Running Talk Test
The running talk test can be applied as a monitor of running exercise intensity, Dr. Matt long explores.
Nature has blessed us with five senses, one of which - the ability to talk, is a great way of self-regulating the intensity of your training activity as an athlete. Traditionally, the talk test has remained almost the exclusive preserve of the endurance athlete, but it is also of use both for the middle-distance athlete and the sprinter too.
As athletes we may use one, two or all three energy systems, namely the Alactic, Lactate and Aerobic. The alactic system predominates in the shortest of the sprints, the lactate system for longer sprints and middle distance running and the aerobic system for endurance athletes.
The talk test and endurance running
Research conducted in 2011 at the Robert Kertzer Exercise Physiology Laboratory, University of New Hampshire, confirmed that the subjective measure of the talk test may give the endurance runner an indication of when their lactate threshold is being approached, meaning if this intensity is maintained, the duration of activity is limited. When athletes show a rapid increase in levels of blood lactate, the Onset of Blood Lactate Accumulation (OBLA) occurs. At this critical point the balance between lactate addition to and removal from the blood is disturbed. When predominantly utilising the aerobic energy system during an endurance run, the maximal lactate steady state (MaxLass or MLSS) is a level of exertion which if exceeded will result in a switch to the predominant utilisation of the lactate energy system, which cannot be sustained effectively for more than two to three minutes.
As well as delaying using the lactate system, there are training sessions when the endurance athlete will wish to almost exclusively use the aerobic energy system, such as the proverbial long steady Sunday morning run, or the shorter recovery run the day after a competition. According to Hanc (2004) the talk test is a reliable intensity gauge for keeping within the optimal aerobic zone, which is thought to be between 65-80% of maximum heart rate.
If you can chat to someone in whole sentences, your aerobic energy system is predominating, as your body is working at an intensity where there is sufficient oxygen to produce the required energy while also being used to talk. However, as the intensity increases the oxygen demand of the muscles increases meaning that there is less and less oxygen available to be used in the process of talking.
Try the following to see whether you are working the relevant energy system(s) for your event(s):
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About the Author
Dr. Matt Long is a British Athletics Coach Education Tutor and has lectured and coached at the British Milers Club Academy. The assistance of Jamie French is acknowledged.
The following Sports Coach pages provide additional information on this topic: