Lactate Threshold Heart-Rate Zone Testing Protocol

author : mikericci
comments : 1
  • More information on various heart-rate formulas.
  • BeginnerTriathlete Q&A on Heart Rate Zones.
  • Use BT's Heart-Rate Zone and Pace Logger.  See instructions.
  • RPE/HR zone converter (bottom of this page)

220-Age Misconceptions and Determining your Lactate Threshold

 

How many of you triathletes out there are using this formula? Put up your hand and admit it - I can't see you through cyber space :-)

If I read one more message that says the athlete is using this formula, I am going off the DEEP END! People, this is not correct. It may work, but chances are very slim it will work for you. Of course the 15 people that it works for will post that it does work - but my point is that for the MAJORITY, this formula of 220-AGE = MAX Heart Rate - DOES NOT WORK!

Your best bet is to get some lab testing done to find out your Lactate Threshold. If you don't have access to a lab for whatever reason (location or $) don't fret. We have 'field' tests that you can do and the only thing you need is you, your Heart Rate Monitor and some 3 D's: Desire, Determination, and Discipline.

 

Before You Perform a Field Test!

 

First and FOREMOST, before starting any exercise program, please get medical clearance from your Doctor - If you haven't exercised before in your life or in the past year, PLEASE let him/her know you will be exercising and that you would like to check back with them in a month, just to make sure that you are not doing damage to yourself. 
 
If you are new to exercise you WILL want to forgo the testing for a while (it is rigorous) to prevent any kind of injury but instead wear a heart rate monitor to 'observe' your HR at various points of exercise. For beginners, I have had them do as little as starting out with 5 minutes of walking - this may be as simple as one lap of track. Or I may have them start riding a recumbent bicycle in the gym, use the elliptical machine, or the Stair Master.

 

One way to observe your improvement in fitness is to watch to see how fast your HR comes down when you stop exercising. Time how long it takes your HR to drop about 20-30 beats as soon as you stop. When you first start exercising it may take over 3 minutes, but as you get more fit, it may drop as quick as 1 minute. Everyone will vary, everyone will have different HR's and don't get caught up "my friend can get their HR higher" type of competition. It's very rare to find someone who has the same HR as you! 
 
I hope this gives beginners a better understanding of starting a program.  Once you have been exercising for awhile at the testing duration frequently, then only should you perform these tests.

 

See also: New Triathlete: What to Use Instead of Lactate Threshold Testing for Heart Rate Zones

 

When to perform an LT field test to determine your zones?

 

New to endurance training
The 'Couch-to-Sprint' plan has no HR training or LT testing as of the above warnings.  If you are new to endurance type training, DO NOT perform these LT field tests until you are well into a plan.

 

Already have a base
If you are starting any of the other 'HR-based' plans and have been maintaining fitness upon starting (meaning the first week or two of the plan is no-problem as you have been training at those volumes already), then you can take the LT test to re-determine your zones at the beginning or a week or two into it. 

 

Coming off of a recent injury or less training
BUT if you are starting any of the HR-based plans after a few weeks off of training-or coming off of a recent injury, only do a LT test after you have gotten several weeks into the plan consistently so you can get a reliable measurement.

 

Other then that, the HR-based training plans will have LT testing noted periodically in the plans or you can do one every 4-6 weeks.

 

Field Test for the Bike and Run:

 

Determining Bike Training Zones 

 

In biking we want to know our heart rate training zones. To make this as easy as possible, we will use a standard 30 minute TT. From this TT we will be able to determine the correct training zones. I do advocate doing both an inside and outside LT tests.

 

Bike test protocol:

 

The warm-up is 15 minutes of cycling, moving through the different gears, always keeping the cadence above 90 RPMS. Do a few short sprints to get your heart rate up and ready for the test!

 

You should start out in a gear that you can maintain 90 RPMS in. Make sure you remember what gear you started in.

  • The 30 minute TT begins.
  • At 10 minutes into the test, hit the 'Lap' button on your heart rate monitor, to get the average heart rate over the final 20 minutes of the test.
  • The average for the final 20 minutes is your Lactate Threshold or LT.
  • You should finish knowing you gave it everything you had.

15 minutes easy cool down. 

--> Plug in the bike LT # from the above test into the BT Heart-rate zone calculator to get your training zones.

