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Set Threshold Training Zones without the need for laboratory testing

Set Threshold Training Zones without the need for laboratory testing

Finding your threshold training zone without the need for laboratory testing is a practical approach for many athletes. These methods rely on field tests and perceived effort, allowing you to approximate your threshold and set effective training zones. Here's how you can find your threshold training zone for swimming, cycling, and running:


Critical Swim Speed (CSS) Test:

  1. Warm-Up: Start with a general swimming warm-up.
  2. Time Trials: Perform two time trials in a single session—a 400m and a 200m swim. Ensure full recovery between each trial.
  3. Calculate CSS: Use the formula CSS=(400m time200m time)/2 to find your CSS pace per 100m. This pace is a good approximation of your threshold speed for swimming.


20-Minute Time Trial:

  1. Warm-Up: Begin with a thorough warm-up that includes a few short, high-intensity efforts to prepare your body.
  2. Time Trial: Find a relatively flat course or use a stationary trainer to perform a 20-minute effort at the highest intensity you can sustain.
  3. Calculate FTP: Take 95% of your average power output during this 20-minute effort as an estimate of your Functional Threshold Power (FTP). This is the power you can theoretically maintain for an hour and is used to set training zones.


30-Minute Solo Time Trial:

  1. Warm-Up: Start with a warm-up that includes dynamic stretching and a few strides.
  2. Time Trial: On a flat course or track, run for 30 minutes at the highest sustainable pace. If using a heart rate monitor, the average heart rate for the last 20 minutes of this test can be considered your lactate threshold heart rate.
  3. Pace Calculation: For a more pace-oriented approach, the average pace for this effort can serve as an estimate of your threshold pace.

General Guidelines for All Sports

  • Perceived Effort: Learn to recognize how threshold effort feels—typically hard but sustainable, often described as a "comfortably hard" pace where you can speak only in short phrases.
  • Regular Testing: Your threshold can improve with training, so retest every few months to adjust your training zones.
  • Use Technology: While these tests avoid lab settings, using a heart rate monitor or a power meter (for cycling) can provide more accurate results and help monitor progress.
  • Listen to Your Body: Threshold training is demanding. Ensure you're well-rested, hydrated, and properly fueled before attempting these tests.

These methods provide a solid foundation for identifying your threshold training zones, allowing for targeted and effective training without the need for specialized laboratory equipment.

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