Problems of Lactate Testing Posted on February 17, 2018

By Rameshon

As soon as I got credible results in training when I was in Catholic High School in year 1995, for National Schools Cross Country and Track and Field Championships, I was asked to assist Institute of Technical Education (ITE) in Track and Field, by my friend. Actually, I trained ITE and the boy also. He was about 17 years of age. He was not gifted but he was willing to work very hard. 


Picture 1 – Early success in Catholic High School

I realised that, Alson, was very dedicated. He could not come in top twenty for any men senior race or junior races for local categories. However, he was doing well in training. It was just that his psychology for races was not that good as he had mental blocks as he was not performing like other top runners in races. However, from a time of sub-4 hours, around 3hr 55min, he started bringing his time down, when he was training with me.

Alson brought his time down to 3hr 15min. He was featured for his very good performance in marathon. As I was myself training very seriously then, I asked him to run with a friend of mine, who was has doctorate  for PE studies. Alson was very happy to train with my friend. I was broad minded in this. Over time, the former was tested scientifically. I was told that he had overtrained himself. Alson told me that he was advised to change the training. There were lactate testing, and also on other Physiological parameters testing as well. Training was significantly curtailed and he kept training. As my nature was not to get attached to any particular runner, in the past, unless they want to stay with me and seek more assistance, I told,” Why not you train with the Dr …..and get better as I come to know from you that you have overtrained.” 

Over time, with permission granted, Alson kept training with the Doctor and one day, he asked me to take him back for training. He told me that two years have passed and he did not see any improvement. I did not want to hear this but I was perplexed. His performance was free falling. At that  time, it was also not an easy phase in my life. (As I could reflect back, during my running days, I was able to smile more. It was when I don’t run, I do not smile more). I was not running much as I had used to. I was also happy that the Doctor came in handy to take over me and there was a smooth transition in coaching. However, Alson’s several years of training did not bear fruit as I feel that there is problem in lactate testing, actually. 

It is not an easy process and it takes time. Not all results take you far in performance. Some changes in training can actually give you a free fall in performance. For initial stages in training, actually, best results in training actually comes from supposition deduced by % Heart Rate from Maximum Heart Rate, a  good indicator for training intensity. This helps performance in the long run. Hence, not all lactate will lead to improvement and it is not easy. Lactate testing should come when a runner attains great success and there is a need to have additional variables to aid training, with support coming from the Sports authority. In world class performance, actually the lactate testing can come when one wants to go below 2hr 16min etc, which is around Olympic A category kind  of performance. This makes sense. Lactate testing has two methods, invasive and non-invasive. For invasive method, one uses the blood for testing. for non-invasive other methods are used, predominantly the sweat. There are pros and cons for the two methods. 

The next case, Khoo Chin Poo, is on my list to talk about whether lactate testing is good or not, it is good for me to bring up on another runner by the name of Khoo Chin Poo. He was training for 2003 Vietnam SEA Games, after getting 2hr 41min in an international Marathon race. I was told by James Mayo, former Singapore Amateur Athletics Association coach that Khoo’s lactate was high, although the latter found that the lactate was bearable, and that he could hold on to a higher %Heart Rate maximum also. Khoo told me about this and again, as my nature as been one of non attachment to any runner, I told that it was his choice to go and improve. 

However, one day, Khoo came back to me as he found the the pace of intensity that he needed to do was like 1min 40sec, for 400m x 30. He told me that in the past, he could do like 1min 15sec  per 400m lap. His time got worse over time to the point that he requested me to take him inside the fold of my group of runners. Khoo was just lucky that I was coaching the Hwa Chong Team then. I realised that several months have passed and Khoo may not be ready for SEA Games in Vietnam. I took him back and he did 2hr 39min for the South East Asian Marathon race in year 2003. 

From there, I realised that lactate testing can take time and it can go wrong. As a person uses % Heart Rate intensity, and bring the time significantly, to a much faster time, the next solution should be to involve the lactate acid system. Till then, there is this believe that lactate testing takes more time and can thus affect the training programme greatly sometimes etc. and it is wise to focus on % heart rate maximum for training for the time being, until one gets much faster. 

Edited By Tan Mariviv


About the author. His qualifications are as follows :-

(Degree in PE and Sports Science, Loughborough University, 1992 -1994)

(Masters in Education – University of Western Australia, 2005 to 2008)