Balance becomes an increasingly important concept as we get stronger. If you’re unfit, or just getting off the couch, everything is trainable. Everything can get better. But we reach a point where it’s not that simple. We love to look at peak numbers… best 20-minute power, best five-minute power, best top sprint. But can all of these numbers keep rising in unison as we train? The answer is, we hit a point where we have to make sacrifices.
In Fast Talk Episode 67: What is VLamax? we talked with Sebastian Weber about the concepts of VO2max and VLamax. Think of them as ways of measuring the max rate of your aerobic system and your anaerobic system (though, to be exact, we’re talking the glycolytic system only.) A big aerobic engine allows you to do things like sit in the field comfortably for hours or ride a good time trial.
In the world of cycling, there’s no such thing as too big a VO2max. But a big glycolytic system allows you to cover moves and win the sprint at the end of the race. The problem is that there is such a thing as too big a VLamax because it can hurt your aerobic engine. So it’s a balancing act, and while we love to focus on those peak wattages, an important consideration is to figure out how high or low a VLamax you need. And that can change through the season. Today we’ll dive into this concept and talk about:
- VO2max and VLamax – what exactly do they measure and why are they useful.
- Another term that’s becoming very popular is W’ or Functional Reserve Capacity. It’s a valuable number, but a lot of cyclists think it’s a measure of our anaerobic strength and confuse it with VLamax. We’ll explain the important differences and the value of both.
- We’ll talk about the balancing act of shifting your VLamax depending on your target races.
- Then we’ll try to get a little more practical starting with the right training for the time trialist or GC rider.
- Next we’ll talk about how to train if, like a lot of riders, you focus on road races and need good enough an aerobic engine to get to the end of a 3 plus hour race, but also need a good enough VLamax to win the sprint.
- Finally we’ll talk about just how much you can shift your VLamax and why it’s not just about making that shift, but learning to use what you have.
Our primary guest today is, of course, Dr. Sebastian Weber. Sebastian is one of the founders of INSCYD, a company that uses on-the-road testing to give quite detailed analyses of a rider’s physiology. Weber has also worked with teams like High Road and riders like Peter Sagan and Tony Martin. We love having Weber on the show because we go deep into the physiological weeds.
Along with Weber we also talked with an incredible group of scientists and riders about this balancing act, including Dr. Stephen Seiler from the University of Agder in Norway who is one of the originators of the polarized training model. We have an episode on interval work coming up with him soon.
Next, we got the opinion of a world-class time trialist and grand tour rider. Brent Bookwalter, who now rides with Mitchelton-Scott, talked with us about how training for time trials and grand tours affects his sprint. And finally, we talked with Dr. Andy Coggan and Hunter Allen who just released the third edition of their groundbreaking book “Training and Racing with a Power Meter.” So let’s dive into this idea of VLamax, and let’s make you fast!
Primary Guests Dr. Sebastian Weber: Elite coach and lead physiologist for INSCYD
Secondary Guests Brent Bookwalter: Pro cyclist with Mitchelton-Scott
Welcome to Fast Talk developer news podcast and everything you need to know to ride like a pro.
Trevor Connor 00:17
Hello, and welcome to Fast Talk. I’m your host Trevor Connor. My co host Chris case is currently on some remote island in Scotland. So today, unfortunately, I have to put up with my attempt at an introduction. Balance. That becomes an increasingly important concept as we get stronger. If you’re unfit just getting off the couch. Everything is trainable, everything could get better. But we reach a point where it’s not that simple. We love to look at peak numbers best 20 minute power best five minute power best top sprint. But can all these numbers keep rising in unison as we train? The answer is we hit a point where we have to make sacrifices. Back in Episode 67, we talk with Sebastian Weber about the concept of vo two Max and Vla max. Think of them as ways of measuring the max rates of your aerobic system and your anaerobic system. Though to be exact, we’re talking about the glycolytic side of the anaerobic system. The bigger aerobic engine allows you to do things like sit in the field comfortably for hours or put down a good time trial. In the world of cycling, there’s no such thing as too big a vo to max or too good an aerobic engine. But a big glycolytic system is what allows you to cover moves and when the sprint at the end of the race problem is there such a thing as too big a Vla max because it can hurt your aerobic engine. So it’s a balancing act. And while we love to focus on those peak wattage is an important consideration is to figure out how high or how low of Vla max you need and that can change to the season. Today we’ll dive into this concept and talk about first vo two Max and Vla Max, what exactly do they measure and why are they useful? Second, another term that’s becoming very popular as watt prime or functional reserve capacity. It’s a valuable number but a lot of cyclists think it’s a measure of our anaerobic strength but confuse it with Vla max will explain the important differences in the values of both. Three, we’ll talk about the balancing act of shifting your Vla max depending on your target races. Then we’ll try to get a little more practical starting with the right training for the time trailer GC rider. Fifth, we’ll talk about how to train if like a lot of riders you focus on road races and need good enough and aerobic engine to get to the end of a three plus hour race, but also need good enough Vla max to win the sprint six. Finally, we’ll talk about just how much you can shift your Vla Max, and why it’s not just about making the shift, but learning to use what you have. A primary guest today is of course Sebastian Weber. Sebastian is one of the founders of inside a company that uses on the road testing to give quite detailed analyses of a riders physiology. Sebastian has also worked with teams like high road and riders like Peter Sagan, and Tony Martin. I personally love having Subash on the show because we go deep into the physiological weeds, and also apparently put Chris to sleep. So I agreed to cut our talk about lactate versus Pirate Bay transport across mitochondrial barrier. But don’t ask me why. Along with Subash and we’ll also talk with a pretty incredible group of scientists and writers about this balancing act including Dr. Steven Siler from the University of actor in Norway, who’s one of the originators of the polarized training model. We have an episode on interval work coming up with him soon. Next, we ask the opinion of a world class time traveler and Grand Tour rider, Brent bookwalter, who now rides with mitchelton. Scott talked with us about how training for time trials and grand tours affects his sprint. And if you haven’t done so already, check out his indices and granfondo, the book Walter binge. Finally, we talked with Dr. Andy Coggan and hunter Allen, who just put out the third edition of the groundbreaking book training and racing with a power meter. Check out the episode just a couple episodes ago where we talked with the two of them and Dr. Steven McGregor about training zones. All right, this is where Chris usually says something witty, but he’s in Scotland and left me to figure out how to post this thing without the passwords. So maybe we’ll make it fast.
Chris Case 04:30
This episode of fast Talk is brought to you by whoop. Now, out in the world, you’ve heard it on Fast Talk before there’s a ton of metrics out there that talk about how hard you’ve trained, what you’ve done, your power your peak numbers, but one of the things that’s often lacking in that is your your recovery or that balance. You see one side of it, but you don’t often see the other side of it. And whoop is really cool in that it offers some pretty unique metrics that help you understand That balance,
Trevor Connor 05:01
it seems like we’re always throwing a new metric at people that fast dog. So here’s some more for you. But these are ones that you aren’t going to see a lot of other places. So whoop gives you a score of recovery, a strain score and asleep assessment, we keep talking about you need to balance that stress and recovery, that’s really where the adaptation happens. This shows them up against one another shows when your strain is exceeding what your recovery is allowing and vice versa when you’re more in a recovery straight because the strain is low, and recovery is high. So it allows you to see that kind of seesaw balance, and you really want to see in your training. And sleep is important part of that, too. Sleep is a key part of recovery that sometimes we forget or we ignore. And whoop is really going to help you find that balance. I think
Chris Case 05:47
they do a great job of visualizing that data as well in the app. And now it’s not only is it graphically interesting, it’s color coded. So it’s it often makes for a quick read on how hard you’ve gone, how much recovery you’ve gotten, how good your sleep is, and it all is, it is easily digestible and you can absorb it quickly and get on with your program. Whoop is the performance tool that is changing the way people track their fitness and optimize their training, who provides a wrist worn heartrate monitor that pairs the app that provides analytics and insights on recovery, strain and sleep. Know your body is recovered or when it needs rest. By getting to know your nervous system through heart rate variability, and quality of sleep. Automatically track workouts and get strain scores that let you know how strenuous training was on your body and see even more data like average heart rate, Max heart rate and calories burned. Get optimal sleep times based on how strenuous your day was and track sleep performance with insight into your sleep cycles and stages of sleep, sleep quality and sleep consistency. Whoop monitors heart rate 100 times per second 24 seven to give you full insight into your day so you can optimize the way you train. Oop is provided an offer for Fast Talk listeners to get 15% off their purchase with the code. Fast talk that’s f a s t capital T A lk Just go to whoop.com that’s w h o p.com and use the code Fast Talk at checkout to save 15% and optimize the way you train.
