Testing… who actually likes this… pretty much no one, well maybe a few at the end of the day cycling is about pain and suffering and there is a fair bit of that with a test… any test to be honest.
Whilst we need testing to ensure that we have our zones correct for training, as an example, we also need to see progression which motivates us further. What happens though if you are a “bad tester” we know that a good test is all about motivation but a poorly executed test will of course have the opposite effect so how do we go from shying away from testing to embracing the journey and getting great results.
First up is always the good old FTP Test… It's good to not beat yourself up about this… most cyclists compare each other’s 20 min effort… The invariable 300+ a point where most people think that someone is a great cyclist… sure it’s a great benchmark but a high FTP does not constitute a great cyclist. First up we have to consider bike handling and confidence then look at what the cyclist is actually doing… Someone doing Crit racing for example will want to work at a good 5 min effort or for endurance we want to be looking at better 60, 90 and 120 min efforts… Yes FTP is important but not the be all and end all.
So the big one, how do we do a good FTP test then? There are many options now, no more 20 min all out effort, maybe a Ramp Test is better for you or an 8 min option… a few choices try to find the one that suits you better and will give you a better result.
The next thing is a positive frame of mind... With anything in cycling the mind is generally the first thing to go before the legs or the lungs… so if you can keep a positive take on things then you can do better too. If you want to work on a positive mind set then try to focus on the shorter or longer efforts so start with 5 sec or 1 min or go the other end of the spectrum and tackle 60 and 90 min efforts… From there you can look at 5 and 10 min and of course the dreaded 20 min. If you also put Test Goals into your calendar regularly then you will get used to a test looming… Most people will stick one test in the calendar which is like a weight around you neck… the days tick towards its inevitable arrival… doom, gloom and failure are on the horizon.
Finally, let's go back to the start of this post, don’t set your goals so high, that 300w golden chalice!! Cycling, training and fitness is all about the long term…small increases over a longer period. No point in setting your goals through the roof…So if your FTP is at 220..then don’t set a test target at 250, set it at 230…if you end up beyond then great but if you push into a place that is beyond you then you are setting yourself up for failure…Better to have a few other tests along the way to build to that. As a Coach I know how hard testing can be for athletes so generally I try to set workouts and a training calendar with feedback and direction that inadvertently is working at test level so you will almost do a test without you realizing it…..
Embracing testing, we all need to see that we are moving forward and when we see that we want to train and ride more…
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