triathlon and family can mix

Fitness Testing

Am I getting better? What is the best way to quantify the time you spend in the pool, saddle, and paths is actually increasing your fitness?
There is only one way to tell.


Over the past two years, I have used the training philosophy of Chris Carmichael as outlined in ‘The Time Crunched Triathlete’. To summarize the philosophy, I highly recommend reading the book from cover-to-cover by the way, high intensity training can yield the same race day fitness results as ‘tradtional’ training; meaning ‘long and slow’. I can attest to this, my performance greatly improved along with my results.

As part of the training plan, the CTS system utilizes a field test to determine your thresholds, then calculates various ranges for each training session. It looks something like this:

Pedal as hard as you can for 8 minutes, twice, with a 10 minute break in between. Then hit an all out run effort, for your guessed it, another 8 minutes.

Seem pretty easy right, not so fast. Pun intended.

Wednesday morning was my third time performing the CTS field test. This week is a Rest and Recover week after a 3 week base building period in which I peaked at 11.5 hours of volume. As part of the R&R week, I plan to test my fitness to better dial in my workouts ensuring that I am training as hard or as easy; according to my plan.

So off I went. After a decent warm up, about 10 minutes, consisting of some Power Intervals, High RPM spins, and rest in between efforts, I began my first interval. One tip is to bring the resistance up slowly, reaching your target power in about 45 seconds. So I set at 310W and began mashing. I was feeling good after 60 seconds, so I kicked it up another 10W and settled in for some pain. After the 8 minutes, I dropped to 200W and tried to catch my breath.

The 10 minute rest didn’t last as long as I would have liked, and before long I was heading back to 320W. Now Chris, sounds like we are buddies, says that the second interval will be better than the first. Good motivation, but a lie. The second kicked my butt pretty bad. It took me 90 seconds to get to 320W and I dropped it down to 200W with about 10 seconds left on the interval.

This is what the bike portion looked like.  Unfortunately I haven’t been able to link my TacX computer to my Timex Ironman Global GPS yet, so only heart rate this time.

CTS Field Test - Bike

I then hit the treadmill. Being tired from pushing on the bike, and really hating the treadmill, I took a quick minute warmup, then started the interval. Nothing much to report here except I did feel like I was holding back a little. Maybe tired, maybe the new shoes, or just lazy? Not too sure, I will make sure to push as hard as I can for the next test.

The bike intervals were done at 320W and an average of 92 rpm. An increase of 30W from my last test approximately 6 months previous. Not bad I reckon. The run portion was done at 4:17 min/km (14km/hr) and increase of 0:07 min/km (0.4km/hr). Not as good of a result as the bike, but getting faster nonetheless.

So a couple of more days of R&R, which translates to a long slow run on Saturday, typical triathlete, then back to the base phase for another round.

Question: Do you test your fitness? What process do you use?

Disclosure of material connection: I have received no compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brand, products, or services I have mentioned.


3 responses

  1. Would a longer test closer to ftp effort be a better judge of fitness? I find it hard to judge my ironman fitness, because i struggle to stay at comfortable pace over shorter distances if that makes sense. Much easier for me to gauge how im doing at say olympic pace, struggle to gauge this for longer distance. Depends if you view olympic fitness as transferable and similar to that of Ironman

    Personally i dont because I often go deep into anaerobic on olympic, especially during the run, otherwise I dont get the speed required for a top run. What do you tihnk?

    February 25, 2013 at 5:07 pm

    • Janner, apologies for the delayed response.

      I think you are right to a certain extent. A short field test, 8 minutes in this specific example, gives me a good idea of my aerobic, anaerobic, and lactate thresholds which are percentages of the field test results. I then can use this information (heart rate, speed (bike), and pace (run)) to determine where I am when training or racing.

      I haven’t worked my way up to a Long Distance Triathlon yet, good for you by the way, but I would think that this information would translate for that distance as well. Of course, with a long distance tri, you would need to keep your effort aerobic for most of the race ensuring you can finish strong and using the higher intensities for interval training.

      The key, I think, is wokring on your base fitness to reduce your HR at a given pace, so you can then go faster aerobically.

      March 21, 2013 at 4:06 pm

      • Thanks for the reply

        Yeah I think you’re right, I reckon I can adapt it for long distance, be nice to judge how I’m going.

        Really informative, thanks!

        March 21, 2013 at 4:10 pm

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