Summer Fitness Testing Completed!
Fitness testing days are definitely not my favorite days of the year -- often I end up dreading them for the week leading up to the testing! Not because the tests themselves are unmanageable (although lactate testing and VO2 max are literally the worst), but because I am desperately hoping that all the scores have improved from last time!
Starting with all sorts of body measurements (weight, height, circumferences, body fat, ect.) the morning gets going very quickly with lots of data points straight away. Next up are some power tests, which consist of lots of jumps and various movements on force plates. Switching gears a little, the tests switch to more running based exercises, looking at different 5m, 10m, and 20m sprint times and then adding in certain changes in direction, pushing off of either leg.
After a short break, it is time for the dreaded blood lactate test, which is done because the results can be a very useful indicator of what is happening in some parts of your energy systems as you exercise at different intensities. Lastly, the day ends with some more squash related, repeated speed tests, done on court.
I am happy to report that summer testing went very well! I was able to see some increases in key performance areas after a big 6 week summer training block. A huge thanks to my team Fiona Geaves, Ben Young and Simon Wintle Sports & Remedial Massage for helping me get there. #gains
A brief breakdown of the blood lactate test (with my results!):
Blood lactate tests work by measuring the amount of lactic acid present in the blood. Lactic acid is always produced in some quantity, along with another intermediate by-product called pyruvate, in the long sequence of reactions that take place in the breakdown of glucose during exercise. At moderate intensities, lactic acid usually breaks down and re-enters the energy pathways to release energy in the presence of oxygen.
As the demand for energy increases, your body starts to switch its energy production to use more glycogen for fuel, as it is a faster process. Consequently, the amount of lactic acid (and pyruvate) produced rises and your breathing becomes more rapid to supply more oxygen to oxidize the pyruvate.
Eventually, the amount of oxygen you can supply plateaus and can no longer keep up with the demand. At this point, the lactic acid starts to accumulate, and if the intensity of the activity increases further, will continue to rise. The accumulation of lactic acid is usually accompanied by a burning feeling as the concentration of acid ions rises. The acid may also impede the energy production reactions so you are unable to increase intensity any further.
As we all share some similar physiological characteristics, most people find that the chart starts to rise at a similar concentration of lactic acid. This is usually at a concentration of about 4mmol per liter. This takes place at different levels of intensity depending upon the individual and is related to the share of energy production between the two pathways. So in the test you are looking for what intensity and at what heart rate your blood lactate accumulates and passes the 4mmol threshold.
Lactate testing is used to determine not only the lactate threshold, but also the correct intensity for base, recovery, and intense interval training. Lactate testing is used all over the world by researchers and athletic coaches, It is currently the gold standard for determining exercise intensity zones and a significant tool for determining whether or not training is producing the desired physiological effect.
As you can see on the graph above, in just 6 weeks I was able to shift my blood lactate curve to the right and lower my heart rate values as well! Essentially measuring my fitness, I am now able to work for longer, at a higher intensity, with a lower heart rate, before my muscles start accumulating lactic acid!