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Heart Rate and Pace Testing to Get the most out of your Training

Updated: Jan 11, 2023

Take your training seriously by setting up training zones specific to you. At Run Vault Performance we recommend a field test to determine your threshold pace and threshold heart rate. Once we have these two numbers we can then calculate your training zones to maximise the benefits out of your training.


The following is a field test I recommend you do at the start of a base or build period for an Athlete then re-done every 8-12 weeks depending on the Athletes race and training schedule. If an Athlete has recently done a 10k race and gave it their all, data from that race can also be used to calculate training zones.


The test is simple. It is called a Lactate Threshold Heart Rate test, or LTHR test. An all out max effort for 30 minutes which will determine your threshold pace and heart rate. This refers to your lactate threshold whereby oxygen alone is not enough to sustain your level of exertion, so you are switching from aerobic to anaerobic.


For newbies, use these cues as a guide. Run when breathing becomes difficult but not gasping for air. You can also string a couple of words together but not able to have a fluid conversation. Run comfortably with good form. My form guide can be viewed on this article


Conducting the test

Simple: 30 minutes running hard. Choose a location with minimal elevation change and obstacles such as walkers, cyclists and traffic lights. You want to be able to run fast from the first minute and maintain a high level of exertion for the entirety of the 30 minutes. The data collected will be the last 20 minutes of the test.


Start your tracker (watch/HR monitor) from the start and keep it on until you finish. You can choose to click the lap button at the 10 minute mark, however this isn't necessary as we can highlight the last 20 minutes in your training app or Training Peaks to export the data.


The short video below shows a recent 30 minute LTHR test I did with a group of Athletes on a path around the Brisbane river. You will notice the data is pulled from the 10 minute to the 30 minute mark for this particular Athlete.


For this Athlete, their Lactate Threshold Heart Rate Value is 162 beats per minute.

Their Lactate Threshold Pace Value is 3:59 min/km.


To determine the zone training values for this Athlete, will simply plug them into the zone settings of their Training Peaks profile. The video below shows the heart rate values being calculated. Here we are using 162bpm as the LTHR.


Then we will plug in the Lactate Threshold Pace value into Training Peaks for the Athlete. Here we are using 3:59 min/km.



Tips on the test

The test is best done by yourself without training partners or pacers. I do arrange test clinics in Brisbane where a group of us get together and run the course. We take off at different times so that we are not running together and running someone else's pace.


Run in the morning after a good sleep and a rest day prior. Environmental factors such as fatigue can give inaccurate readings with heart rate and pace which in turn results in training zones not being a true reflection of you.


Run the test with a clean bill of health and without any lingering injuries. Sickness such as cold and flu also disrupts the accuracy of data and your performance.


Pace hard from the get go. You will get better at this test the more you do it. You want to go hard from the start but not too hard whereby your pace is floundering or dropping in the tail end of the test. On the other hand, don't coast for the first 10 minutes then run hard. We will capture a low reading for the time between 10 minutes and 15 minutes which will result lower than expected threshold values.


How do we use the data?

The data is then used as a guide to your training. A trail runner will predominately use the heart rate values as a training guide on trails due to the undulating nature of the terrain, whereby a road runner will predominately use the pace values as a guide in training as their races are strategic around time and splits.


Run Zones

Zone 1 Less than 85% of LTHR

Zone 2 85% to 89% of LTHR

Zone 3 90% to 94% of LTHR

Zone 4 95% to 99% of LTHR

Zone 5a 100% to 102% of LTHR

Zone 5b 103% to 106% of LTHR

Zone 5c More than 106% of LTHR


A major benefit to knowing these values is training to run more efficiently in your aerobic zone, which zone 2.


An example of a structured interval workout for an Athlete working to the training zones based on this Athlete's example would be:


10-15min W/U Zone 2 - (heart rate 137bpm - 144bpm or pace 4:33min/km to 5:08min/km)

6 x 400m Zone 5b - (heart rate 166bpm - 172bpm or pace 3:35min/km to 3:51min/km with 90sec recovery Zone 2)

10-15min C/D Z2


Many more articles like this are for you to view here including the different types of run and strength workouts you must have in your program!


Get in touch if you wish to join one of next testing clinics in Brisbane @ jamie@runvaultperformance.com.au


Disclaimer: When doing this workout in your own time or joining me, precautions are required to be taken as your health and safety is the most important. To avoid any injury or harm, you need to check your health with your doctor before exercising. By performing any fitness exercises without supervision like with this video, you are performing them at your own risk. See a fitness professional to give you advice on your exercise form. Run Vault Performance will not be responsible or liable for any injury or harm you sustain as a result of this exercise.


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