Low HR Training

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Improving VO2 max from Owen Anderson...comments? (Read 508 times)


Wasatch Speedgoat

    I always like to look at both sides of the picture and is why I tell runners that if you want to race at your best, you need to run fast to get fast. Most of us are just comfortable being a fit animal and can ignore this article. At first I didn't think this belonged over here, but hey why hide anything? Steve, running low HR most of the time, fast when I feel like it, which seems to work for me. WORKING THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE VO2MAX EQUATION RESEARCH SAYS THAT HITTING 100 PERCENT OF VO2MAX IS KEY As a runner's maximal aerobic capacity (VO2max) increases, his/her performances generally improve. A novice runner can often enhance VO2max by 20 to 25 percent with as little as 12 weeks of running training; an experienced runner might boost VO2max by 4 to 7 percent in the same time frame, given the right workouts. Each 1-percent advance in VO2max can be linked with a one-half to 1 percent upgrade in race performances. That sounds great, but there's a lot of debate about how to raise VO2max to the greatest-possible extent. Some coaches and runners emphasize high mileage, while others look for high intensity. Many mentors and runners hit intervals at 5-K pace, while others look for even-higher-speed repeats in hopes of adding loft to VO2max. The first step in resolving this aerobic-capacity controversy is to remember that VO2max is expressed by the following simple equation: VO2max = HRmax X SVmax X (a-v O2 difference)max In this equation, HRmax is maximal heart rate. SVmax is just maximal stroke volume (the greatest amount of blood which can be pumped out of the left side of the heart per beat). (a-v O2 difference)max is "maximal arteriovenous oxygen difference," which is nothing more than the difference in the oxygen content of the blood coming into the muscles from the oxygen content of the venous blood flowing away from the muscles. An increase in the (a-v O2 difference)max means that the muscles are extracting more oxygen from incoming blood, thus driving oxygen-consumption rate (and VO2max) upward. The equation reminds us that there are only three fundamental ways to increase VO2max - by upgrading maximal heart rate, by expanding stroke volume, and/or by enhancing the arteriovenous difference (i. e., by "working" the right side of the VO2max equation). There are no other possibilities. But we still need to know: Which of these three variables should we be focused on? Exactly how should a runner train to get the biggest VO2max take-off? Science tells us that there is little difference in maximal heart rate between the very best and very slowest runners. Yet the best runners have high values of VO2max, and the slowest runners have poor VO2max readings. This means that expanding max heart rate is not the key way to boost VO2max. Gains in VO2max must be associated with expansions of stroke volume or advancements of the arteriovenous difference. Research reveals that about 50 percent of the increase in VO2max which results from training is produced by an upswing in maximal stroke volume, with the other 50 percent coming from an uptick in the arteriovenous difference. Training can boost stroke volume in a variety of ways, but a key transformation is that plasma volume increases - so that the heart can fill with more bloodbetween beats. This allows more blood to be ejected per beat (upping strokevolume). Advances in the arteriovenous difference occur mainly because running stimulates an increase in the capillary density around muscle fibers in the legs. This aggrandizes blood flow to the leg muscles and decreases the distance across which oxygen must diffuse to get to the mitochondria inside muscle cells, where aerobic metabolism actually takes place. Upswings in capillary density exactly parallel increases in leg-muscle blood flow and whole-body VO2max. But how can max stroke volume and arteriovenous difference be optimized? Back in the day, the answer was to run tons of miles, but research paints a quite-different picture. In one study, 12 individuals employed a training intensity of close to 100 percent of VO2max over a seven-week period, while 12 other subjects worked out at a moderate, "aerobic" intensity of 60 percent of VO2max (about 75 percent of max heart rate). The latter, "aerobic" group actually trained for considerably longer periods of time - but achieved a 38-percent lower increase in VO2max after seven weeks, compared with the 100-percenters. This result prompted the researchers to conclude that training at an intensity which elicits VO2max has the strongest, positive impact on VO2max expansion. In a separate investigation carried out with experienced runners, one group ran about 100 kilometers per week at average intensities of 60 to 80 percent of VO2max, while a second group trained only 50 kilometers per week while emphasizing fast-paced intervals which ranged in distance from 60 to 1000 meters. After 14 weeks of training, the low-mileage, higher-intensity runners improved VO2max by 7 percent, while the high-mileage, "aerobic" runners failed to upgrade VO2max at all. Performance times improved by about 2.5 percent in the high-intensity group but failed to budge for the "aerobic" harriers. As Jack Daniels used to say, improving a physiological system requires working at the limits of that system. In the case of stroke volume and arteriovenous difference, that translates into working at intensities close to 100 percent of VO2max. For your training, such an intensity can be estimated with the use of the six-minute test. Run as far as you can on the track in six minutes (or have the runners you are coaching do the same), calculate your average pace during this six-minute test, and you will instantly have a pace which will elicit 100 percent of VO2max when utilized during interval training. Begin with 200-meter intervals, and gradually work your way up to 800s or even 1000s. When you do this, VO2max will begin to take wings!
    Life is short, play hard!


    run-easy-race-hard

      Just as a minor comment (not in agreement or disagreement with above), but after 6 months of training purely at low HR, no races whatsoever, and no loss of weight, my vo2max improved (measured from professional vo2max tests) from 54.3 -> 62.5. No intervals or any kind of speed work whatsoever. Just a factoid, not really important, but interesting nonetheless.


      Wasatch Speedgoat

        BTW, Jesse.... Great comeback on the ultralist yesterday....you are asking for trouble, you know that! ;-) Steve
        Life is short, play hard!


        run-easy-race-hard

          Darn straight! Not as many nastygrams as I expected. A guy with one year of running experience total is expecting to suddenly kick butt at ultras after 11 weeks of low HR training. After all, I improved tremendously after a year of low HR training, so it only makes sense!


          Forever Learning

            Steve, Thanks for the article. I a following a Pfitz plan (as mentioned in another thread) and he is of the 5-K pace interval school. That pace is a bit slower (4:42/1000m vs. 4:35/1000m) than Daniels' tables and falls right into the middle of the range McMillan provides. I think if you can run the last 2-3 intervals "comfortably" at pace then perhaps next session drop it a few seconds? I understand you don't want to run the first few too fast and then blow-up the last few and not be able to maintain pace.
              Wish I could read your ultralist commentary Jesse...unfortunately I've now followed the exact instructions 4 times and still cannot get signed up. Even tried it with a different email address, no luck. Am I the only one that has trouble with this???
              www.mnultrarunner.blogspot.com


              run-easy-race-hard

                It was basically the same old stuff, and it was a guy who also posted on coolrunning. I would imagine the same basic discussion had occurred there as well.
                  I slowed down this last summer and my VO2 Max went up 10% over the previous year. However, it seems that the proper forms of speed training combined with aerobic running can do wonders. I know a woman who got some serious coaching with a bunch of tempo, pace, and interval work and her VO2 Max increased from the mid 40s to over 70 in one year. She said "it was the intervals..."