Importance of Physiological Testing
by Bruce Hendler -
To improve your fitness, testing is
important, but it's only the first step.
We all want to improve on the bike. We want
to climb hills faster, possess more explosive power, and have cunning tactical
sense. We want our training programs to show results and get some type of
confirmation that all our hard work has paid off. Physiological testing
establishes the benchmark to improve these aspects of your cycling, but it's
important to remember that it is only the beginning.
When you think about it, testing is just now
becoming popular and readily available to all levels of riders. It used to be
reserved for only the elite, but now, testing labs and coaches alike are
performing some type of test on their athletes. So why is it so important?
First and foremost, testing gives you a
benchmark or current "picture" of your fitness level in a controlled lab
environment. In the lab there are no wind conditions, there is no heat or cold
to deal with, and it is much easier to control the environment in order to
produce results that can be consistently (that's the important word) compared.
Of course, the athlete may differ from test to test, as in lack of sleep,
sickness, over-training etc, but again, being in a controlled environment takes
away a lot of the other variables.
The old training formulas from the 70's like
determining max heart rate as "220 minus age" and then using that as a basis
for training zones (70%, 80%, etc) are just not accurate. They don't take into
account the most important aspect of any training program - YOU! Everyone is
different, everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and the most accurate way to
determine what's best for you is do testing.
What are the important benchmarks? There are
literally hundreds of parameters that can be derived from a variety of tests,
but we really don't want to be bombarded with a bunch of numbers that confuse
us more than help us. We want simple, easy to use data without feeling the need
to be a "Doctor of Sports Physiology" to understand the results. The important
-Training zones by heart rate, representing
specific area of fitness to work on.
-Power measured in watts at your
anaerobic threshold (AT)
- This is a key indicator of what a cyclist wants
-Power measured in watts at your maximum power.
kilo of body weight measured both at your AT and maximum
Knowing these numbers and owning a heart
rate monitor or some type of power-measuring device will give you the ability
to set goals for improvement and monitor progress.
This is only the beginning of a successful
training program. Most people leave the tests with these numbers, but don't
know how to apply them. That is where a good training program comes into play
that takes into account your strengths, weaknesses, and goals. A good training
program also discusses the mental approach of the sport where you determine
what motivates you as well as good tactical sense. Having all the strength in
the world, with out knowing how and when to apply it can be quite frustrating.
Or more common to most athletes is not being the strongest rider and needing
good tactical sense and a strong mental attitude to achieve your goals.
So in summary, getting testing done is an
important first step to any successful training program, no matter what your
goals are. Then taking the results, receiving good sound coaching advise based
on the results and combining that with all the other "little" things, like
nutrition, tactics and mental preparation will be the basis for realizing your
goals in the great sport of cycling.
Excerpt from the
Featured Ride - Amador County, La Tuscana Della California
With endless back roads that lead all the
way to Lake Tahoe, Amador County offers some of the most spectacular riding in
Northern California. Add to that, incredible scenery and a California wine
region few know about, it is no coincidence that Amador County is known as the
"La Tuscana della California" - The Tuscany of California. There are so many
great rides to challenge every level of cyclist. My favorite begins in the old
mining town of Ione (http://www.ione- ca.com/history/index.html).
The great thing about starting in Ione is
that the terrain is dead flat and gives you amble time to warm up before the
rolling hills lead to more impressive climbs deep within the region. Heading
west out of town, you immediately get a taste of how great the area is for
group rides, as there is little traffic and perfectly smooth roads. Turn onto
Irish Hill road and you begin the slow accent to the ultimate prize - riding
through the vineyards. The first "major" town you pass thru after about 20
miles is Plymouth; also know as "Pokerville". I call Plymouth major; I think
there are 300 residents :-) . After leaving Plymouth, the climbing begins and
you get your first glimpse of the vineyards and background of the Sierras. The
climbs are not long and sustained, but take on the character of the Sierra
foothills, which are shorter climbs, one right after each other. The next town
is Fiddletown and you have to see this place to believe it! It's one road, so
don't blink. With old structures and a huge wooden "fiddle" on top of the local
bar, this is Amador County at its best. During Transition camp, this is where
we stopped for pictures (see link in next story)! Leaving Fiddletown, you now
head deep into the vineyards. As just a side note, if you continue on
Fiddletown road, you go to a place called Daffodil hill and the town of
Volcano, which hosts a Shakespeare festival in the summer months. Volcano is
surrounded by steep wooded hills, has a historic hotel, coffee shops and has a
population of 101. The next 15- 20 miles of the ride after leaving Fiddletown
is spent riding thru the vineyards, and if you are in the right mood, a stop or
two at the wineries, where they are always glad to serve you! You arrive back
into Plymouth, by way of Shenandoah Valley road and make your way back to Ione,
choosing from a variety of traffic free routes!
What a ride! 50 - 60 miles, perfect
distances. Tuscany in California. It's become a tradition to take the camps to
Amador on the last full day, as it is worth the short drive. It also allows us
to practice group riding skills, demonstrate specific workouts and for those
traveling from a long distance, provide another glimpse of this incredible area
to ride a bike and train. A trip to Amador is already scheduled for the next
camps! See you there!
Hendler created AthletiCamps to provide cycling specific coaching and training
to athletes and cyclists of all levels. Find out more at