Cyclists: How to Do Your Own Performance Testing

An even greater benefit of the 30-minute time trial is the ability to assess your fitness and evaluate your progress from one point in time to another. Get in the habit of doing a field test every three or four weeks during the season and use the following steps to evaluate your performance:

More: Does Lactate Threshold Speed Change in the Offseason?

  1. If you have a power meter, simply look for an increase in average power throughout the season. This is the easiest and most effective way to evaluate performance.
  2. Look for increases in your lactate threshold heart rate as a sign of improved fitness.
  3. If you do not have a power meter, measure the distance covered in 30 minutes and look for increases in distance over the course of the season. In this instance, I suggest you perform the field test on an indoor trainer with a consistent resistance setting because it helps mitigate the effects of changing terrain, temperature and wind from one test to the next.
  4. You can also base your field test on distance (e.g., 10 miles) and look for decreases in the time it takes you to cover that distance. Once again, in the absence of a power meter, I suggest you do this on an indoor trainer and make sure the test still takes roughly 30 minutes to complete.

I prefer 30 minutes for the field test because it makes for a great workout as well as a performance evaluation; however, you can use other distances.

A 40K race will give you a very accurate estimate of your LTHR and FTP, especially if you can complete the event in approximately one hour. Unfortunately, this has two potential problems. First, a 40K race is typically not repeatable and you want to make sure you use a field test that can be repeated on a consistent basis. Second, you may not want to ride that hard for that long.

In fact, a 30-minute TT may not appeal to you either. A 5K time trial will also work and since it is much shorter, you may be more motivated to ride hard. If you perform a 5K field test as hard as you possibly can (i.e., race pace), the result is about 110 percent of your LTHR and FTP. For example, if you do a very hard 5K effort and have an average HR of 180 bpm, your estimated LTHR is 164 (180/1.1). Likewise, if your effort yields an average power of 320 watts, your estimated FTP is 291 watts (320/1.1). Remember, it is vital that you are thoroughly warmed-up prior to this field test.

More: 7 Ways to Test Your Cycling Fitness

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About the Author

Tyrone A. Holmes, Ed.D, CPT, is a certified personal trainer through the American Council on Exercise and a Level 2 cycling coach through USA Cycling. He provides Cycle-Max Coaching for cyclists and multisport athletes who want to improve their performance on the bike and Healthy Life Coaching for individuals who want to lose weight and develop healthier lifestyles. His latest book is Developing Training Plans for Cyclists and Triathletes. Visit his website at www.holmesfitness.com and his Fitness Corner blog at www.doctorholmes.wordpress.com.

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