This week: The durability of fitness and "fitness phantoms".
Image: pro triathlete and Tri Town crew member Travis Wood.
Here is your weekly Tri Town Times newsletter:
Athletes conduct performance tests to determine if their training is moving in the right direction. For example, many triathletes use a 20 minute Functional Threshold Power(FTP) test to determine their cycling power zones. The problem with this test for a triathlete is that it will often overestimate the power the athlete is capable of sustaining for a 56 or 112 mile ride, especially so if that athlete just swam for 2,000 - 4,000 yards. For the long distance endurance athlete, short maximal effort tests are not great indicators of actual race readiness. What's needed are longer sub-maximal tests or a test conducted in a pre-fatigued state.
Testing in a pre-fatigued state is exactly what this study did with 12 professional male cyclists. The objective was to determine the "durabability" of their endurance by having them conduct two FTP tests on different days. One test was conducted fresh, and the second test was conducted at the end of a sub-maximal 4 hour ride. The closer the two FTP results, the more durable the athlete's endurance.
The results of this type of test can be very insightful for the long distance endurance athlete:
- Indicates the depth of the athlete's endurance: do they have the stamina to go the distance.
- How effective is their fueling strategy: are they taking in enough calories and burning the right type of calories during the long sustained "warmup"?
- How much do they have in the tank after a long ride? This is especially important for the triathlete who has to then run at their best effort after the bike in competition.
In the actual study, the professional cyclists held 385 watts on the first test, and dropped to 375 watts on the second test (after the ~4 hour ride). Though statistically significant, it is an incredible feat of endurance to lose only 10 watts (2.5%) after 4 hours of steady riding. My testing on non-professionals athletes indicates losses of 5 - 15% to be common.
For me, the key takeaway from this study is to be creative in how we test progress. Performance tests are important workouts to conduct throughout the season- they keep us motivated and help determine if adjustments to our training need to be made. Just don't assume a 20 minute FTP test or a 5k time trial on the track is the best indicator of your ability to race well for 4+ hours.
- Committed athletes are super picky and hard to shop for. That is why we sell gift cards for the endurance athlete in your life.
- We will be closed December 25th-26th, and January 1st-2nd for the holidays.
Quote that struck a chord:
"Do not confuse effort with results.
Just because you put in the effort does not mean you'll get the desired result.
A lot of effort gets undone long before results are felt. Going to the gym is undone if you eat poorly. Focusing only on work gets undone by the inevitable health and relationship issues that come from under-investment. When we try to speed up the outcome, our lack of patience undoes the result.
Results are accumulated in drops but lost in buckets.
Make sure you're not undoing the things you're trying to accomplish." -Shane Parrish
This quote reminds me of a concept I call "Fitness Phantoms". A Fitness Phantom is anything that detracts from your efforts for improved health and fitness. A poor diet, inconsistent sleep, emotional stress, work stress, etc are all examples of Fitness Phantoms. In many cases your greatest gains can be made not by trying harder, but by simply reducing the friction and resistance that is holding you back.
If you have a moment to spare:
- The most amazing short film I watched this week. A must for anyone who loves the water. Hat tip to Michelle Wiens.
Train smart, and have a great week!
Tri Town Bicycles
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