COMMENTS ON TRAINING CATEGORIES AND TRAINING PARAMETER VARIATIONS
Rick L. Sharp (personal communication 30 August, 1994)
"One problem with the traditional recommendations [classifications] is that one can never target and train one energy system exclusive of the others as implied in the charts, etc. Another weakness of the traditional approach is that very little was known about high intensity training at the time the recommendations were developed. Consequently, the recommendations were broad guesses at best, but because they appeared in textbooks, these recommendations had the deceptive attraction of truth.
The more recent approach of dividing intensity of training into categories (A1, A2, AT, etc.) has some merits and many devoted followers. However, as you have suggested, this approach has not been validated nor does the background research support such a system. . . . Even if 4 mM was the magic level at which everyone should train, one could never be certain if they were always at this level unless blood samples were taken often during the swims. This is because of the fact that we may do a test (e.g., 8 x 200 m) to find the 4 mM velocity, but when the swimmer swims at that interpolated pace during practice, blood lactate may be anywhere between 2 mM and 8 mM. This large range occurs because of dietary influence on blood lactate (a low carbohydrate diet decreases blood lactate concentration), day-to-day variations in the swimmer's stroke economy, differences in exercise and recovery durations between the testing set and training set, and perhaps mood state (anxiety may result in increased lactate accumulation). Why is there so little research on this problem? It also strikes me that day-to-day variation in the heart rate response is also quite large. Consequently, using a heart rate test to define categories would also be practically useless."
He then goes on to comment about the utility of training categories.
"It seemed to me that coaches and athletes would be better served by thinking of training in terms of physiological categories that clearly define the primary capacity that is stressed within a range of intensities, durations, and work:recovery ratios. I also felt that coaches should give consideration to the degree of residual stress that can be expected from these intensity ranges. . . . . This model [his Journal of Swimming Research article] has not been validated as a whole package, however, the individual categories have been. . . . The real question should be what produces the greatest performance gain in the largest percentage of the swimmers."
Implication. Training programs should be constructed to mainly target a category of energy stimulation recognizing that elements of other energy systems and response classifications will also be invoked but to a lesser degree. This more liberal interpretation of the employment of training classifications allows more swimmers to be stimulated roughly according to the intentions of the program. It reflects better what will occur and is possible in the real world of coaching swimming.
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