The move I love to hate: Olympic speed skater Mia Kilburg's lactate threshold workout
Helping the U.S. women's speedskating team bring home its first Olympic medal in 16 years at Pyeongchang was just a day in the life of Mia Kilburg (née Manganello). After bringing home the bronze, she "rode high for a little while" on a wave of publicity and general good vibes while also "keeping an eye on fitness."
This meant reintroducing another top-level sport to her repertoire.
The 28-year-old Florida native decided to jump back into her pro cycling saddle. While she's hardly new to finding high speeds on two wheels, it had been a couple of years since she'd signed up for a major competition. That is, until she entered the 2018 Colorado Classic, a four-stage cycling race -- one of the toughest cycling competitions on the calendar -- starting on Thursday in Denver and Vail, Colorado.
"I knew it was a bit ambitious to choose the Colorado Classic as my first one back. I'm going into it with two months of training compared to everyone else who has been racing all season," Kilburg says. "But I'm stubborn."
One "move" that Kilburg believes helped her win bronze on the ice and that will also help her "hopefully not get dropped" in the Colorado Classic is a lactate threshold workout. She says that cycling and speedskating are surprisingly synergetic activities when it comes to competing against the best in the world, but she names this particular training regimen as instrumental in taking her to the next level.
The move: Lactate threshold workout
How to do it: In skating, we don't train for hours and hours like you do on a bike, so all the workouts are pretty intense. Which makes sense because we race on a 400-meter track. For this workout, you skate individually to make it that much harder. It's seven and a half laps -- 3,000 meters. You skate four laps at a moderate pace, a bit slower than your race pace. You take one lap off, then do two laps at race pace, which would end up being two seconds faster than the four-lapper. You'd do it at 28- to 29-second laps, so it was building your lactate threshold [defined as the intensity of exercise at which lactate begins to accumulate] at the end of the interval. We'd duplicate this four times in a workout. At the end, you're attempting to go even faster than you'd even need to in your race. It's a matter of mental over physical, to get the feel of the strain against your legs and lungs, to push against those last two laps.
When I do it: Once a week, every week for four months, on top of all the other workouts during the week. It was something we mostly did before a rest or recovery day.
Why I do it: Having that tension in your legs, trying to push over the limit is what gets you to that next level in your race. For skating, it's quad- and glute-dominated, not that you can feel anything. Skating is all power. It's also good for a crit or cycle race, especially for the stop-and-go sensation. You stop and your muscles fill up and you have to build up again even faster. When I started these, I'd constantly think back to a bike workout, where you suffer for hours at a time. My longest race on ice was four minutes. I figured I could do anything for four minutes.
Why it's so killer: Your legs are blowing up with lactic acid. If you stay down, you could continue on, but it's the stop and restart that kills you. Your legs go numb. It feels like you could pop them with a needle. They're hard as a rock, like balloons about to pop. You have to get yourself down in that position and tell yourself you're capable. That's what you need to go further. I always tell myself, "Make it hurt."