Accurate Heart Rate + Power Zones With Blood Lactate Testing
Regardless of the goal, every endurance athlete wants to train more efficiently. Trying to finish an IRONMAN on 8 hours of training a week? Be efficient. Trying to win the Olympics? Be efficient. Trying to maintain a long-term healthy lifestyle? Be efficient. No one wants to do work that doesn’t move the needle forward - that’s why Playtri Blood Lactate Testing is at the core of the Playtri Coaching model. Our unique blood lactate testing protocol and analysis has been developed over 20 years and tested on thousands of athletes for one thing: effectiveness in training and competition.
First, a quick science lesson. Our bodies use a combination of three metabolic systems to convert fuel into energy to create muscle contractions: aerobic, anaerobic and phosphagen. The aerobic system is extremely sustainable as long as it is provided with fuel and hydration, making it great for endurance (think IRONMAN). The phosphagen system is only for very short/intense efforts (think 10 seconds or less) and therefore little-used in endurance sport. The anaerobic system, however, is frequently accessed in endurance sport (think Sprint or Olympic distance competition) but is not nearly as sustainable as the aerobic system.
Blood lactate, a useful part of the metabolic process and a byproduct of the anaerobic system, is a simple indicator for athletes and coaches of the sustainability of an athlete’s effort. OBLA (onset of blood lactate accumulation, often referred to as lactate threshold or LT2) is the point at which your body produces more lactate than it can process at the same rate, meaning it begins to accumulate. This accumulation starts a ticking clock for the athlete because above OBLA it is only a matter of time (usually a maximum of 2-3 hours) before acidosis in the blood caused by the increasing presence of other metabolites (which correlate with accumulating lactate) puts a stop to activity (and dramatically increases necessary recovery time post-workout).
OBLA and other markers shift over time depending on the amount and type of work athletes are doing, so our Playtri athletes have blood lactate testing done for bike and run 1 or more times a year (typically at the beginning of the season, and again right before “A” races) to ensure they are getting the intended benefits of their sessions - not under-working or over-working. We utilize the zones (heart rate and power, based on OBLA and observed lactate tolerance) from these tests in training and competition, allowing our athletes to make informed decisions, instead of playing guessing games with their performance.
Each training session should have an objective. Extensive endurance training is intended to induce peripheral adaptations that enhance the rate of oxygen delivery and utilization of appropriate muscle fiber types. This method of training will increase the number and size of mitochondria and improve capillarization, blood shunting abilities, lactate removal rates, and the rate of fat metabolism among working muscle fibers. Accurate heart rate zones give you accuracy in the intensity you are training at to achieve these training objectives. Most athletes tend to train too frequently at heart rates above OBLA, and while they may see some gains made in short intervals, will struggle to achieve long-term adaptation in the sport.
What is a blood lactate test like? At Playtri our test consists of two consecutive builds (either on a stationary trainer or treadmill) based on heart rate, and 5 to 8 capillary samples (finger pricks) over the course of 45-60 minutes. You do not need to be a highly trained athlete to have a blood lactate test done at Playtri - however you should be comfortable with 45 minutes of activity in the discipline the test is being performed on. Results typically take 1-3 days and are outlined in a two-page document emailed to the athlete that includes our in-house zone system, as well as a more widely used 6 zone system. Results do not include raw blood lactate data due to the proprietary nature of our testing system.
The good news - even if you’re not a Playtri coached athlete, you can still access our testing to train smarter with better zones. The even better news - we always make sure that we have enough coaches on staff to accept new athletes throughout the season, so you can start training smarter with a Playtri Coach as soon as you are ready.
If you want to schedule an initial blood lactate test, or need to update your zones, schedule your test here.
Interested in testing, but still not sure how it applies to your goals? Click Here to schedule a free testing phone consult.