While running hill climb tests of 12-20 minutes are a good way to assess VO2max (high-end) fitness throughout a preparation period and career, a threshold test can be used as a way of seeing work efficiency from stage to stage throughout the entire test.
In this test we are comparing data taken on May 21, 2011 with data taken on July 13, 2011. The test is held at a constant 8% grade, starts at 4 mph and increases in speed by 1 mph every four minutes, but not before blood lactates and heart rates are recorded. There is a 1 minute break during which the treadmill is stopped to collect data. With this information, we can compare Liz' work rates at each stage to determine if her training is stressing her in the right ways.
What to look for:
Lactates and heart rates should be low during the early stages, and these numbers will get even lower with increasing fitness. However, athletes that are clearly breathing harder than others, or whose lactates indicate level 2 efforts (lactates over around 1.5 mmols and under roughly 3.0 mmols) will perhaps require more base training. This can be acquired through long and easy workouts.
An athlete's anaerobic threshold is often reached around 4 mmols, but may vary slightly from one athlete to the next. The goal of training is to push the athlete's anaerobic threshold closer to their max heart rate. In this way, they can produce more work for less cost. Monitoring an athlete's anaerobic threshold is a great way of assessing the success of a training program.
Liz Stephen is attached to a metabolic cart that measures her O2 consumption as well. This is not necessary.
It is important to repeat tests. We like to see the threshold test once every 4-8 weeks.
Not many roller ski treadmills exist, so this test can be done ski walking without poles on running treadmills. With thiese tests, because the difference in speed from roller skiing to ski walking is so great, select a constant speed and increase in % grade. You'll have to figure out the testing protocol on your own. It is part of the fun, and may vary from one athlete to the next. A fitter athlete may require a more demanding protocol. We like a protocol that, after warmup, has the athlete working for roughy 5-6 stages of 4 minutes each. In this way, the test is manageable and the work load is not exhausting.
Heart rate zones can be derived from these tests, but can also be found in the field without a treadmill.