I use a lactate plus meter, which you can get from lactate.com.
The meter costs about $250. I bought a starter kit that included lancets, test strips, alcohol wipes and a DVD of lactate training information, this set me back about $370. The test strips get expensive. They cost $46 for a box of 25, or nearly $2 per strip.
I use lactate measurement to try to make sure that I am doing steady state training at an intensity that maximizes fat metabolism and develops increased aerobic capacity. Through various posts over on Rowing Illustrated, it seems that the magic range for steady state training is from 1.6 to 2.0mmol/l. Above this level, improvements in aerobic capacity and training power stall, but in this range, long term improvements can be achieved.
Lactate will vary over time during a steady state workout. It will initially rise, and then fall as the metabolic processes that use lactate as an energy source kick in. Then a period of stasis where lactate should be roughly correlated with training power. Finally, when muscle fatigue begins to set in, lactate levels will rise.
For consistency, I always measure lactates after 20 minutes (or sometimes 5K). Here is how that works.
Before starting I set up everything. I get a lancet in the little lancet machine. I take out 1 test strip, and an alcohol wipe. I have one wet paper towel and one dry one.
When I finish the piece, here is what I do:
1. I wipe both hands with the wet paper towel
2. dry them with the dry paper towel
3. swap my left ring finger tip with the alcohol wipe
4. Prick my finger
5. Get a drop and wipe it with the dry paper towel
6. Put the test strip in the meter, which turns it on
7. Make sure I have a nice beefy drop on my finger (do a little squeezing if I don’t)
8. Touch it to the end of the test strip and wait 13 seconds
9. read the meter
All of this takes just about 1 minute. I usually take a drink and stretch a little bit and then start my next piece 2 minutes after finishing the first.
All of these steps are basically to try to avoid having sweat contaminate the reading, which causes false high readings. I’ve gotten pretty consistent at this point.