My lab testing experience to measure heart rate zones

A description of my experience getting a ventilatory threshold test (to calculate heart rate zones).

As a very low tech triathlete who also struggles to see myself as a ‘true’ triathlete, I probably would not have ever had a lab test done if it weren’t for someone really pushing me to do it, who believes that anyone who is exercising should! Now that I have finally gotten tested, I 100% agree!! It has been so valuable just in my first few weeks of training with the data. I will reflect on my experience with the numbers in a different post; here I will describe my own experience in case you are interested in getting testing but want to know what to expect.

I had my testing done at the Human Performance Laboratory at Oregon State University by Staci Partridge. I paid less than $200 for both the heart rate test (which I will explain more below) and a body composition test (to figure out my basal metabolic rate though it came with other useful data).

The testing experience

I think that tests will vary slightly based on the tester, but this was my experience. I was working with an awesome triathlete named Staci, who put this lovely head mask on me (photo in yesterday’s post). The bite part is like a mouth piece used for diving where I would bite around it so that all of my air is going through it. That mask is tightly secured on my head and then hooked up to a hose. Meanwhile, I wore a lovely nose clip so that all of my air would be traveling through the hose. The tube was hooked up to a computer, and I also had a chest heart rate monitor that was somehow being picked up by the computer.

I then stepped on the treadmill and started with a three minute warm-up. From there, we went in 1 minute increments, increasing the intensity each minute until I couldn’t do anymore. Intensity was increased a little by speed, but mostly by incline. Each minute I would indicate on an intensity meter where my perceived exertion was on a scale of 1-20. Since I couldn’t talk, Staci held up a sheet with the scale and I pointed to my perceived exertion.

I only lasted about 14 minutes!! And of course instantly felt that I could have gone longer, but I certainly didn’t feel that way at the time!

Each minute this computer was calculating a lot of data points. The pictures of my results are posted above with this post. I will provide my understanding of what the numbers mean tomorrow.