Determining Run Training Zones

In running want to know our heart rate training zones as well. To make this as easy as possible, we will use a standard 30 minute TT. From this TT we will be able to determine the correct training zones. This is best if done on a flat uninterrupted path or trail. 

Run test protocol: 

After a 15 minute warm-up of easy running, finish with a few quick 20 seconds bursts to get your heart rate in the correct training zone.

  • The 30 minute TT begins.
  • At 10 minutes into the test, hit the 'Lap' button on your heart rate monitor, to get the average heart rate over the final 20 minutes of the test.
  • The average for the final 20 minutes is your Lactate Threshold or LT.
  • You should finish knowing you gave it everything you had.

15 minutes easy cool down. 

--> Plug in the run LT # from the above test into the BT Heart-rate zone calculator to get your training zones.

 

Bike and run training efforts are based on heart rate zones and perceived exertion. For swimming we will use pacing, as it is difficult to determine heart rate zones in a pool. 

 

Determining Swimming Pace

 

In swimming we want to find out what our 'average pace per 100 (meter or yards)' is. In order to determine this number we can do a number of tests. The simplest test, in my opinion, is the 1,000 yard (or meter) Time Trial (TT). In the TT your goal is to swim a fairly hard effort for the entire distance. The key is to not slow down in the second half of the swim. It's best to start out at an effort that you can maintain by the end, but you must also be able to push yourself the whole way. You should finish knowing you gave it everything you had.

Swim test protocol:

 

300-500 yd warm up.

6-8 x 50 yds on 10 seconds rest.
1,000 yd TT.
300 easy cool down.

Example:
Johnny swims 17:45 for his 1,000 yd TT. This tells me Johnny's swim pace is 1:46 per 100/yds. His 1:46 is called his T-pace. Now that we have the T-pace of 1:46 we can create swim workouts adjusted to this pace. For example - a very hard set for Johnny might be 10x100 @T-5 seconds on 20 seconds rest. This would mean Johnny's goal is to swim the 100s at 1:41 pace. An easier set might be 10x100 @T+10 seconds on 30 seconds rest. Johnny's goal for the 100 is 1:56. Another set might be 10x100 T-pace on 10 seconds rest. This means Johnny's goal is to swim the 100 in 1:41.

As you can see there are many of variables and many workouts we can derive from that TT. It is recommended that you re-test your TT every 4-6 weeks.

What if I train indoors during the winter on a trainer?  Does it require a different LT test?

The best way to do a test for LT is to do the same as outside, unless you have a Compu trainer and then the test would be different. The key is to get a good warm up, do some sprints to get the HR up, and really work up a sweat before starting. Personally, I don't use a fan on the trainer either, and usually wear a long sleeve shirt. This helps me stay warm and get the HR up into the right zones.

Once you have the results, these are the HR numbers you'll use in your indoor workouts. 

RPE/HR Zone Chart

Z1 - Zone 1 or Recovery
Z2 - Zone 2 or Extensive endurance
Z3 - Zone 3 or Intensive endurance/muscular endurance
Z4 - Zone 4 or Sub-threshold
Z5a - Zone 5a or Threshold
Z5b- Zone 5b or Super-threshold
Z5c- Zone 5b or VO2 Max

 

RPE Zone HR ZoneDescription
0 Z1Complete Rest
1 Z1Very easy; light walking
2 Z1Very easy; light walking
3 Z1Very easy; walking
4 Z1Still easy, maybe starting to sweat
5 Z2Starting to work just a little and you can feel your HR rise
6 Z2 UpperWorking but sustainable, able to talk in full sentences
7 Z3Strong effort; breathing labored, but can still maintain pace for some minutes without slowing.
8 Z4Olympic Distance Race Pace for MOP to FOP
9 Z510k effort – very hard
10 Z5+Z5+ = 5k effort and Z5++ = cannot hold effort for more than a minute or two. (almost maximal effort)

 

MOP = Middle of the Pack
FOP = Front of the Pack

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date: June 4, 2006

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mikericci

Our coaching philosophy is to help you get the most out of your available training time. We don’t believe in junk mileage or useless workouts. We combine the most current research and triathlon training techniques with proven race strategies to help our athletes reach their goals.

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avatarmikericci

Our coaching philosophy is to help you get the most out of your available training time. We don’t believe in junk mileage or useless workouts. We combine the most current research and triathlon training techniques with proven race strategies to help our athletes reach their goals.

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