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What happens to your threshold HR when fitness improves?
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I thought this would be a relatively basic question, but my experiences are going against what I assumed. Googling for these terms has been unsuccessful.

I assumed that when your fitness increased, your lactate threshold would become higher because your body would become used to handling more lactic acid. Right now my fitness has never been better, but I'm noticing significant burning and increased effort when trying to maintain what I had previously calculated to be my threshold HR. For example, last year I would average 150 bpm on a longer ride, where this year I would feel like I'm putting in the same effort, but going faster, and averaging 135. Similar with run. Last year I TT'd at 178, where this year I did 161 (and again, went faster).

Could it be possible that with training, your threshold HR would go down significantly over one year? I have a few ideas.

1) I've been focusing heavily on endurance and I haven't pushed my HR high enough to maintain a high LT
2) My body is just more efficient now
3) Overtraining (which I'm leaning against, since I've been running much faster and longer than last year)
4) My recent weight loss basically tossed the rulebook out the window
5) STFU and just get some proper testing done

Now that I've typed it all out, I'm thinking 1, 2, and 4 are all contributing factors, and to just 5 after I've recovered from IMSG.

Any thoughts? :)

_____________________________________________________
George Dedopoulos | @geodee | geodee.com | Team Atomica | Toronto Triathlon Club
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Re: What happens to your threshold HR when fitness improves? [geodee] [ In reply to ]
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Probably #1 from what I know.

If you have been training at lower HR levels for endurance, rather than more intense training, your body would only have improved in that area. I suggest adding more intensity.

You can get fitter, and therefore faster at a given level without increasing your tolerances. To increase these tolerances, train at the levels that produce them.

On the internet, you can be anything you want. It is a pity so many people choose to be stupid.
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Re: What happens to your threshold HR when fitness improves? [geodee] [ In reply to ]
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I think I remember something (how's that for commitment) from one of Friel's books addressing this issue. Basically it said: don't obsess too much about your LT number. Even though it may not be changing, fitness is improving and that's what really matters. Seems like sage advice and what you are experiencing as well.






Take a short break from ST and read my blog:
http://tri-banter.blogspot.com/
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Re: What happens to your threshold HR when fitness improves? [chrisbint] [Tri-Banter] [ In reply to ]
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Thanks for your input! I'm think I'm subconsciously looking for ways to get myself worked up before my first Ironman. So in other words, keep going as things are, and use the experience to prepare better for my next race.

_____________________________________________________
George Dedopoulos | @geodee | geodee.com | Team Atomica | Toronto Triathlon Club
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Re: What happens to your threshold HR when fitness improves? [geodee] [ In reply to ]
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As fitness increases, the heart rate at threshold may change (which you would see through subsequent blood lactate testing), but the metric that changes most profoundly (if your training is effective) is pace or power at threshold. Heart stroke volume increases as the heart gets more fit, which means that the heart rate at a given pace or power should get lower over time.

If I test an athlete who is admittedly unfit or detrained, I will retest them fairly quickly (after 4-6 weeks) to make sure that their pace and power numbers are still appropriate for their level of fitness. In other words, last year you may have produced 200 watts at a threshold heart rate of 175 BPM. Now that you're more fit, you're producing 250 watts at a threshold heart rate of 165 BPM. These are just examples to illustrate a point....do not use these numbers as your training zones!

From what you've described, I suspect one of two things:

1) You are now more fit than you were when you took the test, and what used to be an effort at threshold is now above threshold and therefore much more difficult. If this is the case, it's time for a retest and some new zones!

2) You are deeply fatigued and are having trouble getting your HR up to the appropriate zone. Get some recovery and try again!

A third possibility is that the test may have been flawed to begin with. I'd be interested in hearing the protocol.
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Re: What happens to your threshold HR when fitness improves? [chrisbint] [ In reply to ]
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Sorry...had to reply to this as well.

Training below threshold can indeed improve fitness levels above threshold as aerobic capacity increases. The issue with sub-threshold training is duration - you have to do a large quantity of it for it to be effective. However, after a base season of entirely Zone 2 aerobic capacity base training, I have had many of my athletes (even the elite athletes) post record high numbers from 1 minute to over 60 minutes. This is pretty amazing when you consider that not one of them have done a VO2 effort in 6 months!

The converse is not true. Training above threshold can inhibit growth in aerobic capacity and can even cause regression if done in large quantities. It's best used in metered doses and under supervision of your testing protocol. Always test to make sure that the training dose you've received is effective for your physiology!
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Re: What happens to your threshold HR when fitness improves? [geodee] [ In reply to ]
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The way I look at it, and I am no expert on this stuff, is I know I can hold 150-155bpm for a very long time (based on training and race history) so I am working on improving my speed at that level which involve getting my HR above that in intervals training. Even though I can run and get my HR above 160 but do I really want to do that knowing I will not be able to hold it for long enough to finish an IM marathon!!! Maybe for a half but not a full.
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Re: What happens to your threshold HR when fitness improves? [NiceTriCoaching] [ In reply to ]
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Thanks for the detailed response. I'm hoping I'm not deeply fatigued. I've been feeling better than ever, but who knows how I'll be feeling after my race. I suppose I won't be able to try before then.

