Outdoor DIY guide to determining your Aerobic Threshold


The Aerobic Threshold is very important to the development of a strong aerobic base. While the gold standard would be a laboratory test, the following test works well most of the time to determine a base line for aerobic training. The first test is for use outdoors, if a treadmill is not available. Read the 8-Step Instructions for determining your AeT on a treadmill.

You’ll want to do this test in a fasted state. This means no food, of any kind, for at least two hours before the test. Water, black coffee, tea without milk or sweetners, are fine. Sugary sports drinks and the like will give you inaccurate results.

An outdoor uphill hike/run test is not as controlled as a treadmill but it can still set a great baseline for you AeT. For this test the most important part is keeping a steady heart rate for as long as possible. We recommend using a long gradual hill in the range of 5-10% grade but if you only have a flat area you can make this work too. You will need a heart rate monitor for this test.

Step One: Make sure your heart rate monitor is working.

Step Two: Do a walking or slow running warm up for 15min or until you break a sweat. Make sure it is low intensity.

Step Three: After this warm up, but without stopping, begin to increase heart rate gradually, 5bpm every 3min. while breathing through the nose only.

Step Four: When nose breathing becomes too difficult back off just enough to a sustainable nose breathing pace for 10-15min. Note your heart rate at this pace!

Step Five: This heart rate usually only has a 2-4bpm difference from easy breathing to unsustainable nose breathing.

Step Six: The typical heart rate you see in these 15min is your AeT HR and will be the guide to the top end of your aerobic zone (Zone 2) for the next 6-8 weeks.

Side Note

As your aerobic system becomes more powerful you will notice that your AeT HR and pace will both increase over time. These increases will be small increments and will continue to accumulate for many months of consistent training. In the long term this AeT (aerobic capacity) can continue to improve for years and years with proper training. If for some reason you have spent lots of time at high intensity while nose breathing you may need to do a more precise lab test to determine your aerobic base line.

If you live in a town or don’t have access to appropriate terrain, see our Indoor DIY Guide to Determining your Aerobic Threshold on how to do a self-administered AeT-test on a treadmill.



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