What's Stopping You In Your Workouts?

Coach Brendan discusses what stops you during your workouts and how you can work towards improving your workout times!
Brendan Ziegler
June 9, 2023
What's Stopping You In Your Workouts?

What's Stopping You In Your Workouts?

You've probably felt it during most workouts. That burning sensation in your muscles that seems okay at first, but quickly stops you in your tracks. You WANT to keep pushing through it, but at a certain point, you simply can't anymore and you take a break. Why? What is it that limits your ability to keep going? And how can you train yourself to delay when you reach your stopping point?

Last week we discussed your 3 engines that you use to produce energy. This week, we're going to talk about how to use that information to improve your performances in workouts.

Lactic Acid

So, back to our questions above. What is it that's forcing you to take breaks during a workout? When it comes to that burning sensation in your muscles, it's lactic acid. Lactic acid is produced by our muscles during activity, and if too much of it get's produced at once, our body can't clear it fast enough and it forces us stop moving. Basically your body says, "hold up! We need more time before doing more work!"

Interval Training Is A Great Tool To Improve Your Lactate Threshold

We Use All 3 Pathways, But Likely Have A Favorite

Part of the brilliance of CrossFit is by varying our loads, reps and duration of workouts, we get exposed to all the different pathways. That doesn't mean we won't have a favorite one and avoid the others subconsciously though!

In a long steady state piece like the 20 minute distance test we're focusing on this month, you may have felt really good for the first 3-5 minutes minutes of it, but then started struggling and bit and around minute 7 really crashed. This is because you're likely very well conditioned in the first two pathways, the phosphocreatine and glycolytic pathways. Remember these are both anaerobic, meaning they don't need oxygen to create energy, but because of that, they're only using stored energy and therefore have a finite amount available before running out and needing you to rest so those stores can be replenished.

On the other hand, people who can seemingly move non-stop, but have a hard time with quick sprints and lifting heavy, likely are proficient in the oxidative pathway, but struggle in the first two mentioned before.

Improving Your Lactate Threshold

How do you train yourself to move faster, for longer periods of time without needing to rest? The answer is proper scaling, pacing and interval training. Let's look at an example WOD and discuss how each of these types of athletes could use it to improve on their weakness.

Next Tuesday we'll be doing 5 sets for distance of 1:00 fast pace, 2:00 recovery pace. The athlete who is better in the first 2 pathways is likely going to love this type of workout because it's what they normally do, short quick bursts of effort followed by a rest. The key for this athlete is to bring down their "fast" speed and increase their "recovery" speed to help train them to clear the lactic acid better. This athlete needs work on steady movement more than fast burst and slower recovery. This athlete also would benefit from choosing lighter weights and easier gymnastics scalings to do bigger sets and taking less rests in classic CrossFit workouts. Your ability to continue to move under heavy loads and fatigue is predicated on your ability to clear lactic acid from your muscles and you need a strong heart and lungs to do that! By slowing down the top end speed, and increasing the "recovery" speed, this athlete will push their baseline capacity up which will help them hold a faster pace for longer periods of time.

The other athlete, needs the opposite. By pushing the top end pace higher, they are getting into the phosphocreatine and glycolytic pathways. This increases their lactate threshold by teaching their body how to produce more lactate and use those energy systems better. This teaches their body to move at maximum speed and intensity, which will help them with lifting heavier weights and having a higher top end speed overall. This athlete should slow dramatically down during the recovery phase to allow a full recovery from the increased lactic acid to push harder for the full minute. By upping their tolerance for a faster top end speed, they too will be helping themselves hold a faster pace for the full 20 minutes once we test again. This athlete could also benefit from choosing heavier weights that force them to slow down a bit and take slightly longer breaks, and coming to more heavy days to increase their top end power output.

Progress Takes Time

Like anything else, you won't see a dramatic improvement after one workout. This will take months of conscious effort but you should notice slight improvements bit by bit. Over the coming weeks we will continue to work these types of intervals in various times and duration of efforts to slowly move the needle of our lactate threshold which will allow us to hold a slightly faster pace and improve our distance when we do it again at the end of June! Use the information you learn about yourself through this process though going forward to really see significant changes in the months to come!

-Coach Brendan

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