I didn't think about the testing protocol though. It's definitely flawed, but I saw enough consistency to think that it would be close. For the bike, when I was at my peak last year, I took my highest sustained HR over one hour and used that. For running I just used a 5k TT (after a 2k warmup). Not ideal in either case, but the zone splits seemed to coincide with perceived exertion. At least at the time.

_____________________________________________________
George Dedopoulos | @geodee | geodee.com | Team Atomica | Toronto Triathlon Club
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Re: What happens to your threshold HR when fitness improves? [3Dealz] [ In reply to ]
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That sounds like how I'm handling it now! At least you know you'll be able to finish that way. :)

_____________________________________________________
George Dedopoulos | @geodee | geodee.com | Team Atomica | Toronto Triathlon Club
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Re: What happens to your threshold HR when fitness improves? [geodee] [ In reply to ]
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I found that in an 8 week block I increased my FTP watts 4.9% but that my heart rate fell 6 BPM.


http://bigmikega.wordpress.com
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Re: What happens to your threshold HR when fitness improves? [geodee] [ In reply to ]
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How much blood you pump is equal to stroke rate X stroke volume.

You're only measuring stroke rate with a HR monitor. Your stroke volume could be increasing (the amount of blood you pump each beat).

As someone else said, don't be concerned if it's going up or down or not changing.


Be concerned if you're running faster and putting out more watts.

CEO at TrainerRoad
Co-host of the Ask a Cycling Coach Podcast
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Re: What happens to your threshold HR when fitness improves? [geodee] [ In reply to ]
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What was the change in your resting HR over that same period?
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Re: What happens to your threshold HR when fitness improves? [JollyRogers] [ In reply to ]
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Hrm, I haven't been been keeping good enough records of that. It's at 40 in the mornings now, and it was probably about 50 before.

_____________________________________________________
George Dedopoulos | @geodee | geodee.com | Team Atomica | Toronto Triathlon Club
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Re: What happens to your threshold HR when fitness improves? [NiceTriCoaching] [ In reply to ]
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NiceTriCoaching wrote:
Sorry...had to reply to this as well.

The converse is not true. Training above threshold can inhibit growth in aerobic capacity and can even cause regression if done in large quantities. It's best used in metered doses and under supervision of your testing protocol. Always test to make sure that the training dose you've received is effective for your physiology!

Can you offer any evidence at all that training above threshold can inhibit growth in aerobic capacity? Is that Bro-science or can you back it up? Just asking because that is contrary to much published work.
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Re: What happens to your threshold HR when fitness improves? [Mike Prevost] [ In reply to ]
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It's actually quite well-documented by physiologists such as Olbrecht, Lydiard, and the oft-ridiculed Maffetone.

Although I am not a physiologist, I can verify what these researchers claim. I have had several unplanned instances of athletes training "too hard/too often" and have seen a marked decrease in their aerobic capacity. I have also had racers switch from long course triathlon (with mostly aerobic base-type training) to cyclocross at the end of their season (with an emphasis on anaerobic capacity training) and seen their aerobic capacity decrease and their anaerobic capacity increase.

The written works and research of Olbrecht are well-known and proven, and he spent many years proving the efficacy of his protocols with some very well-known athletes. Remember Luc Van Lierde? Craig Alexander does!
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Re: What happens to your threshold HR when fitness improves? [NiceTriCoaching] [ In reply to ]
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NiceTriCoaching wrote:
It's actually quite well-documented by physiologists such as Olbrecht, Lydiard, and the oft-ridiculed Maffetone.

Although I am not a physiologist, I can verify what these researchers claim. I have had several unplanned instances of athletes training "too hard/too often" and have seen a marked decrease in their aerobic capacity. I have also had racers switch from long course triathlon (with mostly aerobic base-type training) to cyclocross at the end of their season (with an emphasis on anaerobic capacity training) and seen their aerobic capacity decrease and their anaerobic capacity increase.

The written works and research of Olbrecht are well-known and proven, and he spent many years proving the efficacy of his protocols with some very well-known athletes. Remember Luc Van Lierde? Craig Alexander does!

Correlation? Yes. Causality? Your examples don't prove it.

Going above threshold (especially into anaerobic territory) requires much more rest than effort at or below threshold. Even VO2max might not be as draining. The decrease in aerobic capacity could be due to the fact that training time has to decrease in order to recover from the high training stress of anaerobic workouts.

