In the last 18 years several Dutch swimmers have done extremely well for such a small country. The Dutch swim team gathered some medals at the Atlanta Olympics. At the World Championships in Perth they won some more medals including gold as several swimmers made the finals. While everybody in the swimming world became aware of Pieter van den Hoogenband and Inge de Bruijn, many of their team mates have also been doing well. Pieter van den Hoogenband broke the world records for the m and m freestyle. He held the m record for 8 years.
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I live in Belgium with my wife and two daughters. I was a swimmer at International level when I was younger. After studying in Brussels, I went to Cologne and completed my PhD in in physiology and biomechanics. I really like to bring scientific findings back to something coaches can use.
I discuss swimming a lot in my book, but it also applies to other endurance sports. The Science of Winning - During my studies in Cologne we had a lot of debates about lactate testing in Germany as there were people who sat on both sides. My professor and I questioned lactate and it brought us to a different approach.
I worked this out for swimming for my PhD, but most of the principles are applicable for other sports. Even without lactate testing you can learn a lot of these theories. In order to improve aerobic capacity, most people think you have to do a lot of volume at low intensity. We found that in fact the best way to improve aerobic capacity was to do a certain volume but not too much. Run easy, and spice it up for efforts of seconds at high intensity - and this works in every sport.
Aerobic and anaerobic capacity and power - People in the past considered endurance to be only based on an effort you can maintain for a long period of time.
We found that you have to make a difference between how your muscle fibres are able to produce aerobic energy, compared to how you perform during your efforts.
If you see a car driving very fast on the highway, you will automatically make an assumption of what foreign engine the car has to be so fast. You assume a difference between performance and what power and strength must be in the engine to create the speed. Aerobic capacity is a property of your muscle fibres, and then what are you doing with these capacities is power.
We have examples where you have a marathon runner or triathletes with the same maximum oxygen uptake at the muscle fibre level, but the guy with the lowest aerobic capacity can win the race. This makes a big difference in the planning of training objectives. These exercises for power are totally different than exercises improving capacities.
Without good power to use your capacity you are at risk of overuse and over-training, which can lead to injuries. The coach needs to know whether the athlete needs better capacity, or better power. In the past people have often focused on improving power without any effort to look at the capacities. To summarise: your aerobic and anaerobic capacity is the size of your engine, and the power is how much of that engine can you use.
We often see in practice that you can never improve power and capacity at the same time. You always have to plan in advance when the best time to improve capacities would be, and when you focus on power in preparation for racing. Capacity is for training and power is for racing. To achieve that high speed you should work at very short efforts so as not to lose speed.
For example in swimming, doing 9 x m and have all even repetitions as the first 50m high speed, the rest all being easy. This speed is higher than your vV02max.
But a lot of other mitochondria need more intensive work to be involved in the development of aerobic capacity. This can be translated to rowing, cycling, running and other sports. If you want to use the same exercise 9 x m for power development, you would split it to 3 x 3 x m.
After the 3 x m you can take a longer rest of minutes, and you then repeat the block again at the highest possible average speed. You have to look for the intensity that you can maintain during the whole exercise. This is often described as VO2max training or threshold training, but these are all power exercises, they are not about capacity. A classic V02max workout of 8 x 2 minutes - e. Anaerobic capacity is about producing lactate and pyrovate and this is the glycolysis - this is the main providor of fuel for your oxygen system.
If you are not able to produce enough pyrovate, it would force the aerobic system to not develop and you would have to find this fuel from other sources such as fats, or ketones. If your anaerobic capacity is not strong enough, that will cause problems with developing your aerobic capacity. You cannot split them, they are working together. In short distance your VLAmax can be high and you will still perform well.
It needs to be strong enough to enable the aerobic metabolism to improve and grow. Related listening Developing capacities and power for long distance triathletes - This is difficult to answer because the response to a training exercise designed to improve aerobic and anaerobic capacity can differ significantly from one athlete to another.