Chris Case 07:31
This episode of the Fast Talk podcast is sponsored by oat route. What is owed route? Well, it’s not a cycling tour, and it’s more than a road race. It’s a multi day granfondo style event where everyone starts together each morning and you can ride with friends all day. You can indulge your competitive side on time sections if you feel like it and explore iconic cycling destinations around the world boat route takes service to the next level. With pro tour style support on the bike and rider focused amenities often choose from a dozen events in 2019 in France, Italy, Norway, Oman, Mexico and China. In the United States. There are still entries available for a route Asheville in May, which I will be attending and out route San Francisco in September. Try something new in 2019 try old route.
Chris Case 08:30
Well, thanks again for joining us, Sebastian. We had a lot of great conversation last time with you. We got a lot of great questions from our listeners as we always do. So in this episode, we really want to dive into some of those questions. Before we get there. Maybe you could refresh listeners memories out there about what we’re talking about here. Vla max vo to Max, give us a give us a short summary to set up the stage for our discussion.
Sebastian Weber 08:57
Yes, thanks happy to do that. So, basically, we are talking about some something very fundamental. We are talking about energy supply mechanisms. We are asking the question Where is the energy to produce your power output which you see on the power meter, whereas this energy coming from and the very short brief overview here is that there are three ways how your muscles can produce energy. And so one way is by breaking down creatine phosphate, which is happening every time you change intensity, basically the creatine phosphate is broken down and it’s replenished afterwards. So we kind of for simplification, we leave this out of the picture and then the remaining two is to metabolic ways to create energy which is one it’s called glycolysis, which basically breaks down glucose and creates pyruvate or lactate and the other one is called aerobic metabolism. This obviously uses oxygen to burn things like pyrite or lactate that comes out of the glycolysis. And the marker, the marker for the capacity or more precisely of the energy production rate of the aerobic system is Have your two max. And let me explain real briefly versus two incomes from it’s basically a reverse a.so. It’s a flux rate of oxygen. This is basil two comes from and then it’s max. So vo two max maximum flux rate of or two. And I think it’s important to understand why are we using this? Well, basically nobody is really interested in what is the oxygen uptake writers. The point is that we know that the amount of oxygen uptake is absolutely proportional to the amount of energy or so to see power production in the muscle in the aerobic system. So it’s just a marker is just a marker. And we cannot stick any kind of sensor into the mitochondria into the muscle and measured energy production directly in the aerobic system. But we know that oxygen uptake rate is absolutely proportional to that. And this is always an explanation of kind of the same explanation for the vl MX enzyme glycolysis. And the anaerobic energy production you break down glucose would use perivale slash lactate. And there’s energy production associated with it. And so production rate of lactate is absolutely proportional to the production of energy in this glycolytic anaerobic system. And as far as the name comes from Viva Sadat so again a flex right Li for lactate Max, maximum lactate production rate, maximum glycolytic energy production, that’s what we’re talking about.
Chris Case 11:20
The next question becomes what’s the important thing to realize about Vla max when it comes to a sport like cycling?
Sebastian Weber 11:27
So, the thing that is important to understand about V max and to really differentiate it from from view to Mac, it is not as simple as highest better or lowest better, you know, view to max is like very straightforward, the higher the better, right? bigger engine always better. More aerobic energy production doesn’t does never hurt, right? There’s Vla Max is a little bit different. You can of course say well, I want to maximize my anaerobic power output, I want to maximize the system right and do whatever you can to increase your Vla max right or be happy that you’re naturally gifted and it is high so to speak. So you increase your glycolytic energy production, you increase your sprint power, maximum power output, that’s great. But the other side of the metal or the other side of the coin so to speak is that if you have a higher Vla Max, physiologically biologically This means you have a higher ability to produce lactate by breaking down glucose. What now happens is that in any sub maximum conditions, so any conditions intensity sub sprint, which means endurance performance, this system of glycolysis this system of breaking down glucose and producing lactate is more in the forefront of things it is stronger it is more dominant so to speak. So what this means in a practical application, if your Vla Max is higher, you not only increase your sprint power or your anaerobic power output, you also increase your glucose utilization because the system only uses glucose as a source of energy. So carbohydrates long story short, right? So you increase your your glucose or carbohydrate utilization and by this you increase your lactate production, which is this which essentially lowers your anaerobic threshold to FTP, whatever you want to call that. So this is also one explanation why you can’t have both, you can’t be the best sprinter. And still Venza g seems a total frocks, because to be the best sprinter you need a tremendously high glycolytic anaerobic energy production. But to win the Tour de France you need a high anaerobic threshold and a low glucose or carbohydrate utilization rate and the high fat combust rate. So in a nutshell, Vla Max is not high as a better except when you are 100 meter, you know, track and field sprinter was vl. mx is like a sweet spot, which you want to have.
Trevor Connor 13:51
We’ve had this conversation before, and it’s something I always like to point out is when you are talking about your best sprinter and Chris is gonna argue with me on this, but I’ll still say this when you’re talking about even your best sprinters at the Tour de France. If you put them up against a pure track sprinter, they’re gonna lose. Sure, for example, Greipel puts out an absolutely amazing sprint at the end of a long stage of the Tour de France, but he still has to get through that five hours to get to that finishing sprint. So there still needs to be a balance,
Sebastian Weber 14:19
right? And this is something if you look very closely at it’s a virtuous cycle, you can see that the really super fast sprinter of the fast sprinters like a kitten or Greipel like the big you know, the big engines so to speak uh, Kevin, there’s, you know, for for for his for his size, he has a big power output, they really benefit a lot from being protected. They need to be protected a lot to not right above the limit before they open the spread. Right. But if you if you have a little bit more on the insurance side, a little bit lower Vla max like a Sargon type of righto or Christoph kind of writer, then you might lag a little bit or I know Because I’ve tested them all, you have a little bit lower Vla Max, but therefore you have a little bit higher and June’s capacity to simplify things. And therefore, you maybe lack a little bit of sprint power, you might still beat the kiddos and subscribers out there. Because you’re maybe more freshmen, the sprint starts. But when you put them, like you say, on a clean sprint next to each other, and you put, for example, a track sprint next year, it’s a very clear, clear decision, who wins and who comes second who concerned,
Trevor Connor 15:28
I still remember being at a track. And there we had his world class pure track sprinter there and looking at his bike. And he had this chain that looked more like a motorcycle chain on his bike and asked him about it. And he just said, I would snap a normal chain.
Sebastian Weber 15:45
Right? I mean, you see, you see power output value above 2000 watts, and especially you see a much higher torque, a much higher acceleration, and also higher average power output, which then accounts more for the speeds and you know, to be able to keep this power longer, so to speak, to stay above 2000 watts for a long time is something essentially important here. So yeah, there’s tremendous differences. So to sort of give you some ballpark numbers, if you want to run if you want to run 100 meters sub 10 seconds like in a track and field athlete you need to Viola max of approximately 1.0 at like 85 kilograms body weight. Otherwise, that’s not possible. And then to the Frank sprinter, smaller range of point 8.7 point nine somewhere in this range. And then a classic writer is like almost like half of a depending on what kind of writer like point 4.5 something on said ballpark. So the more you go towards anurans writer, the lower the number gets.
