Pre-season lactate testing to improve rowing results

A guest post by David Dearlove of DeflectionPoint – Includes a discount for Rowperfect readers

Having finished reviewing last season’s successes and failures, most athletes and coaches will be moving their focus onto the question ‘how can I/we be better next season’. Physiologically, you have a few choices:

  1. train more (often not feasible);
  2. train harder (often leading to burn-out, illness and injury)
  3. or a third sometimes overlooked choice – train smarter.

How to get more from rowing training

The key to training smart is specificity.

There is a general understanding of training intensities – UT2, UT1 and AT are training zones often quoted on rowing plans. Each zone seeks a specific physiological improvement. For example, UT2 seeks to maximise fat oxidation and increase blood flow through capillaries supplying oxygen and energy to working muscles.

But how many athletes actually know what their UT2 split or heart rate is?

Some athletes will intuitively know, but most will either ignore it and pull as hard as possible for 18km, or revert to using inaccurate formulas, for example, ‘220-your age’ and ‘% of maximum heart rate’. The truth is, this is guess work and can lead to wasted training time.

How to identify my training zones

A simple and cost effective way to identify your personal training zones is through lactate threshold testing. Used by elite athletes for years, testing is becoming more common in clubs and schools.

The test itself consists of five sub-maximal effort and one maximal effort step, each lasting four minutes. Between each step a small pin-prick of blood is taken from the ear lobe and analysed for lactate content. This is plotted on a graph along with heart rate and power metrics to create the lactate curve (below). From the curve we can identify heart rate, wattage, and 500m split targets for each of the key training zones. Furthermore, accurate 5km and 2km ergometer test predications can be made and physiological strengths and weaknesses assessed.

Repeated testing will demonstrate the physiological adaptations you have achieved through training and, importantly, indicate if they were the intended adaptations! Moreover, it re-sets your personal training intensities – your UT2/UT1/AT pace at the beginning of the season will be very different come Christmas!

With this information real specificity of training is achievable. Coaches and athletes can approach an erg session designed to increase aerobic endurance (e.g. 3x6km, 90 seconds rest) with confidence that they are making the desired physiological adaptations.

Graph of lactate test for rowing
Graph of lactate test for rowing

Discount for Rowperfect readers

For anyone wishing to book a lactate test, please quote Rowperfect in your correspondence to receive a 10% discount.

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