From my personal n=1 experience, threshold workouts the day after VO2max days is doable, but definitely not fun. I can't do anything harder than tempo the day after an anaerobic workout, and even then, it's a lot harder to do than it normally is.
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Re: What happens to your threshold HR when fitness improves? [echappist] [ In reply to ]
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My examples of my athletes having improved their aerobic capacity all year with "Training Load X" then showing a decrease when using "Training Load Y" doesn't prove that their aerobic capacity shrank when switching to "Training Load Y"?

Proof versus causality? I'm not trying to prove anything, I'm just stating what has happened on the athletes that I've worked with. Olbrecht already proved it. It's up to you if you want to believe it!

Lastly, just because you CAN do it doesn't mean that what you're doing is complimenting your physiology. The only way to verify your "hunch" of what works and what doesn't is to test.
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Re: What happens to your threshold HR when fitness improves? [NiceTriCoaching] [ In reply to ]
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NiceTriCoaching wrote:
My examples of my athletes having improved their aerobic capacity all year with "Training Load X" then showing a decrease when using "Training Load Y" doesn't prove that their
aerobic capacity shrank when switching to "Training Load Y"?

Proof versus causality? I'm not trying to prove anything, I'm just stating what has happened on the athletes that I've worked with. Olbrecht already proved it. It's up to you if you want to believe it!

Lastly, just because you CAN do it doesn't mean that what you're doing is complimenting your physiology. The only way to verify your "hunch" of what works and what doesn't is to test.



no, that's correlation, not causation.

i'm not saying that what you are claiming is unproven, just what you are claiming cannot be backed up by the examples you provided.

to claim that anaerobic exercise, per se, decreases aerobic capacity, you need to provide examples of how anaerobic exercise will diminish the different factors determining aerobic capacity. Is the stroke volume affected negatively? Is capilirization affected? What about oxidative enzyme expression?

And when you cite the observation amongst the athletes you coach, is there a control with respect to training stress or training time? In other words, since anaerobic exertion is so taxing and that more recovery is required, there is less total training time when such work is incorporated. Do you observe similar decrease in aerobic capacity when the training time of regimen A (nothing over LT) is equal to that of regimen B (enough anaerobic exercise to cause decrease in aerobic capacity)? What about when training stress are the same? Obviously, you cannot answer this in an epistemologically satisfactory way because doing so would mean that you will be prescribing less training to your athletes when it is not needed, which is required in a scientific study but is probably frowned upon when a coach does it to paying athletes..

You have provided examples of how anaerobic exercises lead to a decrease in aerobic capacity, but no conclusive evidence that it is directly responsible for decreasing components that determine aerobic capacity. It may very well be that it's the decrease in training time/training stress (a result of inclusion of anaerobic work as more recovery is required) that leads to the decrease in anaerobic capacity. The most damning thing against your own assertion is that you have mentioned is that the anaerobic efforts should be metered. So, if they are metered so that overall time/stress stay similar, is there still a decrease in aerobic capacity? If not, then this invalidates the point that anaerobic exercise decrease aerobic capacity, per se.

This may seem like semantics to you, but i can assure you that it's not for the scientifically trained. All scientific studies need to have a control group, and this is lacking in the example you cited.

Once again, nothing you said has been unproven, it's just that there are not enough valid examples to make your claims convincing. Also, I did a google scholar search for author Olbrecht with the keyword anaerobic. Four peer-reviewed articles showed up, none discussing how bouts of anaerobic bouts reduces aerobic capacity. You said Olbrecht has already proved your claim. In which case, could you provided links to the medline summaries of the peer-reviewed articles by Olbrecht?
Last edited by: echappist: Apr 12, 12 20:35
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Re: What happens to your threshold HR when fitness improves? [echappist] [ In reply to ]
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Oh my stars...I was just typing up a response to a poster looking for guidance on threshold heart rate as a response to fitness improvements.

First off, despite your lack of findings in your exhaustive google search about Olbrecht, his position regarding aerobic/anaerobic interaction are well-documented in his book "The Science of Winning". Instead of conducting my own research under to verify if he's telling the truth, I've instead decided to conduct my coaching protocol in line with his beliefs. I am stating that was he believes to be true has been proven in my group of athletes. He certainly has the record, reputation, education and research to back up his protocols!

Secondly, I am not stating that work over threshold is bad or that one should never do it. It's a very important part of any training program, but if done in excess (i.e.- my "too much/too hard" comment), it can cause aerobic capacity to decrease. I am not going to get into a typed up lecture about why this happens, but suffice to say that you and I agree that it does happen (whether or not you realize it!).

