Learn more about The PEATS Program

Our spotlight is placed on a sport which sits under the umbrella of The PEATS Program.

spotlight on outrigger canoeing
This time we highlight outrigger canoe racing, you can learn more about how TPE Sports Coaching became involved with the sport and how Critical Speed testing became an important tool in The PEATS Program

Do you swim competitively? TPE Sports coaching can help you reach your goals. Read the first in a series of Sport-Specific Guidelines: Swimming.

swim eBook Our core eBook, Critical Speed and the Physiology of Training details the fundamental philosophy, components and strategies of The PEATS Program.
Swimming takes you to the next level of The PEATS Program




Critical Speed: physiology

kayak CTTAs mentioned previously, the testing procedures of The PEATS Program have been employed with many sports. They comprise the (a) Criterion Time Trials – CTT - to determine Critical Speed from two (or three) time trials over different distances; and (b) the Critical Speed Test – CST - which is conducted to validate the value of Critical Speed determined from the CTT. The CST is typically 6 x 5-minute repeats at Critical Speed with a short recovery interval. During this test, blood lactate measures are taken, and the typical response is that these measures achieve a steady-state, usually after the first 2-3 repeats of a procedure which requires 6 repeat efforts at Critical Speed.

It is tempting to call this the Maximal Lactate Steady-State (MLSS), but the testing procedures for this and for Critical Speed have an important difference: the CST requires a short interval (usually 1 minute) between repeats to enable blood sampling to be performed. On the other hand, MLSS testing conventionally employs a continuous procedure for 30 minutes, with sampling taken every 5 minutes. We developed the CST because it is generally not practical to take blood samples every 5 minutes of continuous activity in most sports: eg rowing or canoeing on-water, or say, skating, and for all sports in the field. However, we do believe that the lactate steady-state achieved at Critical Speed is very close to the MLSS, and our data plus the work of Wakayoshi and co-workers with swimmers would suggest that this is the case. That being said, a maximal velocity that is maintained for 30 minutes continuously would almost certainly be lower than one which is maintained for 6 blocks of 5 minutes, and hence Critical Speed as applied by The PEATS Program would be higher than MLSS velocity determined during a continuous swim of 30 minutes. Nevertheless, we have observed a steady-state in lactate values during the CST after many hundreds of testing procedures across a wide spectrum of sports and ability levels. This testing was conducted ‘in the field’ and served to provide athletes and coaches with data to employ in training program design rather than in a laboratory where so many variables are controlled, but which often remove some of the factors important in performance and its description. We could call the lactate profile during a validated CST the Critical Speed-SS or Critical Speed Steady-State, and it is observed in both lactate and heart rate values.

We are confident that the value of lactate at Critical Speed-SS has importance, particularly in sports where the sprint-----endurance continuum is relevant. For example, a fast twitch dominant athlete will perform better in the 50m freestyle event compared with the 1500m event, where a slow twitch dominant athlete generally prevails. We have seen repeatedly that slow twitch dominant athletes return a Critical Speed-SS that is low, generally below 3.5 mmol.L-1, and we have results for athletes between 2.0 and 2.5 mmol.L-1. On the other end of the scale, we have fast twitch dominant athletes registering Critical Speed-SS values as high as 13 mmol.L-1, and they are typically above 9mmol.L-1. Again, the prescription of the terms ‘fast-twitch dominant’ and ‘slow-twitch dominant’ has not been established by research, but is ‘anecdotal’ in nature, though there have been many, many observations of this during the time we have worked with this concept. These observations await formal research to establish their veracity, but for a coach with athletes in sports where different events demand a range of physiological attributes such as fibre type, the Critical Speed Test (with lactate measured) may provide a simple means for advising athletes in broad terms on event durations at which they may have some chance of success.  

Critical Speed is a velocity which is currently being defined as ‘the upper limit of a heavy exercise domain’ but it should be noted that it is one which is higher than the Lactate Threshold, (or LT), but below the intensity at which VO2max is observed (and hence it is not maximal. Nor is the blood lactate or heart rate responses to exercise at Critical Speed maximal, and exercise at intensities lower than Critical Speed will demonstrate that these two parameters will decrease when exercise is prolonged.
Perhaps one key physiological characteristic of Critical Speed (and Critical Power) is the well-documented relationship with several key determinants of endurance performance including VO2max, lactate threshold, anaerobic threshold (though this measure is no longer applied in most sports science situations). Several authors have examined the relationship between Critical Speed (or Critical Velocity) and performance during endurance events such as marathon and 2000m rowing, and have reported correlations which were higher for CS than with, for example, VO2max.

Many different physiological variables have been investigated in recent decades and their relationships with endurance performance capacity have been widely published. One significant drawback with many of these variables is the complexity of their measurement: most require testing to be performed in a specialist laboratory with specialist equipment not available to most ‘Weekend warriors’. The simplicity of the Critical Speed testing procedures employed by The PEATS Program enable it to be incorporated into most training programs very easily, and the data provide a means for monitoring training progress in both speed and endurance parameters.

You can incorporate Critical Speed into your own training plan. We cover how to do this in great detail in our eBook, Critical Speed and the Physiology of Training. Get your copy now!

NEXT: Critical Speed and the effects of training at Critical Speed