Last week was test week.
Once a month, I test my fitness. It isn’t a complete, or necessarily accurate test, but it highlights trends, and enables me to adjust my training plan as needed. The test measures the 3 things that affect cycling performance most:
- Aerobic Fitness
- Leg Strength
- Core strength
I complete a 3-minute test; an all-out effort on the Keiser spinning bike, and then input my average heart rate and wattage into an on-line training zone calculator that spits out recommended heart rate and wattage ranges for each training zone.
I track my average heart rate and wattage for the 3-minute test, and expect to see a gradual increase in the average wattage. This is easier said than done. VO2 max declines with age, and the only way to stop, or reverse the trend, is to train regularly for short intervals near or at your maximum HR.
I also use a 1 RM leg press to measure my leg strength. Throughout the month I do 1-legged leg presses with heavy weights. And, I also complete a plank, holding it with good form until I begin to shake. Throughout the month, I do not do planks. Instead, I do a variety of cable-based core exercises (Pallof Press, Oblique Twists, Crunches …), gradually increasing the number of reps, and weight.
Each week, I increase the intensity, and or duration for each of the efforts. Not a lot. Just enough to tax myself so that by the end of 4 weeks, I am completing the intervals with less effort, and lifting heavier weights.
The key is to improve my Training Effect (TE). I measure this 2 ways. First, I measure my Leg Strength Ratio by dividing the 1 RM leg press by my weight, and match this to the following table to see how I compare to other athletes my age.
Then I calculate my Aerobic Ratio by dividing my average wattage for the 3-minute test by my weight. This is the real measure as it reflects my aerobic fitness. This is the number I pay most attention to. At this point in the season, I focus on building both my strength and aerobic base. I know I’m not at my ideal riding weight. That’s typical for this time of year. By mid-summer, I will be at my optimum cycling weight, and these TE numbers will improve.
I also keep track of my sleep patterns. Sleep is integral to effective recovery but that is for another time.
However, one set of the sleep numbers stands out. My weekly average Resting Heart Rate (RHR) and Maximum Heart Rate (MHR) decreased over the month, and yet the intensity of my interval workouts increased. That’s a good thing. This means I’m able to work harder with less effort. This is my goal.
This month I will do more of the same, and as the weather improves, I’ll begin getting out on the road bikes more. During March, the month before the Pacific Populaire, I will lift less, and cycle more in preparation for the first century of the year.
If I didn’t have a weekly training plan, and test myself regularly, I would not progress. My workouts would have no purpose, and I would lose the motivation.
Do you have a training plan, and do you measure your progress?
Kudos to you! I don’t test myself formally – but I do keep an eye on my training via Strava’s fitness/freshness &/or Training Peaks’ graphs. That way I can see my progression in load, fitness and fatigue. (Plus, I’m far to lazy to do it formally like you!)
I like that you have included core strength here, something I really neglect. Sleep too, although I do well in this area, not quite as well as you though.
I use good old fashioned FTP and weight. I use the 8 minute test for FTP and absolutely hate it once every month. Horrible thing. Of course it’s not really a reflection of my FTP but it does give me a good benchmark and a number to set against all other workouts.
Even the 3-minute test is a grunt. I’m exhausted afterward. I used the “old fashioned FTP” test for years but find that the 3-minute test is sufficient now that I understand my abilities more.
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