Trevor Connor 16:44
Chris and I had a chance to ask Dr. Steven Siler about the physiology behind vo two max versus Vla Max, he had a great way of explaining why we hit a point where we have to choose,
at least at the extremes, I think probably there’s some absolute truth in that, that, you know, if we look at extreme performers like the the sprinters on the track versus the classic guys, six hours, there are some differences. And we even see that in the pro tour, the guys who start out really good at sprinting, they may over some years lose their top in power, as they get better at being able to handle a 270 kilometer classic. So I suspect these right, I think there are some subtle, if you’re really tweaking the extremes, then then muscle mass and so forth are going to play a role in your ability to produce maximum power, but how he’s how we measure maximum rate of lactate production or so for that I’m not sure how that actually works. But but I get the idea, you know, whatever that anaerobic the maximum anaerobic energy rate of production or production rate, versus maximizing aerobic capacity, at some point, they they probably do conflict with each other.
Trevor Connor 18:07
That’s fair, and what do you think physiologically is going on? Why do you feel that is?
Well, you know, a cell a muscle cell is a is a set of structures. And there’s some engineering there, there’s just like in building a car or house or whatever, you make some trade offs away versus, you know, stiffness, and all this stuff, we’re in this muscle cell, you you have a finite volume, and then you’re going to fill it with different components, like muscle fibers, like mitochondria, like intracellular fluid and proteins that may have buffering functions. So there is some mix there. And within a big range, that mix can do a lot of different things. But if you want to really maximize, for example, power, then the the set of or the ratio of components in the fiber would be different than if you want to maximize endurance or aerobic endurance. So does that make sense? It Yeah, at some point, you get down to a structural level of what can you pack into the sale, and something has to go if you’re going to have more of this other, if you’re gonna have more fibers more than you’re gonna have to give up something like mitochondria.
Trevor Connor 19:20
So that’s why you’re saying at the extremes, you’re gonna see this polarization because when you’re talking about somebody who’s very unfit, they can just improve the overall machinery in probably all regards, but once you’re at a certain fitness level, you really need to the muscle fibers are gonna have to specify one way or the other.
Yeah, experience Yeah. So assemble, you know, those got that level, then there is not an advantage to him to train more, you know, because he doesn’t want to signal changes in his, some of the contractile characteristics of his muscles. He doesn’t want them to develop in the direction of more endurance because that will cost him At the extremes of contraction velocity, for example, so yeah, it those extremes it gets tricky, but for most of us, we can improve both over over a pretty big range. So there’s no reason to feel like it you are unable to adapt both in terms of you know, handling a sprint and handling the three or four hours getting to the sprint.
Trevor Connor 20:27
There is another side of the Vla max definition that we need to cover. Many writers when they think of their anaerobic energy pathway, think of functional reserve capacity or watt prime. Let’s get back to the show where we define these concepts and explain why they actually aren’t a measure of your anaerobic strength. So what I like about your your use of vo two Max and Vla Max and I we got asked by a lot of people about this after our previous episode with you is that at this point, everybody really understands what vo two Max is that’s your maximal ability to produce power or aerobically or your maximal ability to consume oxygen. And I don’t think anybody has a hard time understanding that what they are struggling a little bit with with that Vla max I try to explain to people Vla Max is the vo two max equivalent for your anaerobic system.
Sebastian Weber 21:15
Yes, absolutely. or more precisely for your glycolytic system. Yes, exactly.
Trevor Connor 21:21
And I think a lot of people have seen FRC or watt prime as being that anaerobic equivalent to vo two max but it’s not No. And so I actually got into a bit of a Twitter discussion a couple Sundays ago one of our listeners talking about the difference between Vla Max and watt prime and a lot of people listening might be more familiar if you’re using training peaks with something called functional reserve capacity FRC which is essentially the same thing as y prime. And the way I explained it, but definitely wanted to hear this from you is Vla Max, we’re talking about a maximal rate where watt prime is more a capacity. It’s literally the area under the curve above critical power, which I think I just lost 99% of our listeners saying that but one of the important differences here is Vla Max is looking purely at that anaerobic system its lactate production, where what prime isn’t just anaerobic some of that energy some of that capacity is coming from aerobic metabolism correct.
Sebastian Weber 22:30
Yeah, I can totally agree to both let me add on this real quick. So Vla Max and FRC slash what prime or w prime is the same basically as power and energy. V max is basically a power you can transform it into power output on the bike, it’s possible to transform it into watts instead of millimoles per second and FRC w prime is like the kilojoules which you see on your bike computer. So, one is the capacity and one is the same thing divided by the time absolutely right. And also right is that Vla max or glycolytic power is is only looking at the power produce or energy production rate. So, power production in the glycolytic anaerobic system via as you say, what prime or FRC is basically only saying this is the amount of energy you can put out writing above critical power ftps threshold whatever you want to call it, until exhaustion and for me most important misunderstanding is that people think that something like FRC or what prime is anaerobic, and it is not like I say it is a mixture of energy systems. And this mixture changes and it’s it’s it should be so easy to understand that if you have a two minute effort, it’s much much more anaerobic right. So, let’s say you have a certain amount of energy, two minute all out effort right. And you substract basically the power output as the energy that is related to your critical power FTP threshold whatsoever. And you have a 10 minute or 20 minute effort and again, you have a certain unit energy and you subtract what is coming from or what is related to FTP, critical power threshold or so on. So the energy compositions the composition of what prime or FRC changes tremendously over time. And for a cycling specific effort of like four or 567 minutes. The vast majority of all the energy of FRC or what prime is actually Arabic. That’s that’s what people don’t understand mostly is that if you have whatever ever seen what prime and you spread it out, you put this out to empty this tank over eight or 10 minutes, something like maybe 80 or 90%, maybe of this energy is Arabic. It’s not nothing to do with anaerobic system,
Trevor Connor 24:50
or not a lot. It’s it’s a mix of aerobic and anaerobic metabolism. So it’s just it’s it’s a useful metric, but it’s not it’s not a pure anaerobic metric.
Sebastian Weber 25:01
No, it is it is, again, it is the longest the effort, the less anaerobic it is. And it’s a fundamental difference like you say it is a capacity, it’s a total energy. And going back to the example like vo to Max, right, it is milliliters per minute. So it is a flux rate. It is like a power production. It is it is basically asking the question, here’s my explanation. It’s like, it’s like how many miles you get per gallon, right? Or how, like, what is the maximum fuel burning rate of your car? If you put you know, pedal to the metal, so to speak, right? How fast can you empty the tank? And that’s one question that is like your Vla max. And then you ever see or whatever is how big is the tank? to oversimplify things, right? This is the main This is the main main difference here, right? And nothing has to do, which is like the one thing has not necessarily anything to do with the other one, completely independent.
Trevor Connor 25:56
So that conversation I was having with with the listener on Twitter, I actually use almost the same analogy. I actually use the analogy of a jar and I said, FRC is the size of your jar. And Vla Max is the size of the opening of one opening.
Sebastian Weber 26:11
Yes, yeah. Yeah. So you have two openings, you have your big opening and like the opening, so to speak, on this job. That’s an excellent example. Actually, right? You have these two openings, right? And how much of your effort see goes out on the one side on the aerobic side? And what how much goes out on the other side can differ a difference depending on the effort, depending on your training status, depending on what kind of athlete you are. Right? That’s what it is. It’s a Jarvis to opening so to speak.
Trevor Connor 26:41
And I think this is a really important distinction. I mean, that might sound like we’re splitting hairs a little bit but it is a very when you’re talking about a performance a very important distinction because I’ll use myself as an example I am the worst sprinter in the world. I think a on a good day a kid on a tricycle can beat me in a sprint. But if you go into Wk Oh, and you look at my FRC, I actually have a really good FRC. So going with your gas tank analogy I have or the jar analogy, I have a really big jar. But if you take that jar and flip it over, my Vla Max, so that particular opening is so small, it’s just a trickle that comes out. Yeah, I have a great capacity. I can’t use it
Sebastian Weber 27:23
while you take your time to use it. You know, don’t stress it.
