Mystery Zone

In 1997 the American College of Sports Medicine and the United States Olympic Committee held a joint meeting called Training and Competing in the Mystery Zone. The Mystery Zone was described as events lasting 1-5 minutes. Events in this zone require considerable anaerobic energy for success but many of the athletes training for these events spend a high percentage of their training time in aerobic workouts. This zone is called the Mystery Zone because strategies for training and competing in this time frame are not well understood. Why do events that are heavily anaerobic require mostly aerobic training?

A good but brief write up of the discussion at this meeting was done by Gordon Sleivert and can be found on the internet at

The Mystery Zone should probably be extended to 8 minutes or possibly longer because a case can be made that the anaerobic system is heavily involved for events within this time frame too. For example, rowing events and some running and speed skating events that last longer than 5 minutes generate high levels of lactate which indicates the heavy involvement of the anaerobic system. In fact the Mystery Zone should be extended to any event that takes place at an effort level above the lactate threshold. What we are looking at in these events is a gradual lowering of the pH in the muscle system to a point where the muscles can no longer function adequately. This point is reached very quickly in short events but for longer events it is reached at a more gradual rate. In many events it is only reached during the last 20-30 seconds when the athlete makes one last acceleration. (for example, nearly every 1500 m track race ends with a sprint during the last 150 - 200 m)

The mystery behind the Mystery Zone is demystified on the CD-ROM as it is explained why high aerobic capacity is essential for short events and why too much speed may be counter-productive for these short races.

Double Whammy

How many authors of training books or coaches stress the mix of energy from the aerobic and anaerobic system as an important training concept? Well, they should because every endurance athlete should be aware of the Double Whammy. Endurance athletes often use several types of training that reduce anaerobic capacity as a matter of course during their training. Some examples of training that lower anaerobic capacity are long slow distance and workouts near the lactate threshold.

This lowering of anaerobic capacity has two consequences which we call the Double Whammy and often leads to over-training.

First Consequence - lower anaerobic capacity leads to the utilization of the aerobic system more at every effort level while the aerobic system has not increased in capacity. This is the first whammy. The athlete is not training any harder but is in danger of over-training because he has changed the mixture of energy he is using during each workout.

Second Consequence - lower anaerobic capacity leads to less perceived stress at every effort level and most will assume that they are now stronger and can handle increased training loads. This is the second whammy. The athlete is in real danger of over-training because his over-confidence has led to increased training loads that he cannot handle. And when declines come from this over stress of the aerobic system, a typical reaction is to train harder.

The CD-ROM discusses in detail how the energy systems interact to cause this phenomenon and why the aerobic and anaerobic systems must be balanced for optimum training loads and a peak performance for important competitions.


Lactate Analyzer Information Home

Training and Testing Literature

Secrets of Lactate CD-ROM | The Science of Winning by Jan Olbrecht |

Ernie Maglischo book Swimming Fastest | Workshop Report |

Questions, Comments and Ordering Information:
1-800-462-2876 (U.S.A. and Canada)
1-914-747-8572 | 1-914 -741-5623 (fax)

Send email to:

Last update August 7, 2014 All contents © Sports Resource Group, Inc.