Aerobic capacity, the amount of oxygen your muscles can use per minute, is commonly tracked to determine an endurance athlete’s potential. Runners, swimmers, cyclists and others incorporate aerobic capacity training goals because it is often used as an indicator of fitness.
But, not considering mental toughness, the best indicator of success in endurance events isn’t just how well your muscles can get the needed oxygen from your blood but it is also how high a percent of it you can sustain over a long period of time.
That is what sets the stage for one of two otherwise equally prepared athletes to outperform the other! It’s the key to winning competitions.
Lactic acid build up is what influences HOW LONG an athlete can perform without debilitating fatigue.
Lactic acid is what your muscles produce when you exercise. It is a normal waste product of metabolism which is easily removed in low-intensity exercise. But, with increased intensity, your muscles need more oxygen resulting in more lactic acid than your muscles and blood can remove. That acid buildup increases respiration and heart rate which contributes to the fatigue and the burning sensation known to sprinters.
Lactic acid buildup is what dictates how long you can exercise at top intensity.
Luckily, you can train your body to better process the lactic acid. High intensity interval training does that by triggering maximum lactic acid production so that your body can learn to eliminate and neutralize it better. For this to work, you need to exercise at a very high intensity for a short time followed by a very short rest. It’s best to work with a personal trainer if this is something you want to do.
For those who want more information, here is a more detailed explanation about lactic acid and exercise, including some interesting “old myths and new realities” about lactic acid.