Food = Energy

Food = Energy

Thursday, August 20, 2015

4 Workouts/Ways to Combat Lactic Acid's Awesome Power

Okay, so here's the post I've been telling you will come. 

Have you ever worked out to the point where you started to feel a slight burning sensation in any part of your arms or legs? Well, the sensation--that burn--is coinciding with an increase in lactic acid production (the burning feeling actually comes from micro tears caused during hard runs, which in turn cause lactic acid to be produced). When your body is not getting a sufficient amount of oxygen, lactic acid starts to build up. During harder workouts (think many quick reps or fast-paced workouts), this is exactly what happens. Your breath tends to become short or you may even hold your breath and this will speed up the amount of lactic acid that is building up. When this happens, your muscles feel like they are on fire and have turned into cement blocks all at the same time. There's much more science that goes into this if that wasn't obvious already. And here's another kicker: it's actually the byproduct of lactic acid, Hydrogen, that is to blame for your muscle fatigue, but the focus should still be on lactic acid.

This is where Aerobic (air) vs. Anaerobic (without air) comes in. Aerobic workouts mean that the individual is getting enough air or oxygen to sustain their exercise. So, generally speaking, these are your long slow runs, your morning jogs, or even just your daily or weekly 5 miler at an easy pace. In an anaerobic workout, a person is not getting enough oxygen and so lactic acid starts to build up during these exercises or when your body starts to go anaerobic..."Wait. When my body starts to go anaerobic? It can do that?" Yes! You can start out a workout at a good moderate pace, and you'd be using your aerobic system. But when you pick it up during a speed session or even throwing in some sprints on the road or trail, you are switching your run to anaerobic, when your heart rate increases and your oxygen intake lessens, producing lactic acid at a quicker rate.

"So then, That Vegan Runner, do I just not run fast paces so that I don't have to slow down or stop during a workout?Q1" The short answer is a resounding, "No," but the long answer involves what you should do instead and why you should do them (this reason will certainly repeat). I was recently asked the following question: "How can I run a faster 10 mile run? Q2" (Hmm..this certainly sounds like a good blog post for next week!). My response, in short, was to focus on shorter, faster runs and not worrying too much about nearing that 10 mile mileage point. So the answer to both Q1 & Q2 is to incorporate harder, generally more fast-paced efforts or entire runs on a weekly basis (could be slightly more or less--all depends on your goals and fitness level).

So, and in no particular order, here are the... 

4 Workouts to Combat Lactic Acid's Awesome Power (or, in other words, " prevent Lactic Acid from slowing you down")

#1 Tempo runs/Lactate Threshold Runs
I do these workouts a lot and you've probably heard of them before, but while they may be used interchangeably it should be noted that a tempo run is a popular type of lactate threshold run.

When your body gets to the point where shortness of breath starts to kick in and your muscles are getting heavier, you have likely reached your lactate threshold. When you reach this point you are now running anaerobically which is much more difficult to maintain. If you "go" anaerobic in the last mile of a 5k or even a 10k, this is okay, but when you're trying to complete a training run or a longer-distance race, you don't want to be running beyond the threshold (anaerobically) for too long.

Lactate threshold (LT) running is at a pace that is faster or harder than your regular easy run pace, but slower than your 5k or 10k race pace. So if you're 5k pace is 7:30 a mile, your threshold pace may be around 7:45-8:15 pace (depending on fitness and training). Threshold pace is a pace you can probably hold for 20 or 30 minutes and the mileage or amount of time you run a threshold run really depends on your training and goals, but generally you should shoot for at minimum 2-3 miles at threshold pace, far more though if you are training for a half-marathon or marathon. Threshold runs are a great way to gain aerobic fitness and are great runs for all race distances. 

Tempo runs are slightly different in that they are generally longer. Same concept can be applied, but where a tempo run is generally focused on running at LT pace for a longer period of time. Still, if you are running at LT pace and say to your friend, you ran a tempo run, you aren't wrong and same if you ran a tempo run and said you ran a LT run. It's just semantics!

#2 Fartleks
Yes...the word "Fart" is in there. Get your laughs out now people. Fartleks are probably my favorite on this list. "Fartlek" means "speed play" in Swedish and it really is just that: pure fun that can be completed anywhere. Track. Trail. Road. Waterfront esplanade (Gotta love Portland). They are an incredibly versatile run that can be either distance based or time based and you set these marks! 

Let me explain: 
For a distance-based fartlek workout on a track, you can decide that, after properly warming up, you will run the curves at a moderate pace and you will run the straightaways at a harder (even slightly so) effort and continue that alternating for x number of minutes or miles. On any other type of ground, you can have the distance at which you alternate be a city block; a coffee shop to coffee shop; tree to light signal; etc. That's what I mean by they are fun! You set the rules. The key is that you are alternating between moderate effort and fast efforts without walking or stopping. So while you are running that 45 seconds or that 100 meters at a faster pace, you are switching to anaerobic and your body is producing lactic acid. Then you slow down slightly and start to catch your breath, but that lactic acid hasn't gone anywhere and so after your moderate pace time or distance is up, you're back at the faster pace, forcing your legs to run while they are being filled with lactic acid. (This is where the repetition comes in...)This is getting your legs used to "running (while) heavy" and so when this happens during your next 5K, 10 miler, or half-marathon, 1) You won't feel the effects of lactic acid build up as early on and 2) you are more accustomed to the feeling when your body does start to accumulate lactate and can sustain a longer mental push.

Just an example I found online of a possible Fartlek workout.

