Conconi test: what it is and how to do it. Running training is a process that requires perseverance, effort and exercise. Lots of non-professional people dedicate their time to training and trying to improve. Sundays spent running outdoors, training in the rain, running in the evening after a day at the office, endless stretching sessions and then a lot of desire.
All for a goal that we have set ourselves, a 10km, a half or even a marathon, the most beautiful challenge.
And when you get to the race you try to give your best and get all the benefit possible from long training sessions. A race tactic is established and based on a series of variables (such as the length of the course, the altitude, the state of form), an attempt is made to complete the competition in the best possible time. Running at the best possible pace.
… But how to establish the race pace?Most runners decide this on the basis of training results and those who rely on a coach try to listen to his advice.
Here, the advice of an experienced person who has trained the athlete for a certain period is irreplaceable.
Personally, when I ran the first marathon I had no idea how I was going to finish it. And to be honest, I didn't even know if I'd come to the end.
My two coaches, on the other hand, were sure that I would make it and told me exactly what pace to keep in the various stages of the race.
I did exactly what I was told and, even with a little surprise, I even got to the end with an excellent time.
But in addition to experience, there are several methods for determining the pace of the race.
One of these is the Conconi test designed by the Italian doctor Francesco Conconi.
Conconi test: what is it for
The Conconi test is used to establish the anaerobic threshold based on changes in heart rate.
And based on the anaerobic threshold you can try to determine the optimal race pace.
Before proceeding, let's say immediately that this test was very successful when it was invented but its reliability was subsequently questioned by several scientific studies that have followed one another over the years.
Some research has shown that the test is only reliable for about half of the individuals it is applied to.
However, it is very interesting to understand how it works, on which principles it is based and possibly how to try to apply it in practice.
The anaerobic threshold
Anaerobic threshold: it is the limit beyond which the body passes from using the aerobic to the anaerobic system.
Without going into too much physiological details, when the body makes a prolonged effort, such as running, it begins to use the energy provided by the aerobic system. This type of energy is ready to use.
If the effort gradually increases in intensity, the body begins to mainly use the anaerobic system for energy supply.
Again we simplify a complex mechanism a lot and let's say that carbohydrates are metabolized and that a by-product of this metabolism, called lactate, accumulates in the blood.
Don't get me wrong, lactate is normally present in the blood but we find it at low levels and the body is able to manage it.
As the intensity of exercise increases, the concentration of lactate in the blood also increases accordingly.
But there is a moment in which the concentration increases abruptly and continues exponentially: this moment is the anaerobic threshold or the moment in which one passes from aerobic to anaerobic metabolism.
Attention, this last statement is a bit of a simplification aimed at making the mechanism understood. The process is a bit more complicated. The activation of anaerobic metabolism is not as clear as it might seem but more gradual
What is the purpose of establishing the anaerobic threshold
The anaerobic threshold is considered an index of fatigue. The production of energy through the anaerobic system can only last for a rather short time, so it is here that the body begins to feel fatigue and that high intensity physical exercise is compromised.
The anaerobic threshold is therefore the maximum intensity of effort that the body is able to sustain without experiencing fatigue.
In relation to running, therefore, we can see this situation as the maximum pace that the runner can sustain without entering anaerobiosis. We can try to prolong this pace as much as possible but, if we exceed it, the body will struggle and we will not be able to run for much longer.
Clearly the fatigue is felt throughout the race but, in this case, we are talking about that fatigue that is no longer sustainable.
Definition of the anaerobic threshold
Ok, we understand that the anaerobic threshold, in relation to running, is the pace that allows us to run for as long as possible. If we accelerate, the body will begin to feel fatigue in a short time and we will not be able to keep running. At the very least we will have to slow down if not stop.
Having said that, let's try to understand how to define our anaerobic threshold.
The anaerobic threshold can be related to VO2max, to a scale called RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion) or to heart rate.
We consider only the latter case which is more common and is used in Conconi test
The anaerobic threshold is found
- Between 50-60% of the maximum heart rate for runners untrained
- Between the'80-90% of the maximum heart rate for runners well trained
The Conconi test and the anaerobic threshold
Through the Conconi test it is possible to establish the heart rate value to maintain to avoid exceeding the anaerobic threshold.
In other words, we should establish a heart rate value to maintain while running. If we manage to maintain this frequency we will not exceed our anaerobic threshold, the body will be able to bear the fatigue for as long as possible.
How the Conconi test works
The principle on which the test is based is that, once the run begins, if we increase the speed at a constant rate, the heartbeat will also increase more or less constantly.
Placing the velocity (abscissa) and pulsations (ordinate) on a graph, we will see that where one increases, the others also increase linearly
Image taken from Wikipedia
At some point, however, the linearity stops. The increase in speed does not correspond to a proportional increase in pulsation.
The inflection point is the anaerobic threshold which, returning to what we said before, is also the time when the concentration of lactate in the blood increases exponentially.
If we manage to maintain this heart rate we will be able (in theory) to better manage the energies to face the race we have prepared for.
How to carry out the Conconi test
There are several ways to perform this test, the one we will talk about is the track test.
As we said, the aim is to evaluate heart rate in relation to speed.
So the test consists in gradually and constantly increasing the speed by recording the pulsations with each increase.
According to the bibliography, once a starting speed has been established, it must be increased by 0.5 km / h every 30 ”.
Which means that if you start at 5 km / h after 30 "you have to go at 5.5 km / h and so on.
For there to be a better chance that the test will work, you should do about 12 steps (therefore increase by 0.5km / h for 12 times the starting speed).
The best way to test is to run on the track using a GPS watch, possibly with a heart rate monitor. The Garmin 735 reviewed at this link can do just fine.
Before starting it is necessary to warm up well.
At this point a starting speed is established (different according to the level of training of each one). You go to this speed and, as we said, you increase by 0.5 km / h every 30 'for at least 12 times and in any case continue with the steps up to the maximum of your possibilities
At the end of the running phase, the pulsations are evaluated on the GPS and the speed with the heart rate of each step is put on a graph.
What should turn out is a graph like the one you see in the previous paragraph where you should see a flex point which indicates our anaerobic threshold.
Program Garmin for testing
One last note: if you want to try the test and you have a Garmin, you can program the training on the watch in order to be guided during the various steps of the race.
The Garmin site provides a fairly detailed explanation of how to do this at this link.
Curated by Lelio Lassandro - Team Runsmile a.s.d.
Photo credit: opening image by prof. Francesco Conconi taken from the Estense.com site