Chris Case 27:28
When you were talking about all the the pro athletes you’ve tested and worked with, I’m just curious how much you work with what they naturally have versus trying to shape them to into the right type of rider they want to be
Sebastian Weber 27:42
live as a pro riders, you’re not trying to shape them that much, right? Because they are already in a team as a designated you know, sprinter or leadout, man or classic rider or DC rider. So you’re not you’re not trying to change it a lot. There are some examples, though, where you see, in general, the Vla max being a limiting factor or a factor of is where they that you see room for improvement. There are some examples where you see a rider and you say, oh, in general, I think the Vla Max was this rider should be a little bit higher should be a little bit lower. That’s one possibility. And then the most common possibility is that you see a change during the season, then you can adjust the training, if you see it goes up, it goes down. In an extent where you don’t want it to be like for example, most common one of the most common example is in a sprinters and a grinder type of writer, it would go down during the season, right? There’s also spring classics and state races and it would go down and he will he would lose sprint power. And then you have to change the training and and bring it up again, this is another writer, you know, you might want to bring it down a bit, right? It might be a little bit too high, you might say okay, you know, for this extra 20 watts or 10 watts of threshold power for this extra little bit of higher fat combustion and carbohydrate sparing you want to bring it down again, this is what you’re doing actually in a in a year of training or in the training process. You monitor it and then you do some kind of I would not call it definitely fine tuning but you you know this in what type of rider you have. You’re trying to manipulate it by training to increase or decrease it a little bit.
Trevor Connor 29:24
So I remember when you gave a presentation and maybe with your permission, we can post this on the website with this episode. You had a graph of Sagan season I think this was a 2013 or 2014 somewhere around then and you graphed his vo two Max and his Vla max through the season. And as as I remember you describing it You said basically we want to try to get that vo to max as high as we can. There’s never an issue with having a high vo two max for cyclists. So he’s really trying to raise that but then through the season, you really saw his Vla max rise and drop Depending on on which races he was going to and what mix he needed to perform best at those races, I found that really fascinating. Is that something you can talk a little too?
Sebastian Weber 30:11
Because if one graph you’re talking about it wasn’t peaches. So it wasn’t Saigon it was was another writer but doesn’t matter. Yeah it was it was looking at at the development of you to max and Vla Max and in comparison threshold power over one season at different times of the season. And what you what you would see in this graph is basically is that, yeah, you’re trying to sustain a high level of view to max obviously, like you said, the bigger the better. And then the Vla max might change during the season, because you go like to training camps and races, and so on and so forth. And then at a certain time of the season, we would basically had to pull out the right out of the race program, and simplify and saying, press the reset button here, right? Because vlm X was was decreasing to an extent where you say, Okay, now it would harm the performance of the writer. And that’s not something very uncommon to do like we have, for example, have a webinar on our website from from Tim Bora, where some some examples where they have similar scenarios from sprinters who are, you know, had very, very successful seasons, winning multiple stages, where it’s also comes down to the, to the fine tuning of these metrics. The other thing that might be interesting, when you look at this graph, and you look at the development as a trajectory of your to maximum Vla Max, you can see that sometimes this threshold doesn’t change, right. So you have see scenarios where basically the glycolytic and the aerobic system, so the Vla max and the beautiful max go up together or go down together. And then because they behave in a similar direction, the threshold power does not really change. And what this means in a practical application is that the writer still has endurance, right? The FTP is endurance power is there, but you’re kind of so to speak missings, a top notch of both energy supply mechanisms doesn’t have the top end power niza in his aerobic system, nor in his glycolytic system to really perform well. And that’s something you can see after hard training camps, but especially after, after hard races, like the Tour de France, and that’s one example which is in the graph, is that you know, after the total funds is threshold power does not really change. So you can send this athlete to several races, right, and he will survive it. But aerobic system and glycolytic system both are down, and therefore, he’s not winning anything anymore.
Chris Case 32:43
One of the one of the things I was curious about what you said when it came to this, there’s a sweet spot when it comes to Vla max. And there’s a given range where you will look at a rider’s data and say, Okay, he’s still within that range. He’s, he can go about racing and training the same way he has, or he falls outside of that range that you’re looking at. And you’re like, Okay, we need to pull him out of the racing, pull him out of training and push that reset button. I’m just curious, how do you determine what that sweet spot is?
Sebastian Weber 33:15
Yeah, so this depends on what kind of races the rider wants to do and how he wants to do it. There are two simple scenarios, or maybe only one simple scenario almost, which is like the GC kind of writer jazz. I only had it once in 10 years, there’s a Vla Max was too low for GC kind of right. And it was so low that he was not able to follow on a tech, then it’s too low. But in general, it’s not that big of a problem. How you determine what is the what is the good range? Well, as high as needed as low as possible, right? So this this just means that for a classic race or for one day race, where you maybe want to follow some attacks, maybe want to do on a breakaway, or maybe need to outspend other riders from a from a breakaway, maybe not advisable to have a super high Vla max because maybe then you don’t have the endurance capacity to stay in the breakaway group to the end just do need a certain amount of glycolytic power anaerobic power Vla, Max to outsprinted the others. So it really depends a lot on what type of rider you are and what technically you want to do, so to speak. How are you playing your cards in the race? This this determines that a lot and then of course, the race if you have like interval two or something if you have arrays with you know, a lot of climbing? Is it a long climb? Like do you have 10 k final climb? Well, you have several shorter ones there because they are shorter, you push harder you push higher power and therefore you need a certain amount of glycolytic energy. So it’s not a sorry, but it’s not a it’s not that one simple answer. Really. It really depends on on what you’re looking for. I can give you some ballpark numbers. So so a ballpark number would be most of the GC Riders on the ballpark of 0.3 that has millimoles per liters per second, right. And then like the classic riders, depending on what kind of writer it’s more in the ballpark of point four, five to maybe point six, but point six already being more. I’m not saying sprinter but like some more punchy guys. And then the pure sprinters end up somewhere in the ballpark of point 752 point eight, five somewhere in this range. When you see a number, which is a little bit too high or a little bit too low, for what you want your rider to do, then it tells you immediately where the room for improvement is. So one of my examples has been when when Tony Martin turned professional in 2008, he tested his Vla maximum This is as far as this goes back right to highroad times where we use this only like to scout our riders and train our riders. You tested him. And we’ve seen that his Vla Max is a little bit too high for work last time try performance. And the nice thing is you can calculate how much has threshold power how much is FTP, whatever call the power would increase if you manage to lowers Vla max. So when he turned professional, he could already project that his threshold power would go up by almost 10%. And we were pretty sure that we were able to reduce his Vla max in the next coming years. That’s that’s one part of the story what what basically happened right is vi max dropped and step by step his threshold goal went up and if you look at his TT, results, for example, in the vote championships, you will see that he was slowly working his way up right from becoming top being the top 10 becoming fours becoming sir to finally become world champion. This kind of you know, this ability that you really, really are able to quantify how much potential how much improvement in terms of numbers in terms of what is lying and increasing or decreasing Vla max.
Trevor Connor 37:02
I recently spoke with Brent bookwalter, a pro tour rider with Michigan Scott is a past winner of the national Time Trial championships and someone who’s raised many grand tours, Brent is needed to focus on building that big anaerobic threshold, and also his fat burning aerobic engine. But asked him if he felt that sort of training came at the cost of a good sprint. Do you find that that building the sort of fitness you need as a time trailer would hurt your ability in a sprint? Or do you think you can improve both?
