Decline in recent fitness test | 80/20 Endurance

Decline in recent fitness test

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    I have theories as to why I slowed down (by 6% in my rFTP from 311 to 292) in this past week’s run fitness test and I’ll get into that in a bit, but the key question I have, what should I do with this test result. Should I continue to use the last rFTP from 3 weeks ago which was an improvement from past test, or now use the slower recent rFTP?

    Diving a bit deeper
    Accompanying the slower 20 min rFTP test, I had a stronger 20 min cycling test, gained 10w in 3 weeks, up 4.3%.

    The last couple of weeks we’ve gotten a bunch of snow in New York and I have felt uncertain about doing Z3-5 runs outside (and I am only running outside currently) so I made some adjustments to my weekly plans, guided by the understanding that the intensity distribution over all disciplines needs to be 80/20 but within each discipline it doesn’t need to be 80/20 or even close to 80/20.

    2 weeks before the test, I was 85/15 on bike, 88/12 on run. Overall, I was 87/13 for the week. I had planned out that it would be 80/20 overall – I’m not exactly sure why it ended off 87/13 but that’s a separate question. 1 week before the test I was 81/19 on bike, 97/3 on run. Overall I was 87/13 as it turned out for the week before test/recovery week.

    The actual day of the rFTP test, I do recall feeling a tight hamstring in my Z1 warmup, and had a notably lower Garmin BodyBattery score at wake, and above average resting heart rate together indicating poor sleep, and increased stress, so physically I wasn’t in the best shape for the test. But we need to persevere on this stuff right? If I postponed every fitness test when I felt a niggle or saw a bad metric, I’d be setting myself up for a lot of DNFs at races…

    After my rFTP test I pondered the idea that maybe I had gotten slower because I had done a lot more slow running and barely any moderate and fast running in this step cycle.

    Then I had the cFTP test and saw 4.3% wattage gains (from test 3 weeks before) as I had hoped for, and realized afterward I probably still had more fuel left in the tank when I was finished.

    Any other thoughts on all of this? Maybe with tests, once you have done a few, and the margins for improvement are narrowed, you have some good days and bad days and need to be ready for a fitness test that comes back worse?


    This is a really great question. As someone who natoriously tests poorly, but completes most workouts fairly well… I’m concerned that if I use the results of my ftp, I’ll end up sandbag myself.

    For example, I tested a cycling FTP at 196, but when I completed a difficult workout (that was probably a secret FTP but it wasn’t called a specific test, so didn’t feel me out, it prompted trainer road to recommend I change to 226.

    I see that some of the workouts intended for testing aren’t necessarily an actual FTP test, and are used to establish or restablish zones… But if I can hold the 24 minute at my fTP, does that mean I just give myself some FTP coins (like pacman) and just gently increase? I’m not sure extractor how to confirm or restablish my zones when it says this…

    Tedc… I’m wondering if we are better “restablishers” then “testers”

    David Warden

    Ted, this is great stuff.

    Even when a test results comes back lower, I would always use the best result you’ve logged within the past 6 weeks. Assuming you’ve been training regularly, you can disregard slower results and use your best recent time.

    I’m curious, even though you dropped 6% on the run, what was your average pace for both tests? It’s common for power to drop on the run with efficiency gain and weight loss. Ultimately, power does not matter: speed does.

    Additionally, as you get closer to your season fitness plateau, testing becomes less and less important and less frequent. An elite athlete will only test once every few months at the most, because at that point the variation is so small. 6% is a big change, but when you star to get to 3% up or down, that’s within the normal margin of error impacted by regular fatigue.

    Testing is also an art as well as a science. You’ll get better at it as you do more. Divito, as you mention, some people just don’t test well (yet!) but you will as you do it more. I’ve bailed on dozens of tests within the first 5 minutes when I know I just don’t have it for the day. That’s OK, I just use my best recent time and know I’ll get another good one in the future.



    @David – My pace for the 2/10 20 min test was 7:34/mi. My pace for the 1/19 20 min test was 7:06/mi. A 28 second increase per mile in only 3 weeks… Was definitely not in the right “place” for the test last week. I think regularly doing workouts in the Z3-Z5 range is critical for my maintaining and improving my running speed the last step cycling really lacked those Z3-Z5 efforts and I think that made the test effort feel so rough. Even though it’s intuitive, I’m not sure I had understood this from the book, site, and forum communication. I had understood the 80/20 balance overall was critical, but one or more of the disciplines could be significantly off from the 80/20 split. But if I do a lot of intense zone work on bike, more than 20%, then I’ll have to do significantly less intense work running. Reducing intense work below some percentage and I saw declines in my fitness for that discipline. Do you have any guidance on what that minimum % for moderate/intense work per discipline is? Seems like it might be above 10%. The week before my test, only 3.5% of my running time was in ZX-Z5 power zones. Thoughts?

    David Warden

    Ted, I think the minimum time at Zone 3 and higher should be 15% per sport any given week. 10% is fine for a week, but should be up to 25% the next week to make up for it so that the two-week period is closer to 20%. In a given 6 week period, the overall balance of each sport should be 20%, but a little higher and a little lower per sport for a given week.


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