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How the talk test can help you evaluate your training

Ever been unable to speak after a workout? It probably means you're working hard

Ever been unable to speak after a repeat? That’s a sign of high blood lactate concentration, or in other words, a sign you’re working hard. Lots of runners do their workouts without a heart rate monitor and might wonder just how hard their working, the talk test can give you can idea.

A new study suggests that something as simple as speaking can give you an idea of how much stress you’re putting on your body. The study out of Queen’s University says, “The talk test is a noninvasive, free, accessible exercise prescription method that estimates exercise intensity through self-evaluation of the perceived difficulty of reciting an approximately 30-word phrase.”

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A 30 word phrase is just a sentence or two. Asking your running buddy how their weekend was can give you an idea of how hard you’re running. So if you’re working out, and unsure if the pace of your interval is difficult enough, consider trying to speak and see how easily you can get a sentence out. Authors say, “Exercise intensities characterized by uncomfortable speech appear to produce consistently high blood lactate concentration.” 


Your blood always has some lactate in it, but your lactate threshold is the point at which your body produces lactic acid more quickly than it can get rid of it, causing it to build up in your blood. This happens quickly and can go on until your blood accumulates too much lactic acid in it to keep working.

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Obviously the talking test won’t give you results as accurate on a VO2 Max or lactate threshold test done in a lab, but it can give you a general idea about how hard your day of training has been. You can monitor your progress by speaking at different paces to gain an understanding of your level of exertion. 

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If you’ve got an easy day on tap make sure that you can keep a conversation going, you shouldn’t be struggling for words on your recovery day. And if you’re gearing up for a big workout, prepare yourself for some moments of silence.