That’s a complicated question. I think my my sort of knee jerk response to that my hesitancy with with like, going too far down that road is I think too often us riders and maybe especially amateurs, you know pigeonhole themselves or or take away a chance from yourself. They say that just what you said, I’m, I’ve been working on my sprint, I know I’m a sprinter. I know I have a fast twitch guy, therefore, I can perform in time trials. And I think that’s just a that’s a frustrating and huge injustice, I think. And I see it happen all the time. Oh, I’m a climber I can’t sprint. Okay, maybe that is the the physiological sort of facts or predispositions. But there’s a lot I think we can do with our physiology, and a lot we can do with our training and a lot we can do with just sort of the day to day execution and even mentality of what we’re what we’re working with when it comes time for performance. So I guess I’d like to sort of preface the this whole debate with that just encourage people to not lose sight of the the potential for versatility, regardless of what you’re working on, or what you think theoretically is your best strength. Yeah, but that said, that I think there is something to that. I mean, I think there is not I don’t mean to contradict myself, but there you know, there is obviously I think, some science to that. And there is some real world application to that. And I’m, if I just speak from my personal experience, and if I look, think, look and think back at my career, where I’ve excelled at different points in my career and where I’ve been strong or weak in different areas. And I think there is it is naturally that there is going to be a little bit of a give and take and a little bit of a slide. I think, when if I look at the times when I’m really climbing the best and doing long sustained, you know, threshold climbs that my best level. And that usually involves also being a little lighter and leaner. Probably my sprinting abilities is not what it could have been in the beginning of the year when I’m fresher, or maybe you know, five or 10 years ago when I was younger. But that doesn’t mean that I still down. I still don’t leave my mind open to performances in other areas.
Trevor Connor 39:34
So would it be accurate to say for a lot of us who are nowhere near our peak potential, we really can improve both. But if you are at the highest level or you’re near your peak, you probably can’t be the best of both.
I think that’s a pretty fair assessment. Yeah, exactly. I think it’s it’s similar to Yeah, if you just take an untrained person, it’s like those, those initials. Early gains are kind of easy to get across the board. And then obviously the more train and the more honed and you get, the harder those those gains become. So I think it does sort of operate on a spectrum, I think. Yeah, it’s probably not realistic that at the level I’m racing the of course, there’s always exceptions to this rule and there’s no sort of alien forms out there that can sort of seem to do it all. But um, it’s very uncommon that the true world class sprinters are also going to be flying up the mountains with the best climbers and cross over the concrete aisles.
Trevor Connor 40:34
Let’s get back to the show and discuss the practical side of balancing Vla max starting with what a time trial or GC writer such as branch do. So let’s get into those those practical sides and taking that example you have an athlete to is focused on time trials or being a GC rider. And their Vla. Max is is too high. What sort of training would you have them do? What did you have Tony Martin do?
Sebastian Weber 40:57
Well, for the Vla Max, you have to differentiate between what I would call more like a functional adaptation and a structural adaptations. You can have pretty quick functional adaptation, for example, by significantly manipulating the nutrition like you know, just cutting out almost every kind of carbohydrates, lowers Vla Max, but then as soon as you as you go back to normal fuel, so to speak, it flips back. And then the structural change of things I think it’s important to understand that Vla Max and glycolytic energy production is also linked to your muscle fiber types, right fast twitch fibers bezel slow twitch fibers. So when you want to have a structural change, you need to change the ability of your fibers, I’m not going to say all you need to entirely change your fiber type, but you need to adapt those fast twitch fibers to become a little bit less glycolytic and a little bit more aerobic. That is a general concept. And to do that was the first rule if you want to decrease your Vla Max, don’t do anything that increases it. Right? Don’t do anything that contradicts what you’re trying to. It’s it. It might sound silly, but it is really what it is like I’ve seen people in the past who are trying to decrease a Vla Max, and then go into the gym three times a week doing you know doing squats or leg press was really heavy weight and high speed so to speak, which is absolutely opposite, right? it’s it’s a it’s a high glycolytic or anaerobic effort. So first thing is avoid any things that would increase it. And then the mechanism is you need to trigger those a little bit more fast twitch fibers so to speak, and they have a higher recruitment threshold. So you can’t only go easy, right? We try it at about almost 15 years back right? I developed a test to measure Vla max using eremita test, we use muscle biopsies to validate this test. And then we trained athletes, because the questions come up. Okay, how do we train that and the first idea was just go easy, right, just don’t touch your glycolysis. The problem is now you’re not recruiting the muscle fibers which are responsible for Vla max. So long story short, your intensity needs to be a little bit higher more towards what you might call sweet spot or sub threshold or something. And then you need to stay there for some good amount of time repetitively or continuously. That’s that’s what’s important to the intensity can’t be too low should be a little bit sub threshold, you know, you can you can do some things like lowering the cadence like which increases the talk, which then again recruits more ft fibers if you are sub threshold and a little bit the icing on the cake would be would be going a little bit low as carbohydrate supplementation. So the prime example which is you know, which helps you to to decrease Vla Max, for sure is riding the Tour de France and a sprinter right, the Tour de France, right, you know, it’s three weeks. So it’s continuous, right? That’s another thing, which is important not like only writing it’s a vacant and then not doing anything, it’s continued its day in day out. That’s one thing. It’s never glycogen replenished, right? It’s never full of carbohydrate stores. And there’s a lot of writing like through the mountains and so on, there’s a lot of writing with a slightly lower cadence or slightly higher torque into like this mid range sweet spot sub threshold power zone for mountain Up, down, up, down. So again and again. So that would be something like to go into a four hour ride and every half an hour honored off sub threshold sweet spot with this lower cadence to this day in day out and you have a fair chance to decrease your threshold your Vla Max,
Trevor Connor 44:33
now you’re saying sub threshold sweetspot Are you saying pretty significantly below or just below threshold,
Sebastian Weber 44:40
but that depends on how much time you can invest. Right? If you’re going for a six hour ride every half an hour, you want to write sub threshold for 30 minutes and you have to be more below threshold right? And if you’re only doing this for two hours, then maybe 90% of threshold is okay if you want to do this for five hours and you maybe need To go at 80 to 75%, of threshold, right? So it depends, obviously, for how long you can do this, and how often are you doing this.
Trevor Connor 45:08
So remember we we had Dr. negus, on Milan on the show a while back, and he was talking a lot about this about that, recruiting those fast twitch to be fives to work more robustly and he was big on training right at a aerobic threshold, or vt one or the other. There’s a variety of different names for it. But right at that point where lactate starts to rise up, so around kind of 1.7 to millimoles on a lactate curve. And he was big fan of just riding there for four or five hours if you can do it, because that’s really going to get those fast twitch muscle fibers working robustly. So your sounds like you’re saying, if you have the time, that’s a great way to do it. If you don’t have the time, then then higher intensity closer to threshold, lower cadence can be really beneficial in my hearing. You’re right.
Sebastian Weber 45:58
I’m not entirely first, like first increase of lactate. That’s very tough. Because you do the statement, you immediately bond yourself to, to a certain testing protocol, which is fair like this, this power output at which lecture, which is the power but if it’s lactate increases is tremendously different if you do one minute increments, or 10 minute increments. Now, that’s
Trevor Connor 46:26
fair to that credit, when we had a new go on here, part of what we were talking about was that his testing protocol, and he uses a 10 minute testing protocol, because he is huge on the aerobic side.
