We all know that to make improvements in Endurance sports we should do our long easy Aerobic sessions ‘really easy’, and our hard intervals ‘really hard’ – but how hard is ‘really hard’, and how easy is ‘really easy’?. I coach athletes whose Aerobic zones range from 103-160 – so how do we program for such a wide range of athletes?
This is where Aeroscan® comes into play – it is a relatively short test that measures your heart rate and respiratory output at increasing levels of intensity for both bike and run. So for the run element, you start at a speed which is extremely comfortable (for me it was 8km/h) and run for 2 minutes, you then breathe into the respirator for 30 seconds, take it out, increase the speed by 1 km/h and repeat – you can choose to continue to absolute failure or simply until you have ceased burning any fat, which is usually a stage or two short of failure. Same principle on the bike, with the power output being measured in Watts – on the day I did my scans I had a big training session to do that evening, so opted for option 2! – the information derived from the tests is as follows (all of these are measured at each increasing intensity level):
· Heart rate
· Total Calorie Burn (per hour)
· Calories burned from Fat (per hour)
· Calories burned from stored Carbohydrates (per hour)
· Relative (%) of calories burned from Fat
· Relative (%) of calories burned from stored Carbohydrate
You can see below my personal Bike and Run scans from 2012 – they may look a bit confusing at first, but there are a few key pieces of information we need to look at:
1. At what HR do we leave our Aerobic Zone? referred to as TZ1) – as you can see, for me, it is 115 BPM on the bike and 150 BPM on the run
2. At what HR do we become completely Anaerobic and cease to burn any fat whatsoever? (referred to as TZ3) – for me, 132 BPM on the Bike and 169 on the Run
3. Within your aerobic zone, is there a ‘sweet spot’ where fat burning is highest? -for me, at 110 on the bike and 132 on the run – whilst the Aerobic thresholds for both were higher, I ALWAYS wanted to be doing my Aerobic training at an intensity where I was burning more fat than carbohydrates.
Once you know these pieces of information you can start to seriously tailor your program – I won’t give away all of my trade secrets here, but basically you want to be doing your Aerobic training in TZ1 and hitting TZ3 in your intervals.
You can also use the output to put together nutrition and intensity strategies for longer distance races such as Marathons or Ironman Triathlons, which is a little bit complex so I will leave that for another day.
If you are serious about your Endurance training you are probably already investing a significant amount of time and energy into it, so it makes complete sense to ensure you are getting MAXIMUM bang for your buck from your training, getting your Aeroscans® done, therefore knowing what intensity you should be doing each element of your training at goes a long way to ensuring that you do so.
As always, train hard, and train safe.