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March 17, 2011: Volume 11, Number 46

Cold Air

I survived the Birkie, barely. I noticed over the years that I struggle during very cold races. I'm much more tired and my large muscles fatigue quicker then when it's warmer. Is there a mask that anyone can recommend to warm the air on those days?


Well, I really like to wear a Buff... double Buff on cold days.  Also, for super super cold I do have a cold air resperator   For cold races a good breakfast and a longer warmup is needed. I also love the salomon boot covers and toe warmers on the top of my feet.

Matt Liebsch - Champion-American Birkie, COLL, Mora Vasaloppet ....


Do readers have other suggestions"?  email to:   




Theory and Philosophy of Training




When planning training the emphasis should not be on what you will do, but rather how your body and mind will react to what you do. The goal is not to fulfill training, but to elicit a positive adaptation in your body and mind through training -- to become faster, fitter, healthier, etc.


Keep at the fore of your mind the goal of training, be it to get faster or to become fitter. Too often secondary means to the goal become the goal itself. For instance in an effort to become fit one may deem low weight  important which then becomes the sole concern often at the expense of the true goal, health and fitness. For many athletes attaining a certain number of training hours is important to becoming faster, but when accumulating training hours becomes the goal, it is often at the expense of actually becoming faster. A good motto is: Train, Don't Strain. In other words, do only what it will take to reach your goal - not more, and not less.


Physiological basics

Physiology of Exercise

The study of the responses of the human body to exercise is known as exercise physiology. There are several key principles in exercise physiology that are important to training for endurance performance. To identify factors important to endurance performance, exercise physiologists measure several variables including heart rate, respiration rate, oxygen consumption, and blood lactate. In the past, monitoring these variables was rather difficult and required expensive equipment. Currently, heart rate monitors are widely available and laboratory-based physiological testing has become more accessible. Combining the scientific measurement of physiological variables with properly planned training efforts often gives the athlete the ability to improve at faster rates.


Energy Systems

Energy enables an athlete to do physical work. Energy is derived from converting carbohydrate and fat at the cellular level into adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Unfortunately only a small amount of ATP can be stored in the muscles and it must therefore be constantly replenished. ATP can be produced in two main ways: aerobically with oxygen; or anaerobically without oxygen.



Anaerobic Metabolism  


Immediate Energy (ATP-CP) - High intensity efforts lasting 3-10 seconds will consume all available ATP and can be immediately replenished using creatine phosphate (CP).

  • Anaerobic Metabolism (Fast Glycolosis) - This energy system is the predominant source of energy for efforts lasting 10 seconds through 2 minutes. Anaerobic metabolism breaks glucose down without oxygen yielding ATP and lactic acid. Excessive production of lactic acid will increase the concentration of blood lactate, and will begin to interfere with muscular contraction.
  • Aerobic Metabolism (Lypolysis & Slow Glycolosis) - This is the main source of energy for endurance events lasting 2 minutes and longer. Both fat and carbohydrate can be metabolized aerobically. At lower intensities, more fat is broken down producing large amounts of ATP. As the intensity increases, breakdown of carbohydrate is favored since more ATP can be produced per liter of O2 consumed. In extended activities protein can also be broken down aerobically, and can contribute up to 10% of the total energy produced.

Determinants of performance

  • 1. Vo2 Max - maximum oxygen uptake (Engine Size - how big is the engine?) This is the ability of the circulatory system to transport oxygen and of the muscular system to extract and use oxygen. Vo2 max is an excellent indicator of aerobic fitness, but a poor predictor of performance within a homogenous group of athletes.
  • 2. Lactate Threshold - (RPM's - how high can you race the engine?) Lactate threshold (LT) is the ability to continue using the aerobic system to replenish ATP at high speeds. It is expressed as power output at LT, velocity of LT or percentage of Vo2 max. LT is one of the best predictors of endurance performance.
  • 3. Economy - (MPG - how many miles per gallon does your engine get?) Economy can be defined as the amount of oxygen that it takes for an individual athlete to go a given speed. More economical athletes will have a lower oxygen cost at a given pace relative to a less economical athlete. This can explain why an athlete with a lower VO2 max can still outperform an athlete with a higher VO2 max. Economy is one of the best predictors of endurance performance.
  • 4. Strength. Strength is defined as the maximum force that can be produced in one all out effort. Muscular endurance is related to being able to maintain a submaximal force repeatedly.

Training Zones

Optimal performance is reached by subjecting the body to specific types of stress in order to elicit specific types of adaptations. Using the Lactate Threshold lactate level or heart-rate, as we have done here, is the most precise way to determine training zones.

Intensity: Level 1. Easy, 2-3mmol/L below LT; 30-50 bpm below LT.
Duration: 30 mins. - 1.5 hours.
Objective: This zone is used for warm-up and cool-down periods. Training at this intensity will promote recovery following glycogen-depleting workouts or high intensity intervals and maintain cardiovascular and muscular adaptations. The primary goal of recovery is to deliver O2 and CHO (carbohydrates) back to the muscles.

Intensity: Level 2. Moderate, 1-2 mmol/L below LT; 10-30 bpm below LT. Level 1. Easy, 2-3 mmol/L below LT; 25-50 bpm below LT.
Duration: 30 mins. - 3 hours.
Objective: A moderate intensity is the optimum zone for improving endurance adaptations. An easy intensity delivers the same benefits, but more slowly. Unlike many athletes in bipedal and less-weight bearing sports, most skiers do most of their endurance training at the easier of these two intensities (around 35 bpm below LT). Training in both of the endurance zones improves the ability to deliver more oxygen to the muscle cell and process more energy from aerobic sources. Specific training adaptations include an increase in the size and number of mitochondria, an increase in myoglobin, increased capillarization, and an increased number of aerobic enzymes. Skiers tend to lower the intensity the longer the session. Over two hours = level 1. Under an hour = level 2.

Lactate Threshold
Intensity: Level 3. Moderately high, below LT by 5 bpm, or above LT by 5 bpm.
Tempo: 15 to 60 minute continuous effort at 5 bpm below LT.
Interval: 5 to 15 minutes at LT and up to 5 bpm over LT.
Objective: Training at this intensity will raise LT as a percentage of Vo2 max as well as increase Vo2 max.

VO2 Max
Intensity: Level 4. High, 1-2 mmol/L above LT or at a heart rate associated with 95% of Vo2 max.
Duration: 3-5 minute intervals with half-time to equal recovery.
Objective: This is the optimum zone for improving Vo2 max. Training adaptations include an increase in stroke volume, an increase in maximal aerobic capacity and improved lactate buffering capacity - go fast, hurt less = go faster.

Intensive Repetitions
Intensity: Level 5. Very high, 2-6 mmol/L above LT.
Duration: Short: 30-60 seconds with complete recovery.
Long: 1-2 minutes with complete recovery.
Objective: Training at this zone generally only occurs for a few weeks prior to a major competitive event and increases anaerobic capacity and buffering ability.

Intensity: Depends on amount of rest taken between and number of repetitions.
Duration: Short. 10-20 seconds generally with full recovery.
Objective: Develops technique and use of dynamic, powerful motions.







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