Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Periodic Performance Testing for Effective Training

It's actually quite simple- we train then we race.  Hopefully, if we train well (and correctly) we race well.  But, how do we know if we're training well?  For those of you that train and race, and don't have a Power Meter on your bikes, the only way you can assess your training and race day performance is by race day results- how you finished.  Even before Power Meters arrived on the scene, I wasn't enamored with this method of evaluating/assessing performance.  Why?  Because if you did well on race day, how do you know your competition wasn't sub-par?  On the contrary, if you didn't do well, perhaps the competition was the best you ever faced.  Or, maybe the reason you did well was because the particular course was long and flat which suited your size/weight and endurance.  There are many variables/reasons for doing well or NOT doing well in races.  And, a lot of these variables can be attributed to everything BUT your power output.

I know there are MANY racers that scoff at the idea of training or racing with Power Meters.  As I said, they're training and performance assessment on the bike is based EXCLUSIVELY on race day results...not a bunch of numbers generated by a Power Meter that don't really mean much to them.  (Funny, the reason the numbers don't mean much to them is because they can't discern/decipher what the numbers mean.)  But, for you Power Meter owners out's imperative that you periodically test yourself...even during the racing season.  Why?  Because performance testing will let you know: a) if your training plan is working and b) if your race day power is up to the demands of the Category Race you're entered in.  Take a look at the chart above and look at the columns with 1, 5 and 20 min. peak w/kg.  Each of these peak numbers is a good indication of the average Anaerobic Capacity, VO2max and Threshold Power of your competitors.  You may be at or near the 5 min. and 20 min. number for your specific Category and below on your 1 min. number.  (Perhaps that's why you got blown away in the final bunch sprint.)

Here's a real life example of Cat 3 racer that trains and races without a power meter.  He enters his first race of the season, a local Cat 3 Criterium (which is short and flat).  He ends up finishing 5th in a bunch sprint.  Now, this Cat 3 racer is flying high..looking forward to the racing season.  So, he enters another Cat 3 race (this time a little bit longer with hills).  This time, he's dropped on the 5th of 10 laps.  What was that all about he wonders.  He has NO clue at all why he got dropped.  Was the competition better than the last race?  Was it because of the hills?  Was it because he was training too hard before the race?  Was it too hot?  Was it due to poor hydration/nutrition?  Was he too stale before the race?  Without a Power Meter to record the race..there really isn't any way of REALLY knowing why the rider was dropped.  Did he burn too many matches?  Was his Threshold Power adequate but VO2max power inadequate?  If this same racer trained and raced with a Power Meter..he would know if it was due to a lack of power.

If you don't train and race with a Power Meter..perhaps you ought to seriously consider starting.  For those of you that DO train and race with a Power Meter..don't forget to periodically test yourself at the 1, 5, and 20 min. durations.  When you're done testing, compute your w/kg and see how they stack up with the averages from your competition (see chart).  Perhaps, your power is adequate in the 1 and 5 min. durations but your 20 min (or 60 min.) Threshold Power is inadequate.  Therefore, you need to increase your Threshold Training. i.e. 2x20@L4 workouts.

Power ON!  Coach Rob

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