Pushing our bodies to their extreme and “red lining” is often what it takes to win. But finding out where exactly our limit for maximum intensity exists is no easy task. It takes training, measurement, and an understanding of our body to effectively find and push the limits of our endurance. Given how difficult, yet important, this task is for unlocking our fullest potential - we turned to the experts. We asked our own Coach Justin from Archangel Fitness to share his thoughts and a simple set of workouts to help Megaton Nation train for their next event.
Many sports require pushing our bodies to “red line” and performing at maximum intensity. Elite athletes competing in sports from Crossfit to Sprint Triathlons have mastered toeing the line between going “all out” and pushing into catastrophic exhaustion. Doing so effectively requires knowing your body exceptionally well. After all, we wouldn’t call it “red lining” if our body was capable of sustaining that level of exertion for very long.
The first step is understanding what’s happening in your body to perform at this level of exertion. For endurance athletes (typically anything over 90 minutes) the key is utilizing the fat that our body stores as a key source of energy.
Side note: luckily for Megaton fans… coffee has actually been shown to increase our bodies of utilization of fat store. Not only does caffeine give us a mental boost, but it helps us tap into our fat stores as well.
For most athletes our body typically has about 90 minutes of carbs (in the form of liver glycogen stores) saved up. Thus, when our events stretch past 90 minutes, we will need to add additional nutrition to our bodies along the way.
The key within the first 90 minutes of exertion is to use our body’s stored energy as efficiently as possible. So how do I do that?
The answer is to find your “red line” of exertion. There are different ways of knowing where this is at. I recommend the following three tests based on the sport you are training for:
- Runners: 30-minute threshold pace test
- Swimmers: Use a 1000m swim to determine critical swim speed
- Cyclists: Functional Threshold Power test
Once you have this redline defined, now it's time to push the limits.
Whatever your flavor, running, cycling, swimming, or Crossfit – the theory is the same. You need to train right at, or over, this limit for short periods of time, then back off just a little so your body can recover.
The idea is to push your body just slightly harder than it is capable of keeping up with disposing of metabolic waste or lactic acid. After you have run that red line for 2, 3, or maybe 4 minutes, back it off, let your body catch up, process that metabolic waste and recharge.
This type of training utilizes our ATP-PC energy system. The ATP-PC system (Andenosine Triphosphate or Phosphate Creatine) is the energy system that provides our explosive power. This system works for about 2-20 seconds before our body switches over the glycolytic, or carb burning, system.
After an appropriate rest period, you go at it again and push the red line before backing off. This is a difficult method of training and the stress will build quickly, so starting off with these types of workouts should be slow.
One of my favorite workouts is the 400m repeat. Anytime I work with a new client or refocus my own training I start with 4 x 400m repeats with 90 seconds of rest in between. Over time, as I see the last 400m becoming easier I add 1 or 2 more 400m sprints until I hit a max of 10 x 400m. Once I reach that number, I increase the distance. I move to 4 x 800m and follow the same process.
Sprint Triathlons are my personal favorite. (Maybe its because you suffer from the first stroke in the swim to the last stride on the run). I’ve learned that you have to train specifically for sprints if you want to stand on that podium.
Pro tip: I schedule my race season out so that I do my Sprints early in the year and then progress on to Long Course Training because it's very difficult to train for both simultaneously.
To train for these sprint style races I employ as much cross training as possible. I do short fast runs, high wattage bikes, and just push myself to vomit in the pool. I take the three sports, swim, bike, and run, and find 2 exercises for each and do an AMRAP (As Many Rounds As Possible) Style Workout. Here is an example of such a workout.
- Weighted Pull-Ups x 10
- Weighted Push-Ups x 10
- Weighted Sled Drag x 25m
- Deadlift x 10 @ 80% 1RM
- Double Unders x 35
- 300m Shuttle Sprint
I do this work out for 10 minutes, rest for 3 minutes, rinse and repeat for a total of 4 times.
With these techniques you can not only train your triathlon specific muscle groups, but you can learn to find and push your red line… which is a major step in performing at your maximum potential.