313896When I started training for my first half marathon last year I was stumped by how tired I would get after long runs. A close friend, who is now a NSPA-certified trainer (National Strength Professionals Association) recommended I get a Polar watch to monitor my heart rate while training to make sure I was not over-exhausting myself on those long runs. I did and despite having read the owner’s manual there are still some things that stump me about heart rates, “own zones,” and what the numbers really mean.

As I started to pay more attention to message board posts, other blogs, and articles that discussed heart rate training I started to find that heart rate is usually used in the same sentence as lactate threshold or anaerobic metabolism or VO2 max–all terms that in all my years of running I am just now discovering. For example,  a spinning instructor recently had a hand-out at the end of class an article from a copy of Spinning and what is probably the summary sentence of the article is quite foreign to me: “Testing your lactate threshold provides you with a maximum aerobic heart rate because it tells you at what heart rate your body switches to anaerobic metabolism.”

Um, ok. So the goal is to get to anaerobic metabolism during exercise. It’s not that the sentence doesn’t make sense to me it’s that I’m not entirely sure how to get to all those numbers for myself, what to do with them once I have them, and how much I want to depend on them for my own training. For the sake of understanding all these thresholds, however, I’m willing to go down this path and try it out.

I will explore the concept of heart rate training and how I can integrate it into my own work-outs, what lactic acid and lactate thresholds area and what they mean to training, and what VO2 max means and what it’s role is in training as well. Your input and own experiences are definitely welcome. The more descriptions we have of these various thresholds and what they mean to athletes will surely help clear up what I see as the science of training.

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