No matter what your fitness level, the beep test doesn’t care!
I found out recently after attempting The Beep Test for the first time that it does not discriminate. In actual fact the beep test does not even care anything about you!
So no matter whether you’re super fit or even a couch potato, everybody that does the beep test will end up at the same point, out of breath and at the limits of their cardio vascular capacity.
The fact that the beep test is the most commonly used test to measure a persons cardiovascular levels and VO2 max (maximum oxygen uptake) should be indication enough that this is a gruelling test for anybody that attempts it. The question is, how long can you last before you reach your cardio exhaustion point.
To my knowledge there has never been anybody who was able to fully complete the 21 levels that make up the beep test, however there are rumours going around that there have actually been some athletes complete all levels. The bottom line is that it would take a super human to achieve this and congratulations to anybody that has completed it but personally I find it hard to believe. Here in Australia, our top Australian Rules Footballers would get somewhere in the vicinity of level 15 or 16 and maybe 17 which is considered a top effort.
As mentioned at the start of this post, being the curious type and never having done a beep test before I thought I would give it a go to see what level I could get to.
Just for the record, I’m in my late 30’s, been involved in sports all my life and try to keep pretty active. On average I’ll do some sort of training 2-3 times a week which might consist of a couple of bike rides for two-three hours each, or a couple of 1 hour runs or a combination of a ride and a run and I’ll walk the dog most days. I should also put a caveat here to say that my training suffers badly if its cold or raining (pathetic I know).
So although I wouldn’t call myself an elite athlete I’m certainly no couch potato so my expectations of a decent score were pretty high.
In order to complete the beep test you need a flat non-slip surface at a length of 20metres between ends. I used a couple of cones placed at each end and I also downloaded a copy of the beep test audio as an mp3 file so I could play it on my iPod which I hooked up to some external speakers so I could easily hear the sound of the beeps clearly.
With everything set up and some nervous energy from the anticipation I pressed play and off I went.
The first 3 to 4 levels were pretty comfortable for me as they were below my normal jogging pace and then from level 4 to 8 as the pace quickened for each level I was getting more uncomfortable with my heart rate increasing steadily and my breathing becoming more laboured. Then from level 8 to 10 the heart rate climbed very quickly and it got very difficult until finally I had to stop at level 10. I think I would have stopped earlier however I was determined to at the least get to level 10!
I have to admit that I was quite disappointed my score especially considering that up until level 8 I was not under any real cardio pressure. Being quite a detailed person, I wanted to get to the bottom of why I only got to level 10.
I enlisted the help of my best mate who is a personal trainer and has experience in training people for the beep test to get to the bottom of why I bombed out when I did.
After looking at the beep test data and then going back over the data from my training rides and training runs we were able to determine that most of my training is done at long distances and at a rate of 70-80% of my maximum heart rate. I rarely get my heart rate up to near its maximum and when I do its usually only in short bursts (usually sprinting at the end).
So the advice from my mate was if I wanted to increase my beep test score, then I’d need to do some specific training at high intensity to increase my ability to prolong exercising at a higher heart rate.