Periodic Fitness Tests | 80/20 Endurance

Periodic Fitness Tests

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  • #10405
    winoria
    Moderator


    @winoria
    , I think you’ve identified an important genesis of not only the testing protocols used by different coaches, but the genesis for many applications of endurance training. Coggan identified his test as the best test from years of experience coaching pro cyclists. I’ve use the 20 and 30 based on my 1.5 decades of coaching elite triathletes. TR developed their test based on other factors, but I’m sure that there was a significant commercial factors in their decision (“what test is accurate, but also most likely for athletes to remain on our platform”?

    Each of us is like the blind men and the elephant, using our own experience to identify the “best” part of the threshold testing beast.

    I’m confident that all 3 would work, and as you pointed out, I’m also confident that some tests are better for certain athletes. Ramp Test 1 might be best for Athlete A, the 30-minute test for Athlete B, the 20-minute for Athlete C, and Ramp Test 2 for Athlete D.

    But Coggan, 80/20 and TR all face the same problem: we really need to keep the testing simple and consistent for our athletes. We can’t just say “pick you own threshold test.” So, we pick and endorse our best method for the masses, and the take our lumps from the 10% who struggle with the method we chose and say it does not work for them.

    David, I don’t and didn’t want to come across questioning your FTP test protocol. Actually, I’m quite open to test different protocols and see how it works out. Please apologize if it came across in a bad way.
    I’m actually planning on either doing the 30min or 20min protocol for my next test to see how it “compares” (I know it cannot be compared by numbers as I hopefully improved 🙂 – at least I want to get an idea how it feels not having that 5min blowout Coggan describes.

    #10406
    David Warden
    Keymaster

    winoria, not at all! I really appreciate the question and this is exactly the kind of discussion I hoped to have when opening the forums. Please continue to ask and participate exactly as you have.

    David

    #10418
    winoria
    Moderator

    Please continue to ask and participate exactly as you have.

    Will do. Thanks David.

    #10452
    tedc
    Participant

    @david – I thought about that question of a ramp test for running too… I think it would be very difficult to reliably maintain a narrow range of wattage (like 5w) and steadily increase. In the cycling ramp test, this is done in ERG mode and so it is very controlled.

    One more thing about the ramp test for cycling…
    One the one hand, a ramp test avoids the 20 or 30 min test, is less exhausting and so could we be done more frequently. And if it delivers an accurate FTP then that’s a more frequently updated FTP for the training plan.

    On the other hand, eliminating the 20 or 30 minute test and doing the Ramp test instead… While a “fresh” FTP can be generating more regulary with the ramp test, is there something to be said about the 20 or 30 minute effort in terms of its physical or mental training as it applies to the end goal of the fastest triathlon time a triathlete can accomplish? It requires a heightened sense of pacing. It delivers a simple metric for real work done (rather than an abstract formula on an effort that is nothing like a triathlon.) What’s best for a triathlete?

    I have to say “recovery weeks” are pretty high stress for me because I know I am going to be tested for swimming, running and cycling progress. I know my volume will be reduced but with the tests hanging over my head all week, they are not relaxing or refreshing weeks. They are not mentally restorative. Is that ok? Are they supposed to be refreshing and relaxing weeks?

    #10462
    tedc
    Participant

    @david – given that fitness testing during recover weeks is a standard expectation of 80/20 plans, why are straight fitness tests (20 minute test or 30 minute tests) not a standard part of the training plans? I have created my own structured workouts in Training Peaks to cover the 20 or 30 minutes tests, and wondered why there aren’t just standard “C” and “R” workouts prescribed every recovery weekend. I know there are CT and RT workout but the Zone 3 time for each CT or RT workout isn’t always 20 or 30 minutes, it could be 16, or 24 which doesn’t fit into the math for an FTP calculation so easily. Also, since the hope is to see gains in FTP from one step cycle to the next, in actuality, the prescribed workout I have for the FTP test is higher than the Zone 3 of the CT and RT workouts. If I am hoping to nail a 5% gain in my FTP and I’m doing the 30 minute test, that’s 105% of FTP which is in the middle of Zone 4. If I am doing a 20 minute test, then I need to run at my current FTP + 5% of FTP (for the 95% adjustment of the 20 minute test) + the 5% gain I am aiming for, or about 110% FTP, which is in the top of Zone 4 or bottom of Zone 5. Seems like all of this – the math, the uniform prescribed workouts could be included in your plans for folks that aren’t delving as deeply into this. (Please let me know if anything about my process seems off here.)

    #10474
    David Warden
    Keymaster

    Ted,

    Instinctively, I don’t trust the ramp tests. I can articulate some of the reasons, but I can’t define others, it’s just a feeling from 15 years of coaching. You’ve brought up a good point that the 20/30 test require proper pacing and discipline and teach those same skills. The ramp test almost offends me? That does not reflect well on someone who is supposed to be neutral to best-practices. I do think for a triathlete the 20/30 is better than the ramp test, but I really could be wrong.

    We used to prescribe/mandate testing every rest week in our plans. The athletes really struggled with it and we decided to make it optional. Remember, although the 80/20 system is a universal truth, how that is implemented is not. We write the plans for the bell curve. For 80% of the athletes, the plans work really well. For 10%, they work exceptionally well, for another 10%, they struggle with the way we put them together. 80% of the athletes preferred to not have to test every rest week, so we leave it open. But, for some athletes, it’s fine to test every rest week.

    As you get more fit, you should NOT test every rest week. Elite athletes only test every few months and even fit athletes I’d keep to 6 weeks.

    The RT/CT workouts are really just placeholders for testing. If you formally test, do the full 20/30 and not the odd-numbered 16 or 24-minute tests. If you stick with the RT and CT as written, that’s more of a validation (see https://vimeo.com/463897409 for a discussion on testing vs validating). Testing should be the 20/30. Validating is using the CT/RT as written.

    So, feel free to formally test every rest week using a consistent protocol and disregarding the CT/RT in the schedule. Or, if you adopt the ramp test, as discussed, you can keep everything else in the plan and just add the ramp test to an existing workout.

    Finally, I think entering an FTP test with a set improvement in mind, or any specific goal, is not the right approach. Your fitness is what it is. It’s not something you can really predict or control. After the first 3 months, when there are huge gains in fitness, fitness gains are measures in 1-2% and 5% in a year is a huge improvement. I’d enter every test with just this one thought in mind; “I’m going to pace this test for the maximum output I can manage over 20/30 minutes regardless of what the power says.” I’ve had athletes who never even look at their watch, they just go as hard as they can for 20/30 minutes. I don’t have that discipline, but I love that mindset to the test.

    David

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