How to Calculate Anaerobic Threshold (AT)

Have you ever heard of the “anaerobic threshold”? That critical moment when your body seems to beg you to stop after running a few kilometers. Well, this article is for you! I’ll guide you through some methods to assess and improve your anaerobic threshold, which is crucial for your performance in running.

What is the Anaerobic Threshold and Why Is It Important?

The anaerobic threshold, a vital estimate in assessing physical performance, indicates the exercise intensity level at which the blood lactate concentration remains constant. This point not only represents the boundary between moderate and intense exercise but also marks the massive activation of the anaerobic mechanism. Beyond this threshold, the production of carbon dioxide, ventilation (respiratory acts per minute), and lactic acid production increase rapidly.

Assessing the anaerobic threshold is often more significant than VO2max, especially in athletes. While maximum oxygen consumption increases at the beginning of workouts, it doesn’t progress further. What changes is the percentage of VO2max that can be sustained for long periods. The anaerobic threshold is closely related to performance, especially in running and ultrarunning, emerging as a more accurate indicator of aerobic power.

Calculating the Anaerobic Threshold: A Simple Start

Imagine being able to calculate your anaerobic threshold with a straightforward mathematical formula. Yes, it’s possible! Here’s a practical example:

Subtract your age from 220. For example, if you’re 40 years old: 220 – 40 = 180.
Multiply the result by 0.95. Continuing the example: 180 × 0.95 = approximately 171.

This means that, according to the formula, your anaerobic threshold is approximately 171 BPM (beats per minute). However, remember, this is an approximate calculation that can vary from person to person and based on your training level.

Conconi Test: A Practical Approach

A more accurate way to measure the anaerobic threshold is the Conconi test, developed in 1982 and still used by many athletes.

How to Perform the Conconi Test

For the Conconi test, you’ll need a heart rate monitor (preferably a chest strap) and an app to analyze the data. Given its structure, I suggest doing it on a track. Here are the key steps:

Warm up properly.
Run for 2400 meters, gradually increasing your pace every 200 meters (6 laps around the track).
Run at maximum capacity in the last 200 meters.

Analyzing the run with your app, you’ll notice a point in the heart rate trend (ascending) where the increase becomes minor or stops; you’ve found your anaerobic threshold.

Improving the Anaerobic Threshold

But why is it important to improve the anaerobic threshold? When you reach that point where your body begs you to stop, it means you can no longer maintain the balance of lactic acid. How to improve it?

Endurance training.
Interval running.
Adequate rest.

Anaerobic Threshold in Our Workouts

Awareness of your anaerobic threshold is essential to structure an effective and targeted training program. This parameter provides valuable insights on how to modulate the intensity and type of exercises during training sessions.

For high-intensity repetitions, it’s recommended to maintain an intensity between the anaerobic threshold heart rate, plus or minus 4%. This type of training allows you to work just above the anaerobic threshold, stimulating the body to adapt to sustaining intense efforts for short periods, thus improving endurance and the ability to withstand lactic acid buildup.

For continuous running at a moderate pace, it’s advisable to maintain a speed between 90% and 95% of the anaerobic threshold heart rate. This intensity range allows you to work in an area that touches the anaerobic threshold limit, contributing to improving aerobic capacity and endurance while maintaining a sustainable pace for a longer period.

Finally, for basic, lower-intensity workouts, it’s recommended to maintain a heart rate between 70% and 90% of the anaerobic threshold. This type of slow training allows you to train at more moderate intensities, stimulating aerobic capacity and improving the efficiency of the cardiovascular system without excessively fatiguing the body.


Adapting training based on the anaerobic threshold helps maximize training effects, improve performance, and reduce the risk of overtraining or injuries. Remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all magic formula. It’s essential to experiment and adjust workouts according to your needs.

Happy running!

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