With lactate testing we are measuring the response time to made a good estimation in the planning of how much time we need to spend in capacity or in power.
We want to identify how much training time must be aerobic or anaerobic focused. The rest of the sessions that week would be at a very low, easy pace. For the same athlete in the competition phase, two to three weeks out from the race, you should replace these sessions more to threshold work when you maintain moderate speed for longer periods.
If you do this once as week as a amateur that will be enough. Most triathletes are doing too much quality work. If you do too much at moderate intensity, you are always triggering development in the aerobic power area. Doing too much work in this area means you lose a lot of your aerobic capacity - you will lose capacity of your engine.
You want the highest usable oxygen uptake during the race. People who do triathlon usually like to work for a long time, so most of the time their motivation is to go as fast as possible for a long period. This involves doing weeks and increasing the volume, then replacing aerobic capacity training with aerobic power training as you get near the race. You will train more and more threshold work and your volume will increase.
They will then take between This means that volume increase in the competition preparation mainly occurs in running and cycling, but not as much in swimming. We also combine disciplines in the training phase, which is very different to the build phase. You never make a combination of goals across disciplines within one week. The total run volume would be around km and the cycling volume around km. The principles are the same for Olympic vs Ironman athlete but the actual numbers may differ.
Long distance athletes need a very economic base. The differences will not be estimated or defined by the distance, but more by the properties of the conditioning profile. If you have really poor capacities you should be very careful with your training or you break the engine. Training adaptation is always first breaking something to trigger the body to build up - it is described as super-compensation. If you never give the body the chance to super-compensate because you are always breaking it, you will just be broken.
To have the highest return of your training load you have to look for enough opportunity to super-compensate. Easy running, cycling and swimming are triggers for super-compensation. Case studies: Luc and Frederik van Lierde - For Luc, running during the year was max about 40km a week, and there was only one quality workout in running when the week was really built for improving aerobic capacity in running.
In the preparation weeks he would up his mileage to km per week. For cycling it was around km per week in the build phase, and in the competition preparation phase it went to km per week. The competition prep phase is only weeks per year. Luc came from swimming so his swimming volume was relatively high because he was able to tolerate it. This is why we do lactate testing.
Using lactate testing - we use the lactate values as input values for simulation models. These models allow us to define and describe the muscle characteristics which give us much more reliable information about capacity and power. Sometimes we might see that an athlete has an incremental improvement in power not capacity when we train capacity.
We then know that something is wrong between the communication of the training plan and the reaction of the athlete. We test athletes across years and can then see how well or how bad they respond to certain types of training.
You can sometimes then see that doing one anaerobic exercise session a month is enough to keep their anaerobic capacity at an acceptable level. If you do more you could see that you expend more energy for no improvement. For other athletes maybe they need once a week anaerobic capacity is needed to have a response.
You can then adjust the training programme accordingly. There are some general rules which you can find in my book, and the exercises described above are examples, but there are still very individual characteristics.
With the top athletes we need an interval of 6 weeks between lactate testing. We also work with a mesocycle - a combination of a time period where you train hard and then you combine that with the next period where you do very little to allow super-compensation.
The working phase and super-compensation phase forms one mesocycle. In the working phase you do more than you feel able, but the recovery phase is easy with not too high volume.
For very low level athletes, we work with one week of training one week of recovery. In our research we found that a certain lactate level is not a good reference for training intensity. If you work with two athletes and you give them a training set and instructions to do it on the same lactate level you will find the impact of this will be totally different.
It is important to have an estimation of what impact a certain lactate level training can be expected on the organism. This is a more difficult component in a training evaluation. You have no idea how strong the engine is - e. We use lactate values and enter them into a simulation program which projects different levels of capacities to explain performance.
Based on that estimation you can say a lot more about what is going on. This is important for planning the training. We have an example of two Olympic 10k runners who prepared for Seol.
The Science of Winning