You may have heard Ryan referred to as “Bird”. At a big bike race years ago, his name was reported in the VeloNews on two occasions as “Ryan Littlebird”. Someone started calling him “Littlebird” and it eventually evolved into just “Bird”. Later on, in trying to come up with a catchy screenname, in a reference to that song that goes “bird-bird-bird, bird is the word” (Surfin’ Bird by the Trashmen), he came up with Word is Bird and it has stuck with him for nearly 20 years.
So why not start a weekly column called “Bird is the Word”. This week’s installment covers Ryan’s take on why Blood Lactate Testing is the preferred performance testing of choice for cyclists.
We often get asked why we use a blood lactate test rather than a twenty-minute test (or one of the other testing protocols) to determine lactate threshold and to structure training zones. We could just say “that is what the pros do” and that would probably be good enough. Works for them right? Really, there are a lot of good reasons for doing a blood lactate test.
First and foremost, a blood lactate test more accurately pinpoints the important physiological breaking point between the balance of lactate production and clearance. Using a twenty minute time trial as a test is physically challenging and mentally difficult. We’d prefer to use that hard effort for a training session rather than a testing session. In addition, poor pacing during a steady state test, going out too hard or making a hard push at the end, will lead to diluted numbers. In an effort to make the most of our training time and effort, accuracy is critical to help draw the line where we are doing enough work but not too much.
Second, a blood lactate test offers more insight than simply telling you your lactate threshold. The shape of the curve helps tell how your low, mid and high-end are trained. In addition, comparing lactate test results over a period of time (say monthly) will also tell the complete story on where progress is being made and where work still needs to be done. Since a lactate test is not a maximal effort, or even a 20 minute time trial, we can do them more frequently without impacting our overall training regime.
Blake Vatne is a seasoned pro. He has performed hundreds and hundreds of lactate tests. With a degree in Exercise Physiology from the University of Utah, he knows his stuff. To schedule a test with Blake, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.