The anaerobic threshold: what is it and how to calculate it | Health in the saddle
Your anaerobic threshold, that great unknown

Your anaerobic threshold, that great unknown


Determining your anaerobic threshold allows you to customise your training sessions, increasing aerobic capacity over time and improving stamina and performance.
Perhaps with the help of a “customised” saddle, chosen with the scientific idmatch measuring system by Selle Italia.

Inevitably all cyclists, of whatever level, sooner or later end up talking about and discussing their thresholds with their riding companions.

Everyone has their own opinions on the subject, and they never usually come to an agreement about how to calculate it, because the majority of enthusiasts have ideas on this topic that are rather confused and often based on incorrect theories.

As it happens, the issue is much simpler than it seems, so let’s try and clarify this important method of functional performance assessment.

The energy required by cycling is almost exclusively aerobic; that is, our body uses the oxygen we breath and conveys it to the muscles through the blood and allows them to work properly. We have all undoubtedly noticed that when our heart rate climbs with increased effort, our sense of fatigue also gradually goes up: this happens because, when the demands are too high, our muscles are no longer able to dispose of the lactic acid they produce. This is exactly what the anaerobic threshold is; we might call it our personal “engine capacity”, the “power” of our physique. In practice, this is the maximum limit beyond which the body produces more lactic acid than the blood is able to dispose of. At that point energy is produced without using oxygen any more, through glycogen, i.e. tapping the muscles’ energy reserves, and soon fatigue takes over and you end up suffering “acidosis” with muscle stiffness and cramps.

The way this mechanism works helps us to understand why knowing our anaerobic threshold represents a fundamental training parameter: managing to keep pedalling while staying just below that threshold allows us to maintain intense effort over longer periods, thereby increasing aerobic capacity over time and ultimately improving our stamina and performance.


How to calculate the anaerobic threshold

Once you understand the concept of the anaerobic threshold, how do you calculate your own?

There are a number of specific tests based on the analysis of stress tests; the most reliable of these is probably the lactate test, i.e. the removal of small amounts of blood after phases of physical effort with increasing intensity on a cycle ergometer for measuring the concentration of lactic acid.

An alternative developed in 1976 is the less precise but still widespread Conconi test; this is non-invasive and can also be performed on your own with the help of a heart rate monitor. The test involves measuring the changes in heart rate as the intensity of effort increases. In practice, if you transfer the speed and heart rate data onto a graph, you will notice a linear increase of the latter in proportion to speed up to a certain point where a deflection occurs: this indicates your anaerobic threshold.

Measuring your heart rate during exercise is now made easy, especially by the spread of heart rate monitors, and provides the basis for a well-known empirical and, all things considered, reliable method, which involves establishing your maximum rate by subtracting your own age from the standard value of 220; 90% of this value represents the rate corresponding to your anaerobic threshold.

An example: a 40-year-old cyclist will have a maximum frequency of 180 beats per minute (220 – 40), while his threshold rate will be 162 beats (90% of 180).

Knowing your own threshold values and learning to train by taking them into account, certainly helps to maximise pedalling efficiency, but you must remember that other factors are also important in achieving this goal: for example, your position on the bike and seating comfort. A more comfortable athlete is undoubtedly a more powerful athlete.
That’s why choosing the right saddle is a crucial factor for your well-being; even more so if the choice is made with the valid support of cutting-edge technology.

The innovative scientific idmatch measuring system, created by Selle Italia’s research team, allows you, for example, to find the size of saddle which is best suited to you. Thanks to a sophisticated digital gauge that automatically determines your ideal seating, in no time at all you can find the best solution for you in terms of comfort and performance.




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