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

author : mikericci
comments : 0

If you are just getting off the couch, chances are you aren’t in any shape for an all out 30 minute run or bike LT test. So, what should you do?

Member Question:

"I want to do the lactate threshold (LT) tests I've seen: 30 min TT for bike or run, 1,000 meter TT for swim. My concern is that my heart rate spikes with a very small increase in effort. For example, I can walk at around 120 bpm, but if I break into so much as a shuffle it's immediately at 150+, and I don't know what that does to an LT test. With this kind of situation, will an LT test be accurate or even useful? Does this mean I need to start out with just walks and build base or something? Thanks in advance for any help."


Let’s start with the lowest common denominator. Like all complex answers, it depends in terms of fitness. Let’s say you have spent the majority of the last eight years eating bon-bons and watching The Price is Right – full well knowing this is the last time you’ll be able to see Bob Barker on a daily basis. Then you hear Bob is moving on to something else. But wait, if Bob is moving on, maybe you should too. Maybe you can get off that couch and live a healthy lifestyle. You ponder it, think about it, and eventually think to yourself, “Self, I want to race in a triathlon, and better yet, maybe even an Ironman triathlon.” Well, where do you start?

If you are just getting off the couch, chances are you aren’t in any shape for an all out, come hell or high water, 30 minute run or bike LT test. So, what should you do? First of all, we don’t want you dying on us, so after you get a check-up from the doctor and he says it’s ok for you to be exercising, you can try a few different aerobic tests. The 30 minute time trials are essentially anaerobic, meaning “as hard as you can,” but the aerobic tests are done at a much gentler effort and you should even be conversational while you are doing the test.

What I recommend is a three-mile walk test on the track or treadmill, at a specific heart rate (HR). Pick one that you can hold while you remain conversational. If you are walking at 120 bpm, then try the three-mile test at 120 bpm. Walk three miles at exactly that HR to see what your time is. Don’t speed up and don’t try for a certain time, just go by HR. As you get fitter, you’ll see your times get better at the same HR.

Your other training should also include some running – maybe even as little as 30 seconds every five minutes to get started. Each week, try to extend the run time and decrease the rest time. For example, in the first week you may walk five minutes for warm up and then try running for 30 seconds. See how many cycles you can do this before your HR won’t return back to 120 bpm. The next week, try running for 45 seconds with maybe 4:30 of rest. Do whatever is comfortable for you. Keep a log and you’ll see each week you’ll be able to run longer with less rest, as it won’t take as long for your HR to come down. Remember to test yourself every few weeks and keep a log so you can see your progress! Good luck!


Please refer to this article for more HR and LT testing information.


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date: August 17, 2007