#3 Long Run-fast finish 
I LOVE the long run. I get some pretty great thinking done during these hours on the road and see some pretty great sights as well. No matter what kind of runner you are, you should be incorporating a long run at least once every 2 weeks, but once a week I think is the better option (Yes..I will write a post about the long run in the near future!). It's important to note here that one person's long run isn't necessarily the next person's long run. During my first 2 years of undergrad, I would have said that a 7 miler was my long run (I actually have said this before), but fast-forward to the present and a long run for me is usually 17+ miles. Again, it all depends on you and your fitness level. So what is a "Long Run- fast finish" and why should you do it? 

Marathon coaches and runners will likely tell you that it's not just about getting close to marathon mileage in your long run. Sure, that will get your body and legs used to running for 20 miles or so, but what about those of us who have a time goal in mind? After the 18-20 mile mark of the marathon or even the 8-10 mile mark of the half-marathon, the race takes on a whole other level that can significantly cause you to slow down your pace. You may have experienced this in a race before. You're cruising along at your goal 8 minute pace, feeling good, when suddenly at some point past the halfway mark, it all starts to fall apart for you. This can happen for a number of reasons, but one of them is that your body reached its lactate threshold, the point at which lactic acid is building up faster oxygen is coming in and reaching deep (so shallow breaths don't count). 

So let's say 10 miles is your long run. What you can do to fight back against Lactic Acid (although lactic acid really gets a bad rap and is actually quite vital for exercise), is run the last several miles at a quicker pace, closer to goal pace. So during the first week you try this, you may try to run mile 9 and 10 at closer to goal pace (this won't be easy after 8 miles of a slower pace) and then during the 2nd week you may try to run the last 3 miles at closer to goal pace. Don't try for running the entire run at goal pace or else you're looking at burnout and a longer recovery period needed, but doing this kind of long-run variation will certainly get those legs used to keeping a hard-effort pace even after running for so many miles. 

#4 Hills
The dreaded "H" word. If you ran cross country, track, or played certain sports in high school, you probably just cringed when you read what #4 was. But as exhausting and relentless as hills are, they are immensely valuable to the runner. Depending on the grade (incline or slope) of the hill, lactic acid can almost immediately start to build-up as your breathing becomes shortened. Why does breath become short so quickly when running up a hill? This is because your muscles need oxygen to function properly and when you are running up a hill, you are requiring many more muscles to be functioning all at once, all demanding an increase in oxygen levels which just isn't there. So lactic acid builds up quickly and your legs and lungs are searing by the time you get to the top or finish your set. This is why hills are a fantastic way to prep the body for better utilizing lactic acid and mitigating its effects to slow you down, in addition to building lower body strength.

Difficult to tell but this is me the other day running hill repeats. And snapping shots for RUNA Energy. I've been taken on as RUNA Tribe member which I am very, very happy about! 

When running up a fairly steep hill or doing hill repeats (generally on a shorter hill, but longer hills work too), your body is producing lactic acid as we discussed. When you get to the top, you gasp for air and almost immediately start to feel life back in your legs. Well that lactic acid is still there and you are either running further out or running back down the hill to repeat this process. Continuing that run after the hill climb is what is vitally important to get the benefits of hill running. Just like with fartleks, you are forcing your legs to continue moving you even after lactate threshold has been reached and your legs are filling up. When you run back down the hill or when you continue your run after the successful climb, you're legs are getting used to running when heavy and using the lactic acid as a sort of fuel. If you are doing repeats (I advise this and I do them regularly, too), you are really teaching your body to adapt to deal with the ever-present lactic acid levels. The added bonus here is that if your race or new route has hills to climb and descend, you have much more leg strength, mental strength, and overall capability to get you through the section. But with hill climbs and descends, remember: posture is important (and here we find a 3rd idea for a near-future blog post).

What are some foods that can help you recover and/or help with energy production on a daily basis, but especially while running?

B Vitamins: B vitamins help transport glucose (energy source) around the body and green leafy vegetables peas, and beans are all great sources of these essential vitamins.

Magnesium: A required component in energy production, specifically ATP--your body's energy currency! Swiss chard, spinach, collard greens, and green beans; legumes like navy beans, pinto beans, kidney beans and lima beans; and pumpkin, sesame and sunflower seeds are all high in magnesium. Oh and tofu is pretty rich in magnesium as well as are other soy products (soybeans, tempeh, etc.)

 Swiss Chard

Fatty Acids: These help your body break down glucose which is necessary for energy production. Where to get them at higher levels (vegan sources): avocados, nuts,and seeds (hemp and flax especially).
 Flax seeds

Other ways to speed up recovery:

 This is a common strategy and while your legs may feel better after a period of elevating them after a workout, there is no scientific evidence that supports this strategy. Still, there is no scientific evidence that says Not to do it!

Slow jog after a run (the cool down) and a short period of walking are your best bets. And stay active throughout the day. Your legs may deserve a rest after a hard run, but that doesn't mean lounge on the couch for the next 8 hours. This will actually slow down your recovery considerably as blood flow and thus transportation of oxygen and other nutrients will slow.

Proper nutrition: Don't eat junk food all day despite your incredible achievements. At least...don't eat junk food if you desire a speedy recovery or are running again the next day or doing anything active. Proper intake of protein to repair muscle damage and carbohydrates to replenish glycogen stores is essential for proper recovery.

Sufficient sleep: The harder the effort, the more rest and sleep is needed. Don't expect to keep on going in override mode if you don't give your body the proper rest it needs to sustain such efforts. I definitely need to take my own advice when it comes to sleep...Val can attest to this.

Alright well, that's all folks! It's quite long but I hope you got something out of today's post.

Happy Running!!

No comments:

Post a Comment