Friday, January 1, 2010

Winter Performance Testing

Who wants to go out and do a 40K time trial this time of year? Better yet, who wants to do a one hour threshold test on an indoor trainer???

For everyone that went "Eeewwww! I'd rather be stuck in a cage and poked with sharp sticks for an hour" I am developing my own indoor performance testing protocol using a MAP test and a simple follow up field test to round out the power profile.

For starters, my findings and prescriptions are based on the Coggan Power Levels and the teachings of Hunter Allen. I apologize to the both of them in advance for mangling your intellectual property hahaha! But, so far it's working for us, and my friend the ER Doc is interested in my rebel methods, so I'm laying it out for all to see. Hi Suzanne! Keep in mind that I mostly work with amateurs, women, and masters bike racers, so this protocol is developed for us.

I use a CompuTrainer, a PowerTap, and WKO+ power analysis software.

Okay, the first thing I do is estimate the athlete's FTP (functional threshold power - what the rider could do in a well paced 40K time trial). I'll use myself as our example. This past season my FTP stabilized around 300 watts and I figure it has dropped to about 270-280 watts in the off season. We'll be optimistic and go with 280 watts. I take that number and figure my Coggan threshold power level to be 255-296 watts. From there I divide the lower number by 2 and that serves as my starting watts for the MAP test. 255/2=127.5 rounded down to the nearest multiple of five (the CompuTrainer manually goes in 5 watt increments starting at 50 watts) giving us a starting point of 125 watts.

The reason I jump through all these hoops is that I want the test to last from 10-15 minutes, give or take a minute or two. The other part of the equation is I like to do winter training blocks of about six weeks with a rest week between blocks. The testing comes immediately following the rest week.

The other thing about the CompuTrainer, which works out to be a good fast warm-up, is the unit needs to be warmed up at 150 watts for 10 minutes and then a quick calibration is performed. I like to start with some easy spinning at 50 watts and gradually, over the course of 15 minutes, work up to and hold 150 watts for as long as is practicable. For those with higher FTP this means holding 150 for the last 10 minutes. For those with lower FTP this means holding 150 watts for the last minute or so. I also include some high rpm pedaling to shake things loose. Then we do the quick and easy coastdown to calibrate the CompuTrainer and off we go.

I started my test at the previously mentioned 125 watts and hit the +5 watts button every 20 seconds until failure, which last time around was in the 13-14 minute range. Then I do a little easy spinning at 50 watts until my vision returns and the birds stop chirping.

Next I take the PowerTap, download it into WKO+, and find the peak one minute. That is what I consider to be the MAP or roughly power at VO2 max. I averaged 327 watts for my best one minute. I take that number and subtract 15% and use that as my FTP. 327-15% = 278 watts.

Confirmation time. Lucky for us we can usually ride out of doors several days a week, even in the dead of Winter, but the confirmation test can be done on an indoor trainer as well. Just be careful not fall over, or better yet, don't bother with the jumps and sprints and do the one minute intervals seated...

The confirmation test is one five minute all out effort followed by a 20 minute time trial, 2x1:00 flat out, and several hard jumps and sprints. All efforts should be done after a minimum of 5 minutes recovery. More if neccessary.

My five minute test was 320 watts and the 20 minute time trial was 278. The one minute intervals hurt like hell and the better of the two was 530 watts. My best 5 seconds was 1139.

These numbers are solid enough that I can confidently use them as a base for the next block of training. Remember there are no set on/off points between training levels and the grey areas between our metabolic systems are broad enough to absorb the errors of my math. Also, this time of year is about building and maintaining fitness while eliminating race limiters, so if you need to fudge the numbers, err to the conservative side, so when the peak racing season arrives, you can spend like a drunken sailor. I hope this helps!

Until next time, ride fast and swerve...