Trainability of AeT, AnT, etc.

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  • #61198

    My understanding of VO2max is that it is generally accepted that your best number is genetically (and age and weight) determined. Training will get you close to it, but it maxes out relatively early in training maturity. Do we know much about the trainabilty of the other aerobic factors, like AeT and AnT? Can everybody get their AnT up to ~90% of the Max, and AeT <10% below the AnT with enough training, or are these limited person-to-person? I’ve seen those curves of fat and carb percentages as a function of HR or power relative to max, and how they vary between the well trained endurance athlete versus other categories. Do we know if the “well-trained endurance athlete curve” is achievable for everybody (albeit with a higher or lower max depending on genetic gifts) or if the structure of those curves are likewise individually limited? For example, can the person born with a lot of fast twitch train to emulate an elite endurance athlete in the curves, or will that person always pay for his/her gifts for non-endurance sports with less metabolic capability in the endurance regions?

    I’m interested in real quantitative measured results and what’s been learned from coaching substantial populations.

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    Anonymous on #61276

    You have asked some very good questions that show a solid understanding of the physiological aspects of endurance. I hope this information will be of use and interest.

    1) FT vs ST muscle fiber composition. It is much easier and with better results to turn a FT dominate athlete into a good endurance athlete than it is to turn a ST dominate person into a speed and power type. I have personally done this with nationally competitive athletes. They might not have had the genetic gifts to become world class but they were able to rise from rather mediocre results to national championships. Heikki Rusko did a longitudinal study of young Finnish Cross Country skiers who were engaged in high level training. Over the study duration for about 10 years he saw a significant increase in ST percentage. As far as I know this is the only longitudinal study like this on humans but many animal studies have been done with the same results.

    2) Here at Uphill Athlete we have coached hundreds of athletes with relatively poorly developed aerobic systems. Universally we see improvements in aerobic capacity as evidenced but increased pace at AeT. We have also had thousands of people apply our training methodology either by reading our books or buying one of our training plans. Every week we get several emails from this group telling us of their individual improvement in AeT pace. It is very common to see these increases be in the 20-30% range after 6 months to a year.

    3) Improvements in AeT pace in the submax effort levels used in long to ultra long duration events we cater to leads to a performance improvement. While a person with a very high maxVO2 will have greater capacity for hard work by virtue of having a an higher anaerobic threshold the performance benefit of this will be much less in these ultra long duration events than in, say a Cross Country ski race of 50km or less or 10km running race or VK where absolute max power will play a much bigger role in performance. In these ultra events other factors than maxVO2 weigh more heavily on performance

    In the end, for each individual, maxVO2 is irrelevant. It is what it is and there is very little you can do to change it. So focus your efforts on what you can change and most cases change by double digit improvements. As a reasonably fit adult you will never see double digit improvements in maxVO2 until you get old and then it will be double digit decreases!

    You might want to read this:

    I hope this helps.

    Seth Keena-Levin on #61287

    Given the way nature ‘works’ I’d bet there are some small portion of the population that legitimately can’t get AeT to within 10% of AnT or move MaxVO2 by any measurable amount but the population numbers are likely tiny. We’d have to capture more globally sourced information as well as wider demographics to be more sure… Granted, every individual’s metabolism responds at different rates but literally everyone we have worked with who has properly tried long enough* (proper training, testing, some diet changes, etc) has affected their metabolic curves in the direction benefitting their goal and it seems impossible most of these individuals are ‘gifted’.

    We have seen marked, and in some cases large (~doubling), increases in ability to sustain workload and intensity at lower heart rate using treadmill-based tests. “Seeing” this can be done in the lab, or on a treadmill using our testing protocol, or hiking/running up a test slope. Testing on terrain similar to one’s goal shows the intersection of one’s capacity for work specific to the terrain/equipment/environment AND the metabolic response to that work. These increases equally applies to the 95% of our coached athletes who do not start as well-trained as they do to the 5% who are well-trained. And, like the emails Scott mentioned, I would suspect the same would apply to those we coaches don’t see.

    Keep in mind that for some the initial goal, after testing and training for enough time, has needed to shift from it’s initial iteration based on response rate or limitations of other performance characteristics. Often we see change on the order of time; another year of endurance training is needed to be in shape for the 50mi run at a goal time, but the 30mi this year is more reasonable, etc. Further, targeting a singular metabolic goal, like only increasing pace at AeT and doing no work above AeT, can lead to declines in other characteristics like pace at AnT so that in the short term the structure of said metabolic curve might not look like the long-term goal metabolic curve. However, that is an easy fix with a relatively small amount of volume at high-intensity while maintaining an amount of base endurance volume.

    So, addressing the functionality and ‘trainability’ and ‘achievability’ in terms relevant to your goal, as well as joining onto Scott’s points; we have to look at the athlete holistically as well as the goals. Achieving a higher MaxVO2 for a 30mi run is very much less important than it is for the VK runner. We have seen positive responses to training stimulus, measured by AeT and AnT, for the functionally everyone who trained long enough, no matter their gifts.

    Great question!

    *6+ months of consistent training

    maiermw on #62317

    Thank you Scott and Seth. Very interesting answers. My takeaway is that you both believe that pace at AeT, and how long you can hold it, is ultimately the most important metric. And it can be improved for “large” amounts for pretty much everybody. Saying “everybody” with a population as diverse as humans would be a bad idea, but you view is that it is a very trainable attribute, and the one to ultimately focus on. So, if my pace at AeT gets better things are going well, and how well lab results approximate an idea is kind of interesting but is not getting to the core issue. The most important metric, pace at AeT and how long I can hold it, may get better even if the lab results are only an approximation of an ideal. Is that gisting it okay?

    AshRick on #62600

    Scott Molina, multi time world champion triathlete and now a coach, says…

    Training in the purely aerobic zone with consistency and volume gives you a 90% chance of reaching 90% of your potential.

    And that is better than most of us ever achieve.

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