Sebastian Weber 46:37
Okay. But anyway, so assuming, for me is this sounds like sounds like a quite low intensity. And as I as I indicated, we’ve done that. And we’ve done that looking and doing muscle biopsies. And we’ve done that looking at adaptations in single muscle fibers. And for some people it works. But if you have a reasonably high amount of those ft fibers, then it may be doesn’t really work. And one part of the mechanism is that you can stay lower this intensity because all the time, like you said you brought up something like five hours, you st five hours fatigue, and then you would also recruit more ft fibers. But that then you are back to you know being a need to really write those five hours. And I doubt that this is really applicable for most of your listeners out there. So So again, for for what we did, there was a couple of amateur athletes over 30 looking at specific adaptation and single muscle fibers. If you go to low intensity, you have a fair chance that it’s not working for a big part of your group. If you go a little bit higher intensities, and you have a very good chance that it almost works for everybody. And therefore I would say if you really want to lower Vla max don’t stay too low. And we’ve seen it also like from a lot of users of the insights of fans of past months. Seems to be like a common misunderstanding. People still have like say, Oh yeah, I don’t want to decrease the Alexa just right easy. And then they are surprised that four months later Vla max maybe even increased
Trevor Connor 48:17
now. So it’s also interesting because when you’re talking about lactate clearance, your your max rate of lactate clearance doesn’t actually happen at threshold, it happens right around 95% threshold, it’s a little bit below. I don’t have the studies in front of me. I’ll put the references up with this podcast. But there were several studies that showed that your body’s maximal ability to take up lactate is actually a little below threshold.
Sebastian Weber 48:40
Yeah. It for sure is below threshold. Yes.
Trevor Connor 48:44
So it’s very interesting. You’re saying that there’s this huge benefit of training. A little lower down. Whoop is the performance tool that is changing the way people track their fitness and optimize their training. Whoo provides a wrist worn heartrate monitor that pairs to their app to provide analytics and insights on things like recovery, strain and sleep. know when your body is recovered, or when it needs rest by getting to know your nervous system through heart rate variability and quality of sleep. Automatically track workouts and get strain scores let you know how strenuous training was on your body and see even more data like average heart rate, Max heart rate and calories burn. Get optimal sleep times based on how strenuous your day was and track sleep performance with insights into things like your sleep cycles and stages asleep. sleep quality and sleep consistency. With monitors heart rate 100 times per second 24 seven to give you full insight into your days so you can optimize the way you train. Whoop is provided an offer for our listeners to get 15% off their purchase with the code Fast Talk. That’s FA s t capital t a l k. Just go to whoop.com that’s w h o p.com. And use the code Fast Talk to say 15% and optimize the way you train. So that all seems pretty simple. And we’re talking about the time trial. So GC rider seems like you’re saying it’s all about raising sustainable threshold power. And who really cares about Vla? Max. It’s just not something you need. But a lot of us aren’t GC riders are time travelers for I would say most of us, particularly a lot of our listeners, and I know for myself, we’re doing road races where we have to have the aerobic engine to get to the end of the race. But we still need some sort of Vla Max, or we’re gonna get our butts kicked in that final few Ks. So for this type of rider, which probably applies to a lot of us, what do we do
Sebastian Weber 50:43
increasing the Vla? Max, again, the funniest simple answer is avoid anything that decreases that. And this is maybe not as easy as the opposite direction, because decreasing it is again, being low in carbohydrates, writing, you know, whatever, through the mountains, sub threshold locations kind of efforts. So that’s maybe not so easy. And also, in general, very, very broadly speaking, all kinds of endurance effort have the ability to decrease your vl MX even like long Sprint’s or something, have the ability to decrease RDBMS. But always a question, Where are you coming from? Right? So that’s important to understand. If you’re asking about what do I do to increase my vlm? x? That’s a question Where are you coming from? Are you just coming off your couch, then mostly, any training might actually decrease your Vla? Max, I are just coming out of a couple of months base endurance sweetspot long slow distance whatsoever training. Right? That’s a totally different question. That’s important to understand that it’s it’s not that straightforward. Like, oh, yeah, this is a one size fits all approach here. But in general, avoid everything that decreases it. And then when we talked a little bit before maybe like decreasing Vla Max was more like you’re kind of sweet spot training kind of approach sub threshold mid range intensity stuff. When you want to increase Vla max again, you should avoid that. And then you may be ending up more with like this kind of a polarized training philosophy. Because you really want to avoid these mid range intensity, you either want to vote very low. So don’t touch your ft fibers, right, don’t touch them, don’t recruit them don’t put any kind of influence signal onto them or hit some really hard to become better at anaerobic like ready energy production. So that’s what it did, it would be training really, really easy. And doing Sprint’s VA training, explosive gym training, so on and so forth. And if you look at the classic training of like trek sprinters, that’s what it is, say, right? Very, very easy if they do kind of some kind of endurance training, or they just do the heart, gym and sprint training programs. And so that’s that’s basically the answer to that if you really need to increase it, make sure you do nothing that decreases it and focus on really the low end. And really the high end. For my personal opinion. This might partly explain you also why you have these two training philosophies and why you have people out there who swear by polarized training, because they have great experience with it. And you might have other people who swear by more experts per train, because they have good experiences and you know, triggers two totally different adaptations, and depending on what you’re trying to achieve, one might work for you very good. And the other might do exactly the opposite.
Trevor Connor 53:40
So I was about to go there. And I was actually going to ask you that question. Because after we did the previous episode with you, one of our listeners said, he recommended a whole lot of that big gear training below threshold and that sweetspot range, how does that fit with the polarized model? And so you’ve just answered that that polarized might give you more of that higher Vla Max, but still ability to get to the end. Where if you’re the more of the time trial type who doesn’t care about a sprint at the end that that perhaps a more feedspot approaches is the right approach for you. Right?
Chris Case 54:14
Exactly. Do a lot of people come up to you and say, I want to be like Peterson I want to have like a really good sprint, but not the best sprint. But I also want to be able to ride a really long race and still have that sprint at the end. I mean, I realized that there’s more way more to it. And there’s there’s this the skills that he brings to it his his ability to conserve energy all day. But in terms of just pure performance parameters. I would assume that a lot of people just because he’s such a star and he’s so good. They want to be like him. Yeah, I
Sebastian Weber 54:51
mean, I mean, yeah, you get this question like, what is the physiology of this rider of that rider and of course, what is the physiology? What kind of ballpark is To Sargon, and in terms of Vla, Max and so on and so forth. And obviously he’s he’s somewhere in the mid range towards being a sprinter right, because he can sprint, but he can still be very, very successful in the classics. I know his coach then specifically prescribes a training is obviously is focusing a little bit more on the insurance side when it comes about going to the classics. And then a little bit more on the sprint side. For the second part of this, he’s not so easy to pot afterwards when it comes to the, to the total frogs. So within your range, let’s say whatever, you have a vlm X of point five, you know, you want to go more like to a stage race kind of thing or do some tea teas, you can maybe decrease it or you may want to do a training to decrease it to 0.4 or something 0.35 as in a couple of months. And then you may want to go backwards afterwards or goes the opposite direction to increase it because you may have some more like crit races coming up or some flat road races where you need to sprint. And now basically, you’re really talking very specifically about what kind of training you want to do. Because when you know this number, like when you know what your real MX is, and you know, it’s better for this kind of race to really raise a little bit lower this kind of race have a little bit higher, higher now you can work on it, and you can control it and see how is the training help you developing towards towards that goal? That’s something very important, right? I mean, it’s like, it’s like you would try to decrease body weight, right? Doing a diet and lose a couple of kilograms. But basically what you do, you would do the same, you would hop on the scale and control the progress of this right and control where you’re going.
Trevor Connor 56:37
Now sounds like you’re also saying that with Vla max to some degree, you might be able to improve it a bit but you kind of have what you have. If you’re not gifted with a naturally high Vla max tracks printings, probably not for you. Most of what you’ve been talking about is either promoting the decrease in your Vla max or limiting the losses
Sebastian Weber 56:58
right yeah, you can you cannot expect like if you if you come up and you get tested with Vla max of let’s say point three, so more like UGC kind of writer, you cannot expect that you do a training program and neither after two months, after two years, you end up as point point eight, that is most likely impossible. And the opposite is also true. Right? If you are point eight, then the only way to maybe get down to point three is by getting 20 or 30 years older. Right? So but then it’s a question of it’s by training or just by aging, but in general like yeah, you’re absolutely right. You cannot you cannot expect it to change it entirely. You want to change it in a certain direction, but you are a little bit of what you are right if you are more as a sprinter kind of guy, you don’t maybe get a 2.3 and if you are Moses endurance, you know, point three kind of guy you maybe don’t get it up to point eight or something.
