The sport has powerful effects on our health and well being . We started talking about it last week in part 1 Now I want to tell you how sport, a lifelong companion, as you read in my story , helps me face the journey from “If I stop it reaches me . In the last month I have started to train continuously and correctly, and the benefits have been immediate. But the story was born earlier, about ten years ago.
In the summer of 2010, stimulated by my friend Bobo Passirani, a multi-marathon runner, I decided that in the year of my fifties I would do my first marathon.
In those days I played tennis a couple of times a week, I ran occasionally without following any training schedule, just to have breath for the games. At that point, however, things changed.
Since the preparation of the first marathon I decided to entrust myself to a professional. At the age of fifty, starting to run 3/4 times a week without a criterion could lead to problems and injuries.
Then since 2014, when I started with triathlon, every year before starting the preparation I undergo the functional test for running, cycling and swimming.
With this practice it is possible to understand how the athlete’s body adapts to different intensities of physical effort. Specific tests measure the trend and variation of physiological parameters (heart rate, lactic acid concentration) during physical effort.
For endurance sports such as triathlon (swimming, cycling, running) the functional assessment to determine the limit values - also called ‘the thresholds’ (aerobic and anaerobic) – and the training rhythms is a fundamental step for a correct training planning and races.
The aerobic threshold (SA) is the level of intensity at which all the necessary energy is produced through the oxidative system. Up to this level there is a balance between production and disposal of lactic acid, so there is no accumulation. The energy substrate used are lipids, ie fats.
At intensities higher than that of SA there is an increase in the concentration of lactic acid (AL) in the blood without suffering a decrease in performance. The energy substrate, as the intensity increases, is enriched with carbohydrates because they can provide energy very quickly.
Increasing exercise intensity further brings you closer to the anaerobic threshold (SAN). It is that zone of intensity in which the intervention of the lactic acid anaerobic energy system begins (to make up for the amount of energy required, which the aerobic system cannot satisfy) and beyond which the possibility of disposing of lactic acid is totally lost and proceeds to the accumulation of the same in the muscles, with a decline in performance within a few minutes. The energy substrate are exclusively carbohydrates.
By convention, until a few years ago these zones were established at 2 mmol / l and 4mmol / l. Each individual is different from the other, even if only for the tolerance to lactic acid (due to the individuality of the composition of muscle fibers) and the presence of enzymes predisposed to its disposal.
The most recent scientific studies define these thresholds as “zones”. To date, with individual variations that the technician must know how to attribute, they have been rectified as follows:
Aerobic threshold between 2 and 2.5 mmol / l
Anaerobic threshold between 4 and 6 mmol / l
On a scientific level, different test protocols are recognized but only some, for practicality, repeatability and reliability of the results, are the most used.
In cycling, the use of power meters has completed the now accredited heart rate in relation to lactic acid.
In running, the union of heart rate and speed in relation to lactic acid have always maintained their validity, also today completed by the measurement of the thrust power on the ground thanks to the power meters at the foot.
In these last two disciplines, the Mader protocol with 4-minute steps with increases of 50watts on the cycle ergometer and 1-1.5km / h at 0.5% fixed incline on a treadmill are the most widespread, most practical and additional tests. accredited.
These tests will then be compared with “field” tests such as a 20min all out cycling uphill test to establish critical power and a repeated distance run test on the flat to establish critical pace.
Alberto, in my case, decided to opt for the following tests:
Differential 200m-100m to determine the maximum oxygen consumption pace (B2 pace code) for 100m and from which to calculate all the other paces.
Mader test on own bicycle with electronic cyclomine (certified 1% error of imposed power) starting from 50 watts and increments of 50 watts every 4min until reaching at least 4mmol / lt and a lactate delta> 1mmol / lt compared to the previous one withdrawal.
Followed by comparison tests with your own bicycle with power meter, on a regular climb, for a maximum of 20min possible.
Mader test on treadmill with fixed inclination 1%, starting at reduced speed, similar to that of warm-up and increase of 1km / h every 4min until reaching at least 4mmol / lt and a lactate delta> 1mmol / lt compared to the previous withdrawal.
Follows road tests over repeated distances to be established (2km, 3km …)
Once the data has been collected, the training rhythms of the individual disciplines are created (slow, long, medium, threshold, vo2max) and the training program customized for me.
How am I doing now?
In all endurance disciplines, the main parameters to be able to develop a performance worthy of being called such are the quantity, consistency and quality of training.
Let’s examine the last 2 years, through the data collected thanks to the Training Peaks platform. This application, widely used for sharing the multisport training program between athlete and trainer, provides the professional with all the data necessary to keep performance under control, allowing him to make changes and adjustments and to make detailed analytical assessments.
Together with Alberto we were able to notice that in 2019 I developed large training volumes and excellent performances, while in 2020, due to lack of competitions and goals due to Covid, I had a decrease in the general volume and I developed lower performances.
This is obviously also due to the advancement of the disease, which in the moments in which we let our guard down by decreasing physical activity, takes up more space.
Despite this, having done an important job on a bicycle to prepare for the trip to Rome, the overall performance capacity remained noteworthy. In fact, between 2019 and 2020 the power of Soglia, that is the ability to resist over time for an hour at a given power, on a bicycle, remained almost unchanged and this has also generated advantages in running, even if my perception it was of a much lower ease of travel.
What’s interesting is that cycling requires less coordination than running, as movement is constrained by the pedals. This ease can be useful for those who have important difficulties, it is true that stopping doing what we find difficult is a way to allow the disease to limit us, while continuing to strive even in the activities that are more difficult for us, can be a good way to combat advancing symptoms.
So with this conviction, what I decided to do to face 2021 with determination was to start over with greater commitment beyond the Covid19 situation, mentally setting myself important goals, without worrying about whether they will be confirmed or canceled.
It didn’t happen to train with the same commitment, determination and respect of the program, since June 2019 when, after six months of specific preparation for my first Medium Triathlon , I had suffered the experience of retiring in the first and only race that I did not bring complete.
The result was that, in 40 days of constant effort, I returned to running distances, which I could no longer run, from the 2019 New York marathon , without walking for a few hundred meters, to catch my breath, at most every 2 km.
Yesterday I ran for 16 km without stopping and I’m really happy about this. How did I do it?
I started from scratch starting from a functional evaluation that redefined the new starting point.
This allowed me to free myself from the idea that I had to run at my own speeds. Instead, in starting from scratch, I slowly found the ease of running that I thought I had lost forever, and with it also the confidence in myself and in the choices I made.