Login Register for free news, tips & videos
 
 
 

Ask the Experts: Threshold test pacing and struggling to hit higher HR zones

Home / Meet the Experts

Training

Article posted: 09/04/2014

Share |

Gavin recently got in touch asking about pacing during the Threshold Test and a problem he was experiencing elevating his heart rate high enough during Zone 5 intervals.

Many people experience a disparity between perceived intensity and heart rate when riding on an indoor trainer, especially for higher intensity efforts.

Q: “During the threshold test itself I'm not totally clear on what effort is required. Are you meant to ride the test as an all out effort for 30minutes or should you back off to an effort that you think you can sustain for 1 hour? I have also been using my heart rate as guide to my effort during the test, is this the right thing to do? Or is it better to ride on feel and ignore heart rate during the test?

I’ve also noticed that I'm finding it impossible to reach Z5 (VO2 max) when required to do so by the plans.  I can push to the upper limit of Z4 and my Zone 2 and 3 feel about right.” 

A: If you re-read the protocol for the Threshold Test, you’ll see that you’re supposed to ride the 30 minutes as hard as you can with your average heart rate recorded for the final 20-minutes. If you try to ride a pace that you think you’d be able to sustain for an hour, your result will be too low.

Although this may seem counterintuitive, as Functional Threshold Heart Rate is an expression of what you could maintain for an hour, this 30-minute effort extrapolates well. This is because it’s mentally and physically very tough to push at 100% for an hour. Although, if you are keen to perform an hour effort, entering a 25-mile time trial is the best way to do it as pinning a race number on always helps with motivation!

If you have already completed the test, you can use your average heart rate from the previous test as a guide for your effort but it’s important to continually assess if you could push a bit harder.

After riding the first ten minutes of the thirty at or just below the average heart rate I maintained the last time I tested, I tend to break the test into five-minute chunks. I’ll ride the first five at the level from my last test and then squeeze a bit more if I feel good for the second five or sustain the effort. I’ll make the same call for the third five and may even back off a fraction if I’ve overcooked the second block. For the final five, I’ll ignore heart rate and completely empty the tank. You should finish with nothing left.

This answers your testing query but, as it’ll probably result in higher heart rate zones, doesn’t help with your Zone 5 issue. I noticed from the member's Garmin file supplied that the test was done on an indoor trainer. If you are performing your VO2 efforts indoors as well, this could be the reason for being unable to raise your heart rate high enough. Many people experience a disparity between perceived intensity and heart rate when riding on an indoor trainer, especially for higher intensity efforts. A lack of a cooling headwind resulting in higher body temperature, not having to engage your supportive/balance musculature and boredom reducing motivation are possible reasons for this phenomena.

There are a number of possible solutions you could try.

The first is to use perceived exertion. You know how hard Zone 4 feels, so just push a little harder.

The second is to use a combination of speed, resistance and gears. From your test, especially the final five minutes, you know the speed, resistance and gear combination that results in Zone 4. Up your speed, increase the resistance or click up a couple of gears and you’ll know you’re riding at a harder effort.

Third, ride the session outdoors. If you can find a suitable stretch of road, ideally a gradual climb, you should find that riding outdoors allows you to raise your heart rate into Zone 5. Remember though, there is always a lag between effort and change in heart rate so don’t be surprised if it takes the first 60 seconds of an effort to get the heart rate up.

Finally, you could consider switching to training with power. With power there are none of the indoors vs outdoors discrepancies and no issues with lag during intervals. Obviously buying a power meter is a big outlay but you might consider it worth it.

 

features

Core stability exercises and cycling training

Posted: 22/04/2015
Should ‘so called’ core stability exercises be part...
Knowledge level: Beginner

Going Tubeless

Posted: 22/04/2015
We look at the benefits and pitfalls of going 'tubeless...
Knowledge level: Advanced

Missing training sessions

Posted: 15/04/2015
What happens if you miss the odd training session or...
Knowledge level: Intermediate

latest content

Core stability exercises and cycling training

Posted: 22/04/2015
Should ‘so called’ core stability exercises be part...
Knowledge level: Beginner

Going Tubeless

Posted: 22/04/2015
We look at the benefits and pitfalls of going 'tubeless...
Knowledge level: Advanced

Missing training sessions

Posted: 15/04/2015
What happens if you miss the odd training session or...
Knowledge level: Intermediate

most popular

How to lube your chain

Posted: 17/05/2013
How to lube your chain and keep you bike running...
Knowledge level: Beginner

Getting your ride position right

Posted: 22/03/2013
How to set up your bike for on bike...
Knowledge level: Beginner

10 steps to improve your climbing

Posted: 12/02/2014
10 steps to improve your...
Knowledge level: Beginner

meet the experts

DIY road and mountain bike fit

Posted: 07/01/2015
Expert advice from Rëtul founder Todd Carver on getting the...

Andrew Evans

Posted: 12/05/2014
Andrew...

Ask the Experts: Threshold test pacing and struggl...

Posted: 09/04/2014
Ask the Experts: Threshold test pacing and struggling to hit...