Trevor Connor 57:54
When we were talking with Dr. Andy Coggan and hunter Allen about training zones, we asked them their thoughts on this balance between Vla Max and vo two max. They had some very interesting thoughts on why it’s hard to maximize both and also difficult to shift your balance. We talked to him about Vla, Max versus FRC and one of the things he said is FRC is a capacity Vla Max is a rate and Vla Max is a pure anaerobic measure. So, again Do you have any any thoughts about that? I certainly read in your book your explanation of FRC, which agreed that FRC is not purely anaerobic.
And he’s right that FRC is a capacity and whatever he’s calculating seems to be an attempt to get at a rate. So they’d be different in that regard, as well. Sounds like a sharp guy.
Trevor Connor 58:41
He was quite smart. What’s your What’s your feeling on this idea that what he says is you can’t get maximize both that there is a bit of a seesaw here where if you really want to have that top in anaerobic power, you’re going to have to sacrifice some of your FTP or your threshold. Or if you want to be a time traveler and have a higher FTP, you have to sacrifice some of that that anaerobic side, how do you feel about that?
The way you put it, you can’t maximize those might be the best way you can certainly improve both at the same time. Some people have a misconception that you can’t improve both simultaneously. But to actually reach you know, the pinnacle of your potential in both would be challenging at best, I would agree. And you could say you know there is this an interference effect has been hypothesized between resistance exercise training and endurance exercise training, and literature is somewhat split as to whether there is truly an interference effect, but from a physiological or you won’t even think about it the genetic signaling perspective or what have you. But on a more pragmatic basis. Have you only have so much you know, how And energy available to train. So you can’t be all things all people at all times. So even if it’s simply from a practical perspective, you couldn’t max out both of them. And yeah, from, you know, success perspective to decide where you’re where your bread is buttered. I have a client trellis power profile. And I realized that early on, my only way to get results in races was to be in breakaways. And I never did a sprint workout. From that point forward. There’s just no point. Whereas for most people, it is, you know, train your weaknesses, race your stripes. I think that if you’re out at the fringes either as a sprinter or as a time trial, as it’s, you know, train your strength and race, your strength is your best route to success. I date myself about Mardi knots with Marty nosteam be an Olympic medalist if he had decided I’m going to be a criterium. Remember, he did he did this drive? Yeah.
And it wasn’t really
that success. Yeah. But instead he said no, I’m gonna be a sprinter and you know, I got to lift the gold medal from the velodrome So,
Trevor Connor 1:01:16
so there’s only so much you can change yourself. It goes back to that thing of if you are genetically made to be a sprinter, you’re probably never gonna be the best time travelers in the world. And if you’re genetically if your phenotype is more the time trial is you’re not gonna be winning the big field Sprint’s no matter what you do?
Yeah. What is the saying a leopard can’t change a spot? Yeah.
Trevor Connor 1:01:35
Leopard can’t change its spots to degree you have what you have. But let’s get back to the show and talk about how winning is often more about learning to use what you have
Sebastian Weber 1:01:44
as another layer to admit it comes to races which is how much of that Vla max can you actually utilize and this is a whole new discussion then or partly a whole new discussion because then it goes back to things like buffering capacity for example activation, think about doing let’s say a training camp two weeks easy based training right how good can you activate yourself without one week of tapering or like openness right. So these are other questions to address like having that ability having that Vla Max, but being able to utilize it or maximize the utilization of it like to give a practical example in a three minute all out effort how much of your Vla max can you use because now this is where it comes really interesting if you remember we said lower Vla max means higher endurance performance. So if you are not purely after being a faster sprinter and you’re looking to improve your two minutes, three minute four minute whatsoever, like these mid range power outputs, right, then it’s not only the question what is your Vla? Max, but it’s also the question how much of that can you use? Right You can have a vlm that say of point five and use only 50% of it which or you can have a Vla max of point four which buys you a higher threshold it buys you a higher fat Max and buys you more carbohydrate sparing but then maybe use 80% of that and this is a that is a very very important you know thing to remember when it comes to performing the race.
Trevor Connor 1:03:18
So what are ways to train yourself to be able to use more Vla Max,
Sebastian Weber 1:03:23
but excellent question it comes down to the activation right like like we just said activation of glycolysis prime example go out to two weeks of base training and try to raise heart You will not succeed do the same thing but put a week of pace of tapering and and like open as a marine and you have a good chance to to be you know much much better in the race and then it comes down to things like buffering capacity or everything associated maybe also with lactate transportation, lactate shuttling, right, these kinds of things get very, very important. The agenda describe the ability to write above threshold to write and hot effort which then you know, goes back a little bit to our discussion about Vla max versus what primal FRC, it’s not only the energy system what defines you ever see, or w prime is also how much you can use it right? How long can you stay at view to max how much which percentage of V or V LMS? Can you utilize? That’s a big thing that can do differentiate people quite a lot. You can have somebody with a viola max of point three or two writers can have the same vlm X and one is able to come to a lactate concentration of only eight and the other one keeps writing it arrives at certain minimums. No problem happens.
Trevor Connor 1:04:41
So this gets back to every time we’ve had a pro on the show, or almost every time they have said don’t just focus on your peak numbers don’t just focus on how much you can what sort of watch you can put out for five minutes or five seconds. They keep hammering repeatability, repeatability, repeatability, it’s that ability to keep putting out that power and it sounds like that. Part of what you’re talking about, you might have a great deal a max. But if you have no repeatability, by the time you get to the end of that race and you’ve gone up 20 climbs and tried to counter 1015 attacks, you’re gonna have nothing left is that basically what part of the
Sebastian Weber 1:05:15
next sexy part of the story? That’s exactly part of the story? What What do you have like, what are your capacities or power or functions? What are your biological system? How much can you use of it? And how much can use it like you say, repetitively, for example, which brings back succession? For example, how quickly can you recover? from, you know, something like a lactate accumulation? How quickly can you recover? And at what power output? Can you recover from a heart effort. And this is a huge differentiator between athletes, it’s, it’s it’s in a practical application, it’s a tremendous difference. If you know when when you do, like a very hard not saying all out, but a very hard four minute effort, and then being able to recover within five minutes at a power output of 300 watts for for professional, or having to recover for eight minutes at a power output of 250 watts, that changes everything in the race. And, you know, if I may add this, this is something we have been sorry, always go back to that this is something we have been looking at, since highroad, times what we call the lack of probate or the Yeah, this is a net lactate combustion rate as a function of power output. And then you see tremendous differences between writers, the examples, there you have a write of is the same threshold power. And that’s exactly what you’re saying, don’t focus on your the numbers, you can have two writers with the exact same threshold at the same body vade. So the same relative threshold. And what happens above and below threshold is tremendously different. Meaning one writer, writing a boss threshold accumulates lactate faster, accumulates, fatigue faster, and you know, yet, and then isn’t able to write, let’s say, whatever 40% above threshold for a long time, and another writer is maybe able to write much, much longer at the same percentage or the same power output above threshold, and then maybe is also able to recover much faster. That is certainly something that that that happens I just mentioned, I guess that when Tony Martin turned to to jumbo, they were surprised on how slow on how slow his lactate accumulation would happen once he’s riding a bus threshold, as a marker as a as a valid marker for how quickly or how slowly fatigue is happening writing above threshold, and then how quickly how fast he’s able to recover at a high power output. From that, again, small accumulation of lactate. And we’ve done some calculations that you’re looking to give you some some real world numbers you’re looking at for the same rate is the same as threshold power, you’re looking at for the same effort for the same kind of accumulation of fatigue, you’re looking at differences of 30 to 40% in recovery rate, so 30 to 40% longer or shorter time at the same power output to recover from that effort. And that’s everything when it comes down to bike racing.
