Are You Jeopardizing Peak Performance?
Imagine taking a six hour red-eye flight across the country and learning that your plane is going to land an hour away from your expected destination. When exiting the plane you get a glimpse into the cockpit and observe that the instrument panel is completely bare. Since this appears strikingly odd, you ask the pilot, “What happened with the flight instruments?” The pilot responds “The FAA increased allowable errors. So, our airline cut maintenance costs by removing the instruments and now we get to fly by feel, like true pilots.” If this was a real life experience would you feel comfortable flying with that airline?
Surprisingly, a number of coaches and athletes think the same way as that hypothetical pilot.
How much training and performance error can you tolerate?
Do you mind training in the absence of instruments that more accurately define your physical abilities? How far from your potential performance will you accept?
If your goal is faster race times then you have to improve your speed endurance. To increase your speed endurance you have to complete some workouts on a weekly basis that require you to train at or above your threshold energy expenditure. In layman terms, your threshold is the maximum energy expenditure that you can maintain for 20-40 minutes. It is often defined by race pace or heart rate.
You need an accurate measure of your threshold to design a training program that optimizes your ability to endure with speed. While your pace or average heart rate during your personal record 10k race is a commonly used estimate of your threshold energy expenditure, this threshold is likely to change within 4-6 weeks depending on your training or lack thereof. So your PR 10k won’t represent your current threshold if you didn’t perform it within the last few weeks.
Let VO2 testing come to the rescue.
Is your training program designed around your accurate threshold pace or heart rate? Are you unintentionally sandbagging your workouts (moving too slow) because you’re unaware of your individual threshold? If your answers to the above questions are “No” and “Maybe,” respectively, then you are at risk of landing a good distance from your peak performance potential.
You can obtain a more accurate measure of your threshold and volume of oxygen (VO2) usage by completing tests with a sports practitioner using V02 and threshold testing instruments. You and your coach can then use the results to accurately define your energy expenditures and design training programs to best enhance your physiological efficiency—and put you on the road to peak performance.
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