Running Talk Test Confusion | 80/20 Endurance

Running Talk Test Confusion

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    When it comes to the talk test to update my zones, I have come to understand that once there is any uncertainty in my ability to talk comfortably, that means I have reached the end of the test. The problem is that it always feels slightly uncomfortable to talk. At least, it never feels as comfortable as when I sit in my desk chair and talk, even if I’m jogging at a slow 10min/mi.

    I’ve performed the test twice, and this is what happens. I start jogging slowly and follow the test, only talking when the test calls for it. I always feel slightly uncomfortable, and this feeling builds as I increase the pace. Nevertheless, I run through it because there is no way that I am truly “done” with the test (based on a 20-minute time trial I did before starting my Marathon Training Plan). After a while, the uncomfortable feeling stabilizes for a few intervals. At some point, it is noticeably harder to talk, and I know that this is certainly uncomfortable.

    What should I do? Should I take the pace and power from the beginning because it was a little uncomfortable, should I take the pace and power from the end when I knew for sure it was uncomfortable, or should I just throw the whole test away and do another 20-minute time trial?

    Matt Fitzgerald

    I don’t think the talk test is going to work for you. There’s no way to coach you through the feeling that speaking is uncomfortable at any pace. By the way, do you train by heart rate, pace, or power?


    I would just do the 20 or 30 minute test run and configure your training zones accordingly. This is a lot less subjective. For what it’s worth, I don’t think I would do well on the the talk test.

    Matt Fitzgerald

    Just a reminder that our talk test protocol is scientifically validated. I don’t like to let athletes off the hook too easily because perceptual attunement is hugely important to success in endurance sports and it is rapidly eroding in today’s generation, thanks to tech worship. Also, the talk test is only semi-subjective. after all, it is largely dependent on breathing rate, which is objective. This is why someone other than the person trying to talk while running can usually make a pretty confident statement about whether that person is talking comfortably.


    My statistics on Garmin Connect are consistent with Matt’s comments. Heart rate tracks with good fidelity my respiration rates.

    At the top end of Zone 2 (Heart Rate) I see about 36 breaths per minute (BPM). At this effort I can just meet the talk test guidelines.

    I don’t know if there is a magic number for BPM, but it would seem that there should be some correlation between the ability to talk and BPM that would be similar for everyone.

    I don’t agree that this “tech worship” is detrimental. With Garmin Connect I can now record subjective data on how I feel and grade the workout with RPE assessments in addition to the quantitative running metrics. Technology is not a substitute for an “eyes on” coach, but it sure helps with the learning process.


    Matt, sorry for the very late reply. I run with power (Stryd). Are there any tips that you can give me based on this information?

    Matt Fitzgerald

    Stick with the 20-minute time trial.

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