Trevor Connor 1:08:20
So I’m going to take a quick step back, because he just gave a great explanation of why a lot of athletes periodized their season the way they do. And certainly the way I coach my athletes is during the bases and we spend a ton of time building that aerobic engine. I agree with pros that repeatability is critical. But I’m also gonna say if your thresholds 200 watts, you’re gonna get popped in that first five minute climb. So it really doesn’t matter how quickly you can recover because you’re out the race. So first, get that aerobic engine up, because without it, everything else is pointless. But then that’s why athlete you know, your pros and your cycles. as they get closer to that season. You see them doing intervals, like over unders, you see him doing things like two bottles, which are those 40 seconds on 20 seconds off, or you don’t get enough time to recover, because that’s where they’re training that ability to do a big effort and recover from it and then do the effort again, and then recover from it. So it’s build that engine up.
Sebastian Weber 1:09:15
Yeah, so this filling it up. And then and then these top loaders over unders that’s like, you know, talking about lactate shuttling lactate transportation, that also talking about buffering capacities. It might even have an effect on oxygen kinetics. So have your aerobic system adapt faster. That’s another aspect of the performance here, right? Which can be really important. And if I may add to this is first building up the engine is something also very important because something we didn’t talk about is that the influence on Samsung likes Vla max increases view to max. So just like you say, if your FTP is 200 watts, or pretty low for whatever That’s you know, body Vaidya you having then you don’t even need really need to need to vary that much about vlm x because the influence of vlm x on the performance on the insurance performance on the race performance again increases with the view to max. So, the higher the view to make once you are above 5560 to 65 whatsoever, so, the higher it goes biological, physiological is the influence of the vlm x increases. So, whatever you do there in terms of going up and up or down Vla max by training, the effect that has on your endurance performance increases with increasing the automatic so that’s something like you save it’s just it’s professional, versatile, important. So you don’t really need to care about all these things. If you don’t have the engine.
Chris Case 1:10:43
We’ve been talking a lot about Vla Max, how to lower it, how to raise it, etc, etc, etc. How do I determine it?
Sebastian Weber 1:10:52
As I briefly mentioned to determine Vla Max, one thing that happened about almost 1520 years ago, which, which is one part which which which brought me to professional cycling was the development of a sprint test on the ergometer to measure vlm x and then validate the sprint test and check if it’s if it’s accurate, by using muscle biopsies. So traditionally, traditionally, what we’ve what we have been doing over the past 10 1215 years is doing lab based sprint tests to have a very accurate measurement of lm max. That’s one way to do it. The other way to do it, is to calculate it, to calculate it based on other lactate measurements to calculate it based on, you know, lactate measurements view to max measurements, I think it doesn’t make sense to really go into the, into the mathematics of that here. That’s that’s another way. And that’s the way that how it has been done and swimming, for example, very, very successfully for more than 10 years. Also, calculating vlm X is, is a very, very valid, valid way to do it. And then lately, which means over the past three, four years, maybe from the need of virtual cycling, for not being able to go into a lab regulary what ended up what what it has become is also being able to calculate it very accurately based on on a series of maximum power output efforts. So like maximum sprint efforts, and four minute on several time durations of like similar like you would like like you will do like you want to determine your max power for one minute for 10 seconds for whatsoever, it has become possible to also calculate it very accurately from those kinds of efforts. But obviously only in cycling because you need you need the power meter. So traditionally, it’s always linked to, to lactate measurements, and again started in the lab. And then just lately became more possible to do it. At least in cycling, even without lactate measurement. However, one thing people tend to forget is that you always need to have an idea about the body composition. Because lactate is millimoles per liter. It takes into account how much water you have in your body. So you always need to have at least an idea if you have Reza high water content because you have a low fat percentage, but the high muscle percentage, or if you have a little bit less water because you maybe have less muscle but more more fat so to speak. But these are very broadly high level explaining how it historically happened in cycling and and swimming and more or less what it is today.
Trevor Connor 1:13:32
And Chris innovo said we’re not going to promote anything we don’t believe in but we’ll give a plug or a plug is deserved and your business inside as a very elegant way to give riders these numbers doing just on the road testing.
Sebastian Weber 1:13:46
Right. Yeah, I mean, as if I didn’t, I didn’t want to give you as a pitch to say I appreciate
Trevor Connor 1:13:50
that. I think you deserve it. So I’m gonna give it to you for you.
Sebastian Weber 1:13:55
So yeah, basically what what we have been doing, you know what what has been done in the world of professional swimming and devoted professional cycling for the past decades, has has now become a software package where the coaches can measure or determine or calculate whatever way of testing you choose either in the lab on the field is obvious lactate or without lactate to determine things like vo two Max and Vla Max, very precisely. And this is how now, it also gets spread out over the virtual teams. You have to imagine that some things for example, we were not allowed to, to promote a lot at highroad times like we used for example, these concepts for pacing strategies and time trials to understand the metabolism time trial and create pacing strategies. That’s something we were never really allowed to show it hierro time is a lot to show how we do this. This is bass after the race and this attrition and so on and so forth. And now these days is getting spread out a little bit more. We have teams like Bora and jumbo visma and we have some more as two teams currently using it. But it’s not it’s not public. So it’s spreading out more to the votes of triathlon to several Federation. And again, it’s all goes back to these validation studies, we talked about using muscle biopsies and so on and so forth.
Chris Case 1:15:12
Alright, Sebastian, so we’ll put you on the clock. You’ve done this before in our last episode, you know how it goes, you’ve got one minute to summarize and give all of our listeners the key takeaways from what we’ve discussed today.
Sebastian Weber 1:15:26
So the quick summary is you need to understand or you want to start with two things you want to start at understanding what you want to do in terms of races, what kind of races you’re looking at, and which parts you want to play in this race. What what’s your tactics so to speak? And then from there, you want to understand Okay, what is the Vla max that I need? What is the minimum vlm max that I have to have and then train for that check it is it where you want to have it. And from there create a training program where you control how the progression is going. And if the Vla max develops either up or down in the direction that you want. And then maybe during the season, change your approach for one race, you may want to lower one for the other race, you may want a higher one.
Chris Case 1:16:10
Whichever, you got a minute, what else would you like to add?
Trevor Connor 1:16:15
So what I really love about the way you frame things is I think too many athletes when they’re thinking about their training are too focused on I’m just trying to raise my numbers, how high can I get my five minute power? How high can I get my 20 minute power. And it’s just seen as this you can improve everything. If you just train hard enough or or train right. I like to think of it and this is how you’ve been expressing it as more like a seesaw. Except this isn’t just a two sided seesaw. This is a 10 seated horrible looking seesaw where some of the seats are ejector seats.
Trevor Connor 1:16:49
anything you do is going to have impacts on the whole thing you write raise one side, another side is going to come down, you sit on the ejector sheet and you’re going to find yourself on your button the road. So when you’re thinking about training, and sorry, I just went with a silly analogy. But when you think about training and think about it as everything affects everything else, and sometimes improving one thing comes at a cost of another thing. So see it as more as a balance, Chris? Well, I’m
Chris Case 1:17:17
not going to even try to summarize what we talked about today. I just know that there’s a good five minute segment in there that if I’ve got some insomnia, I can just loop that portion and fall right asleep. Thanks, guys.
Trevor Connor 1:17:30
That was another episode of Fast Talk. As always, we love your feedback. Email us at Fast Talk at Bella news.com. Subscribe to Fast Talk in iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, SoundCloud and Google Play. Be sure to leave us a rating and a comment. While you’re there. Check out our sister podcast the velonews podcast which covers news about the week and cycling become a fan of Fast Talk and firstname.lastname@example.org slash velonews and on email@example.com slash velonews. Fast talk is joint production between velonews and counter coaching. The thoughts and opinions expressed in Fast Talker those are the individual for Chris case, Sebastian Webber, Dr. Steven Siler Brent bookwalter, Hunter Allen and Dr. Andy Coggan. I’m Trevor Connor. Thanks for listening.