A couple months back I laid down the ins and outs of lab based lactate test vs field based lactate testing. In short, field based testing more closely mimics race conditions and is free, while lab based testing is generally more accurate but not so free. This last week, two athletes I work with showed why it makes sense to suck it up and drop $125 on lab based lactate testing.
Athlete #1 is a healthy 30-something year old female training for Ironman Wisconsin. Her field based testing revealed a threshold heart rate of 154 bpm. Based on data loaded in to Training Peaks from her Garmin 310 XT compared to her description of her workouts (read: rate of perceived exertion) I knew 154 was off. However, I had no idea it would be 20 bpm off! That’s right, her lab test revealed a threshold heart rate of 174. That’s a huge margin of error.
Athlete #2 is me. A 30-something year old male coming off of some serious injuries looking to reestablish some baselines. My field based test – a 30 min time trial on the bike trainer – yielded a threshold heart rate of 165. The lab based testing dialed me in at 152.
The numbers in the lab tests are in no way definitive. However, in the above cases, they are more accurate and provide a controlled way of tracking progress throughout the season.