Why Should I Test My Race Fitness?

No matter what endurance sport you do, it’s a good idea to know what shape you’re in before the season begins. Here’s why…

The first half of the summer race season is an exciting time because it’s when you find out if you improved over the winter or not. In my early years as an athlete, I used to get really nervous before the year’s first race because I had no idea how I’d perform. It was like waiting to see if your lottery numbers came up.  After the first race or two, I chilled out a bit because I knew how fit I was (or wasn’t) and what to expect all season.

Importance of testing fitness

This lottery approach is not the way forward though, and I’ve since learned the error of my ways. The best athletes always have a good idea of how fit they are, long before the season even starts.  Take Tour De France and Olympic cycling champion Bradley Wiggins for instance. In his build-up to the 2012 season he and his coach (Shane Sutton) and performance analyst (Tim Kerrison) looked at a variety of performance measures to identify areas for improvement and also to give an idea of the realistic intensities he could maintain during a race. They measured things like Training Stress Score, power to weight ratio, VAM (mean ascent velocity) and power to drag ratio. Wiggins went into the Tour de France armed with all sorts of useful data. For example, he knew that he could ride for an hour at an earth-shattering 470 watts of power output.

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Incorporating in a training plan

All this analysis may sound mind-boggling, but anyone can record and analyse basic information without a team of experts. The truth is, if you can’t achieve certain benchmarks in training, you’re unlikely to surpass them in a race. Either way, it’s good to know where you stand. In my range of triathlon training plans, I typically set them two weeks of solid training followed by a third week which I call “rest and test”.  In rest and test week the training volume is halved and I include two or three performance tests.  At this stage of the season that involves a 400m swim test, a one-mile run test and a five-minute bike power test. It’s not necessary to highlight improvements in fitness, as the path to improvement isn’t always straightforward. Testing gives you a realistic set of benchmarks, helps gauge race pacing and indicates when a certain type of training has stopped or started having a beneficial effect.

Aside from fitness, you can also test other things such as the drag on your bike (here’s how). The moral of the story is that you shouldn’t leave things to chance, because everything is measurable.  If you get to your first race knowing what you’re capable of, you’ll have more chance of racing to your full potential. You’ll pace it right, and your mind will be stronger for having realistic expectations. That’s when all the hard work becomes worthwhile.

Phil Mosley (Coach & Founder)
Phil Mosley (Coach & Founder)

Phil is a recognised endurance expert who founded MyProCoach in 2010 to offer smart training plans that still leave quality time for your family, friends & career - complete with highly-rated coach support (he has sold over 40,000 so far). Learn more here!

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Planning Your Off-Season

You can start our Off-Season (Fitness Maintenance) plans anytime you like.

They’re designed to help you maintain a good level of fitness when you’re not specifically targeting an event, such as, during the off-season, or anytime you’re taking a break from racing.

Planning For Your Event

For the best outcome, input the date for your “A” target race and the tool will default to a plan that will fill that gap nicely. If you want, you can then adjust the plan length to start it on a different day.

Note that you can still work in other, smaller races during your plan too!

The longer plans start easier and progress more gradually. This has a bearing on the difficulty level you choose. For example, a 12-week plan starts off at a higher level than a 36-week plan because with 12 weeks left there’s not as much opportunity to build up slowly.
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