Monday, July 6, 2009

Performing a Conconi running test

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Second update: did a competition like 5 km run on 1. september and did a comparison. Updated: did a new test in the start of august which is compared at the bottom. I'm a typical gadget rich amateur athlete and my favorite tool is a Heart Rate Monitor (HRM). For many years it was my trusty Polar xTrainer, later Polar CS200C and for the last year a Garmin Forerunner 305. The HR is an indicator of the work/stress done, but to really put it into use it can be used to structure the workouts. Any matter the exact structuring you like there's the need for tests to identify some boundaries, primarily the anaerobic threshold. Another value of tests is to track progress through season. One test that everybody can do is the Conconi test and for the first time in a looong time I did one yesterday.


Back in the late nineties I bought the book "Trening melkesyre hjertefrekvens", a norwegian translation of of Peter G. J. M. Janssen book Training Lactate Pulse-Rate. An excellent book that's easily read and based on facts around HRM training and riaerch with examples. The book recommends real lactate tests (for those that can afford it/professionals) or the Conconi test. Back when I bought the book I did several tests with varying success in terms of finding the anaerobic threshold (da: "knækpunktet"). I guess that there could be many reasons why my practical tests didn't follow the textbook: one being that I'm not top athlete.

While getting ready for the test yesterday I first remembered the theory falsely. My own subjective experience is that when truing to keep a high speed/pace extra pulse points (heart beats per minutes) doesn't seem to translate into speed, which lead my to think that after the threshold the pulse would increase with little increase in speed. That's just opposite to the book where the pulse doesn't increase much with speed since it's anaerobic!

The Test

I did the test on a treadmill since that'll give me an even pace, and after at 10 min warmup (maybe not hard enough) I was ready. I expected my threshold to be around 5 min/km (12 km/h) and started at 9,2 km/h and increased the speed with 0,4 km/h foreach 200 m, and ended at 14 km/h. Nothing impressive (I know) and I would have liked to reach 15 km/h, but is simply out of reach. I tracked my HR with the FR and made a voice recording where I said the speed and HR just before increasing speed, since this gives assurance that I didn't miss anything and was certain of the speed correlation that the FR knew nothing about. Here the workout as it's seen in SportsTracks:

There's a clear trend but it's a little bumpy. Putting the data into a table and producing a diagram with Calc give this graph:

It does not fit that clearly with the textbook as there is no real significant change, but that'll not hold me back! So here's my best guess:

According to this my anaerobic threshold should be at 162 bpm with a speed (pace) of 12,8 km/h (4:41 min/km).


Funny enough this is similar to the tests I did approximately 10 years ago. It does seem a little high since my PB for 5 km is 24:40 (3 weeks ago) and I felt like 160 bpm was a limit. It can be true but certainly an important fact is that I bike much more than I run, so maybe i have cardiovascular capacity for this, but there more to than that.

This evening i tried a interval workout aiming for 160 bpm, which was quite hard to reach, but the pace was a little better. One thing is hitting the level, the theory says that it sould be able to kepp it for an hour, which i consider highly unlikely

New test in start of August

After about a month of training in my summer vacation I was eager to repeat the test and measure up my progress - what a disappointment! During the test I concluded that I had made no progress at all and in fact as the graph shows there's a general set back. Just like the first test there's no clear breaking point to indicate the threshold (just as Joe Friel has experienced).

I've got no real explanation for it. The conditions seemed very similar with a hot gym and my only ideas are that I did a much more thorough warmup and maybe a slight bit of flue. Another guess could be that progress is discrete and not as linear as some textbooks could indicate and I simply hadn't hit the next step.

My 5 km PB in the DHL Stafet 2009

I haven't participated in any competitions so this is my only competiton like result for comparison. It went fine with a PB of 23 minutes, the workout profile was like:<(p>

And my retro-splits were:

It should be added that this event is just as much a social as a sports event, and the last part was quite crinkly and crowded, but I could probably not cut off many more seconds at the present time and form.

With a pace of 4:36 min/km this in within proximity of a reasonable time compared with the tests. Since in principle I should be able to hold the LT for about an hour the 5 km pace should be considerable above LT.

Looking forward I've looked at a couple of prediction tables. First from the Furman institute EQUIVALENT PERFORMANCES AT DIFFERENT DISTANCES [PDF]:

and another one based on The McMillan Running Calculator :

They certainly raise my optimism with an outlook to a marathon in the range of 3:44 - I just hope I can keep up the pace for that long.


Here's a list of links I've gathered while browsing for facts and examples on Conconi running test.

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