Finding Your Thresholds

There are multiple thresholds when doing any aerobic exercise. Understanding what they are for you personally and using them to build a max aerobic base is essential to getting faster, fitter and better at your sport.

There are three tests to put yourself through which will help you find not only your heart rate in terms of Zones but also in terms of Thresholds.

There are other markers, to test like VO2 Max but those aren’t really important right now. In fact there are a lot of studies supporting VO2 Max being a solid indicator of oxygen consumption but not aerobic capacity. For this purpose we’ll focus on thresholds that allow you to run or workout at a certain intensity for a certain period of time.

Over time having a regiment that utilizes these different areas will allow your aerobic engine to get stronger.

To find your thresholds you will need to perform a series of tests. You can do these at a sports clinic if you want to pay a little money, or do them on your own. They will be very accurate at a clinic but if you aren’t a paid athlete you will be fine testing yourself.

So without further adieu here are the tests in order to complete:

1. AeT test: Walk, jog, or run on flat ground (or on a treadmill) at an easy intensity for 20 minutes to warm up enough that you’re starting to break a sweat after 20 minutes. Then close your mouth and continue to increase the pace to the point where you can no longer breathe only through your nose. Back off and hold this pace for the rest of the 20 minutes. This pace will also correspond to the upper limit at which you can carry on a conversation without needing to catch your breath. Note what this intensity level feels like and especially note what your typical heart rate is at this intensity. This is your Aerobic Threshold (AeT) pace and HR and it essential to know. Don’t worry what the number is just try to meet those requirements the best you can.

2. After the AeT test do the LT test: When you’re still warmed up, start tracking time, distance, and pace on your treadmill or watch and run for 30 minutes at the fastest pace you can sustain for that amount of time. Be careful to avoid the common mistake of starting too fast and then slowing down toward the end of the time trial due to fatigue, which will produce an inaccurate result. When you get to 10 minutes, note your heart rate. Go for the full 20 minutes and the average HR will be your LT. It should be around what you were at half way through.

3. Max Heart Rate test: Just like it sounds. This one should suck or you aren’t doing it right. Find a hill and run up as fast as you can for 30 seconds to a minute. You will be feeling pretty bad around 30 seconds and holding for a minute should make you want to barf. You will naturally slow down but think push harder and do the best you can. Repeat this test 3 times if you can to find your average max heart rate. If you can sustain past 30 seconds without naturally slowing down no matter what you do then you aren’t pushing hard enough. Your average heart rate will be your max from the three intervals.

That’s it! Now that you have your three thresholds (Aet, LT and MAX HR), you can design a training program that will work for you and your body.

This test should be re-taken about once every 2 months or less depending on how actively you follow your training once set up.

In my next post I’ll talk about creating a training plan based on you thresholds to build max endurance and capacity.

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