Webinar Series 1 | The Science of Pacing For MTB, Cycling and Running

This podcast episode was the first one of a six part Webinar series. The topic for this episode is all about pacing; the what, the how, the why, and the nitty, gritty bits that you either might not know, or wanted to know more about.

Why does pacing matter?

As humans, we can only exercise at a high workload for a short amount of time. That kind of high power can be compared to a car's nitro boost / nitrous oxide (NOS). That super fast burst of speed could only be sustained by the car proportional on the amount of NOS that they have. When the car used up all of its' available NOS, the car will continue on its' normal speed because the NOS was an add-on in a sense to the car, and not their main fuel.

However, human bodies cannot sustain that speed, and will eventually need to slow down, maybe even stop, because of other factors not just the body's available energy fuel like fatigue, the heat, or the difficulty of the terrain of your sport.

Once a human body begins working above some sort of aerobic threshold (e.g. FTP, Critcial Power, Aerobic Threshold, etc.), it begins burning carbohydrates and thus accumulating byproducts of glycolytic metabolism. We can keep goin for a while, but eventually all the PCr is used up (in the case of a sprint), or we start to run out of carbohydrates.

Dr. Matt Miller also said:

"Once you get a good handle on pacing, no matter what your sport is, you started to get the most out of yourselves."

Pacing is important, in all kind of sports but mostly for endurance type of sports, because you wanted to maintain the level of your metabolic capacity in the most optimal level so that you can win. Aerobic energy expenditure can theoretically be maintained forever!

What kind of pacing strategies are there?

Dr. Will and Dr. Matt discussed six (6) common pacing strategies that you can utilized in your given sport.

  • Positive Pacing - In this type of pacing, you started with a high power outburst, and would eventually decline, and slow down as the activity goes on. This could be useful for any events that are under three (3) minutes.

  • Negative Pacing - This is the type of pacing where you started easy, and slow, then you would gradually speed up as you are nearing to the end of the race because you have the energy reserve.

  • Even-split Pacing - In this type of pacing, the athlete would try to run an "even" pace during the entire race. As seen in the graph, you would start gradually accelerating to a speed that would be your body's steady state where you can sustain t