One of the great things about being in Austin, beyond the tacos, Barton Springs, the Hill Country, and the barbecue, is having access to a world class research university. I’m talking about the University of Texas at Austin, of course.
As a top 5 ranked kinesiology program, they have lots of cool toys. It’s where I get my Dexascans done (and my clients) and it’s where I had my VO2max test performed just yesterday.
As a minimalist runner, both in footwear and in volume, I aim to maximize the value of every workout. My aim from this test was to find out where I could put my limited time to maximize my running-specific fitness.
Some context: in the past year, I’ve set personal bests in the mile, the 5k, and the 5 mile, all on a paltry amount of training per week (no more than 20 minutes of structured running workouts, on average). This past fall saw me largely doing tabata-style intervals, leading to a 5 mile time of a smidge over 38 minutes. The winner of the race did it in ~25 minutes, so I was basically off by half. Pretty good for such low volume of training!
This year, I wanted to invest a little more time, ~45 minutes per week on average, to see if it helps make me faster. From the data, I was hoping to find a maximum slow pace that I could accumulate some time at every few weeks. Let’s go to the data!
First: the Tyler/Skyler confusion never dies. Next, the amazing thing about the VO2max number is that it is exactly the same as it was 6 years ago in graduate school, when I was doing no running whatsoever. There is evidence that vo2max is largely a function of recruitment, rather than fitness per se. Since I have trained to failure for ~20 years, that might be why that is steady.
Also interesting: the data pretty accurately predicted my 5k performance. I’ve gone sub-21 on trail, so I’m certain near 20 on flat asphalt is a reality. Cool Stuff.
So from all of this, Phil and I talked about I should spend more time around lactate threshold, as that is where I have room to improve. It is also one of the more trainable aspects of physiology with regard to running performance. Also important for me because I now hold the UT FIT institute record for highest lactate levels after the warmup stage: 3 mmol!
I asked why he thought that might be. Shrugging, he said: “…Fast twitch?”
So the plan might look something like this:
Week 1: Death intervals on treadmill, ~5 minutes
Week 2: Short time trial or supramax intervals on treadmill
Week 3: 60 minutes at threshold pace, which was ~8:30-8:45/mile as per above. A similar run a few weeks ago confirmed that 8:45 on Town lake trail averaged 166 bpm heart rate, which is in line with the data above.
Restart sequence. The workouts support each other, so we should see improvements in 2 and 3. Treadmill intervals at your limit are, um, at your limit. Improvements are slower.
I have no races on the horizon. If I did? I’d likely choose race specific workouts over physiology-focused training. The whole machine needs to be tuned to the demands of the race, not just adding better parts and hoping for improved performance.
But if I was doing an ultra distance event? Well, that’s basically what Andrew would do also.
Comments are welcome.