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A treadmill can be used for various types of fitness training. It is also a great piece of equipment to use to prepare for different fitness tests. One of the most popular tests used is the beep test. As we explain and elaborate on below, the beep test can estimate your aerobic capacity and help develop cardiovascular fitness.
In this guide, we look at how to train for the beep test on a treadmill and any limitations this method has.
What Is the Beep Test?
The beep test has many names, including the bleep test, PACER test, multi-stage fitness test, and 20m shuttle run. It is an incredibly popular test originally created by Luc Leger. It is used globally by sports clubs, schools, and military organizations to help determine fitness levels and improve cardiovascular health.
The basic premise of the beep test is that there is a minute increase in running speed. Participants must attempt to run a set number of laps in-between a series of pre-determined beeps. An audio track is usually played that contains the beeps and gives participants an audio marker to keep in time with.
There are generally two types of tests – a 20m and 15m variant. The 20m variant covers a total distance of 4740m and has a cumulative time of approximately 21 minutes. Alternatively, the 15m variant covers a total distance of 4725m and also has a cumulative time of approximately 21 minutes.
Beep Test Training On a Treadmill
The beep test is challenging. It will push your fitness levels, and if you can complete it, you know you have a great level of stamina! Using a treadmill, you can effectively recreate 99% of the beep test conditions, including the running speed and forward momentum. As a result, it is a great piece of equipment on which you can practice your beep test training.
Step 1: Replicate the Speed and Conditions
The great thing about a treadmill is that you can change the treadmill speed to recreate different running conditions. This versatility allows you to easily replicate the standard beep test. To start, you just determine the ideal running speed and incline for the first level of this fitness test.
Luckily, there is a global recommend standard that make it easy for you to set everything up. The first you need to do is set your treadmill to a 1% incline and a running speed of 8km/h. These settings mimic running outdoors and simulate a similar level of energy demand.
This initial setting mimics the first phase of the multi-stage fitness test, which covers an approximate distance of 140m in one minute. To make the experience more realistic, you could also consider using a beep test audio file to simulate the beeps.
Step 2: Increase the Speed at 1-Minute Intervals
After the initial level, it is then a simple case of increasing the speed at set intervals. Some treadmills may allow you to create a pre-programmed plan, with the speed intervals set up beforehand. This would make the training easier to perform. If you can’t pre-programme the settings, simply manually increase the speed.
The basic process here is to increase the treadmill speed by 0.5km/h after each subsequent minute. This replicates the speed increase of the beep test as the time between the beeps decreases. For the 20m beep test, the maximum speed you will reach is 18.5km/h.
Limitations of the Beep Test On a Treadmill
Whilst this is an effective straight-line preparation, there are some limitations to this type of training that you should be aware of. Training for the beep test on a treadmill cannot recreate the conditions 100%. There are also some safety concerns that you must understand.
No Replication for Turning and Deceleration
The main drawback of using a treadmill is that it cannot account for the turns. During each lap of the exercise, the participant must turn 180-degrees to run the other way. This involves deceleration and acceleration, affecting your heart rate and putting more pressure on your muscles.
Overall, a treadmill gives you effective training and the same time intervals to work with. It’s the most accurate recreation of the test conditions you can get without completing an actual test simulation.
Potential Safety Hazards
The beep test is considered a maximal test. A maximal test is where you experience an increased workload up to the point of exhaustion and limiting fatigue. You essentially push yourself until your body can’t cope with the pace of energy requirements.
This type of “all or nothing” exercise can be dangerous on a treadmill. If you run on a treadmill until the point of exhaustion, you could cause yourself a serious injury by stumbling or falling over on the belt. As a result, it is advised to have someone watching you when you train. It is also advisable to attach a cord between yourself and the treadmill as a safety anchor.
The beep test is a brilliant type of interval training. It effectively helps test your aerobic capacity and fitness levels. Additionally, it helps build your cardiovascular fitness and develop techniques for running longer distances. Learning how to train for the beep test on a treadmill is a great way to improve your beep test progression and prepare for the real thing. While it does have its limitations, it allows you to see and understand your basic energy demands and fitness level.