'Talk Test' Helps Set Exercise Intensity for Athletes in Training

Released: 3/2/2011 10:00 AM EST
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If You Can't Say The Pledge of Allegiance, You're Working Out Too Hard, Suggests Study in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research

Newswise — Philadelphia, Pa. (Date) - The "Talk Test" provides a simple and reliable indicator of the proper training intensity for runners, suggests a report in the March issue of The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, official research journal of the National Strength and Conditioning Association. The journal is published by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, a part of Wolters Kluwer Health.

A pace where it's just starting to become difficult to recite The Pledge of Allegiance is a good indicator of when trained athletes have reached their recommended exercise intensity, according to the study by Carl Foster, Ph.D., and colleagues of University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. They write, "A simple submaximal evaluation, based on Talk Test responses during incremental exercise can define the absolute speed necessary to provoke appropriate training intensities."

Talk Test Helps Set Exercise Intensity for Trained Athletes
The researchers evaluated the Talk Test in 14 trained, noncompetitive runners. The test was simple: while the athletes were running at progressively faster speeds, they were asked to recite The Pledge of Allegiance. (Of course, non-U.S. populations who don't know The Pledge of Allegiance can recite a nursery rhyme, or any other familiar lines.)

Previous studies in nonathletes have suggested that the Talk Test is a useful indicator of the ventilatory threshold (VT)—the point during exercise at which breathing starts to become increasingly difficult. If the person can't comfortably recite the Pledge all the way through, it means that he or she has likely passed the VT and that exercise intensity is "unacceptably high."

Compared to standard measures, the Talk Test provided a useful rough measure of desired exercise intensity. When exercising at about or below the level appropriate for their level of training, all runners were able to recite The Pledge of Allegiance comfortably.

However, when pushed beyond the recommended level, the athletes could no longer recite the Pledge. As they neared their VT, the athletes commonly said that it was "getting harder" to complete the Talk Test. When past the VT, they could no longer recite the Pledge at all. Running speed, heart rate, and ratings of perceived exercise intensity were all well correlated with the Talk Test results.

Trainers, coaches, and other fitness professionals sometimes find it difficult to make individualized exercise prescriptions for athletes. Although formal maximal exercise tests can be performed, these aren't always practical or even desirable for athletes in training.

The new study suggests that Talk Test is a useful indicator of the VT in trained athletes, and could help trainers and coaches in setting optimal training intensities. The new results in trained runners are consistent with previous studies in healthy but inactive adults. Dr. Foster and coauthors add, "If this tool, provided by Talk Test responses, can be extended into the realm of serious endurance athletes, then it may provide a valuable tool even for the coaches of high-level athletes."

About The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research
The editorial mission of The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (JSCR) is to advance the knowledge about strength and conditioning through research. A unique aspect of this journal is that it includes recommendations for the practical use of research findings. While the journal name identifies strength and conditioning as separate entities, strength is considered a part of conditioning. The journal wishes to promote the publication of peer-reviewed manuscripts which add to our understanding of conditioning and sport through applied exercise science. The JSCR is the official research journal of the National Strength and Conditioning Association.

About the National Strength and Conditioning Association
The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) is an international nonprofit educational association founded in 1978. The NSCA develops and presents the most advanced information regarding strength training and conditioning practices and injury prevention. Central to its mission, the NSCA bridges the gap between the scientist in the laboratory and the practitioner in the field. By working to find practical applications for new research findings in the strength and conditioning field, the Association fosters the development of strength training and conditioning as a discipline and as a profession.

About Lippincott Williams & Wilkins
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