In a nutshell, these hard efforts break the body down more than an easier effort. If a hard session is followed by another hard session (and another hard session), the result will be regression, not improvement (as you mentioned earlier). If you want to know the "why's and hows", read Olbrecht's book.

Since we all agree on that point, we can get back to training!

For those of you not familiar with Olbrecht:

Jan Olbrecht has a Ph.D in Physiology and Bio-Mechanics from Cologne and has swum in three World Championships for Belgium. Dr. Olbrecht's primary method of testing and the basis for his information are lactate tests. While all this sounds very academic and theoretical, Dr. Olbrecht has produced results in the market place of sports. He has worked for several years with Luc Van Lierde, holder of the Ironman World Championship record (Hawaii 1996) as well as holder of the fastest Ironman ever ran (Ironman Europe 1997) winner again in 1999 of the Ironman World Championship. While his work with Luc Van Lierde is impressive, Jan has also worked with several world class swimmers in Belgium and Holland.
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Re: What happens to your threshold HR when fitness improves? [NiceTriCoaching] [ In reply to ]
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I can't see that Olbrect has published anything relevant in the peer reviewed research literature: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=Olbrecht%20

Neither has Phil Maffetone: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=maffetone

Books are not peer reviewed, which is why they are never accepted as a reference or source in the research literature.

Maffetone is ridiculed by real physiologists for his lack of understanding of basic muscle physiology. Perhaps those are bad examples?

Overtraining and poor recovery are one thing, but decreasing aerobic capacity? You may be choosing your words poorly, though what you say about doing too much high intensity training is certainly true.

Mike
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Re: What happens to your threshold HR when fitness improves? [Mike Prevost] [ In reply to ]
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I know I've said it before, but I wish you would post more often Mike. This board really needs someone with your background to become a more frequent poster.

Brian Stover
Accelerate3 Coaching
twitter & IG = @accelerate3
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Re: What happens to your threshold HR when fitness improves? [Mike Prevost] [ In reply to ]
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Mike Prevost wrote:
Overtraining and poor recovery are one thing, but decreasing aerobic capacity? You may be choosing your words poorly, though what you say about doing too much high intensity training is certainly true.
Mike

I think you and echappist have the right idea. It's not the high-intensity training that causes a reduction on aerobic work capacity, but rather the reduction in overall training load driven by the increased recovery demands of very high intensity work that reduces aerobic work capacity.

A distincition without a difference? Probably, at least in the case of triathlon, especially long course, but a little bit trickier row to hoe for bike racers who need both components of performance.
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Re: What happens to your threshold HR when fitness improves? [geodee] [ In reply to ]
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It entirely depends on how fit you were. Most people, if they are still new to endurance sports, will see a drop in LTHR as fitness improves. For those that already perform on a high level and have so for a while, there i generally little to no change.
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Re: What happens to your threshold HR when fitness improves? [hammonjj] [ In reply to ]
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Wow, this has been an interesting debate to follow. I feel like I've been given a bit of a taste of what I expected Slowtwitch to be like. :) I've learned a lot from this thread.

hammonjj, I think this may actually be the case. I thought I trained a lot before, and I had a good base, but really the past couple months have been the only proper training cycles I've done. I did a 30-minute TT last night, and when I based my LT on the AHR over the last 20 minutes, my RPE seemed to align well with the zones it estimated. Holy acronyms! That and this thread have really helped a lot.

Thanks ST!

_____________________________________________________
George Dedopoulos | @geodee | geodee.com | Team Atomica | Toronto Triathlon Club
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Re: What happens to your threshold HR when fitness improves? [JollyRogers] [ In reply to ]
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JollyRogers wrote:
Mike Prevost wrote:
Overtraining and poor recovery are one thing, but decreasing aerobic capacity? You may be choosing your words poorly, though what you say about doing too much high intensity training is certainly true.

Mike


I think you and echappist have the right idea. It's not the high-intensity training that causes a reduction on aerobic work capacity, but rather the reduction in overall training load driven by the increased recovery demands of very high intensity work that reduces aerobic work capacity.

A distincition without a difference? Probably, at least in the case of triathlon, especially long course, but a little bit trickier row to hoe for bike racers who need both components of performance.


And I'm pretty confident this is what NiceTri is saying as well. While reading the thread, while not spelled out explicitly, I thought it was pretty clear that aerobic capacity will decrease with too much anaerobic training simply because the lack of volume caused by needing more recovery between intense efforts. This might not be the case with pro athletes who have more time for recovery but for your average age grouper trying to incorporate too much anaerobic work while trying to train the other two sports and work and raise a family and mow the yard and, and...will most likely lead to a regression in aerobic capacity.


Trickier for bike racers? Possibly, but they also have more time for recovery between anaerobic efforts and are spending exponentially more time on the bike as compared to a triathlete, so by default will be getting in more aerobic work.

"One Line Robert"
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