Field Testing to Estimate Lactate Threshold

The industry standard of using formulas to determine maximum heart rate, and then basing training zones on that number has been debunked over and over again. Endurance coaches and athletes discontinued using that method well over a decade ago, yet the fitness industry is lagging far behind not only in the science, but also in practical usage. There are numerous reasons for the hesitance to give up the ease of using a formula such as 220–age, the chief among them is the human need for simplicity. We all want things to be black and white. We want a quick answer to the nagging question of “where should I train?” But the need for ease apparently trumps accuracy.

Another reason for the inability of the industry to make the change is that dozens, perhaps even hundreds of manufacturers of exercise equipment and heart rate monitors, as well as the creators of thousands of books, websites, and exercise programs, are all based on this flimsy formula. Changing the formula would mean altering millions, perhaps even billions of dollars worth of equipment. Add to that many hundreds of thousands of personal trainers and instructors, and millions of exercisers who are already sold on the concept. It’s no wonder that it is taking decades for the industry to grow up.

Therefore, you can consider yourself to be one of the few, the proud, the avant gard! You are more interested in accuracy and personalization of training zones than ease and having a pat answer to everyone’s question. You are more interested in following proven scientific principles that lead to greater success for your clients. But this means bucking the trend and taking the time to learn as much as you can about this area of training. That is one of the reasons why you are in ICA member!


  1. Thank you for this. I have been doing the vo2’s with my class the last 5 weeks and will be doing the testing this week. Really excited to be doing this. Thank you for making this available!!!!

  2. Any reason you suggest a 20 minute flat-road hard effort rather than a fast-hill effort as in your last year(s) article ? I’d like to understand (and be able to explain) the differences and possible reasons one vs. the other method.

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