Putting It All Together
Now that you’ve learned how mitochondria work and how they can benefit you as a runner, how does this relate to the “backlog of fitness” theory mentioned earlier?
The backlog of fitness concept is a result of the micro and macro development of mitochondria. As we’ve seen, on the micro level, mitochondria density peaks at 8-12 weeks of training. Likewise, the positive adaptations to mitochondria you realize from training get smaller and smaller each week. Therefore, at some point within the micro cycle of training, you’re going to stagnate mitochondria development, which is the most crucial component of training. However, you can still improve your running economy, VO2max and lactate threshold, which enables you to run workouts that exceed your marathon ability or readiness.
Luckily, mitochondria development from the macro level never ceases. Each training cycle you complete enables you to develop a greater volume of mitochondria. So, during the next marathon training cycle you tackle, you’ll still be limited to the same relative gains in regard to mitochondria development, but this time you’ll have a greater total number of mitochondria, which means you’ll be better able to capitalize on your fitness on race day.
Don’t get frustrated when you have a difficult time translating the vast improvement in your workout times to your upcoming race. Sometimes, a race that is good but still a little under your expectations is just a sign that you reached a peak at the micro level. However, you’ll be able to carry those benefits over to your next training cycle and realize effects of all the hard work you put in further down the road.
Dudley, G. A., Abraham, W. M., & Terjung, R. L. (1982). Influence of exercise intensity and duration on biochemical adaptations in skeletal muscle. Journal Of Applied Physiology, 53(4), 844-850.
Fitts, R., Booth, F., Winder, W., & Holloszy, J. (1975). Skeletal muscle respiratory capacity, endurance, and glycogen utilization. The American Journal Of Physiology, 228(4), 1029-1033.
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