A Wickedly Successful '19 Starts With Evaluating Current Fitness: 5-Tips To Better Threshold Testing
The New Year is upon us and you have big goals!
And at some point in your preparation there is going to be a need to execute a threshold test to evaluate your fitness level.
Does the notion of a 20min. sustained maximum effort intimidate you?
If it does, don’t worry, you are not alone, the dreaded 20min. Threshold Test causes both stress and anxiety for many Athletes that see this vicious protocol come across their workout calendar.
With this in mind, we are dedicating this edition of the BWC Coaches Corner to five tips to executing a flawless threshold test.
Threshold Testing is hard, but a very valuable part of the training process. Here is an example of the Threshold Testing Protocol on TrainingPeaks. Photo Credit: BigWheelCoaching, Inc.
Five Tips To Execute A Flawless Threshold Test:
In order to produce your very best effort, you must be well-rested and warmed-up properly before the effort starts.
For each Athlete, being ‘warmed-up’ means something different. Some riders prefer a short intense warm-up, while others prefer a longer less intense prelude to the Threshold Test.
We recommend that you try both options to determine what works best for you. There are advantages to short intense warm-ups as well as longer, less intense ones.
What is most important is that your legs, aerobic-system, and mind are ready to give a maximal effort for the full 20 minute effort.
Regardless of warm-up duration, we suggest adding 2-4 one-minute ‘leg openers’ to the warm-up process.
These efforts require an Athlete to start on a flat road in a moderate gear and then push that gear harder and harder until they are giving a maximum seated effort for the final 15 seconds of the one-minute interval.
These efforts can go a long way to ensuring the body is ready to produce a maximal effort.
#2: The Route
Choosing a route that offers an uninterrupted road, preferably with a steady incline is key to creating an evenly-paced effort.
If the road has undulations, steep pitches, dangerous intersections, or blind curves, it should be avoided.
The goal with route selection is to find a piece of road that simulates a laboratory-type setting. When performing a Threshold Test, you want something that is completely predictable with no surprises!
By selecting a route that is mundane and predictable, you, as the Athlete, can put all of your focus into generating the very best effort possible.
Note: Your chosen test area, assuming it works well, should be used for all subsequent Threshold Tests throughout the season.
A steady climb is the best route choice for a Threshold Test, but just because the road is predictable, doesn't mean it can't be scenic! Photo Credit: Joy McCulloch
Twenty minutes may not sound like a long time, but when the pressure is on, and your eyes are glued to your cyclo-computer, seconds will start to feel like minutes!
A proper pacing strategy uses a straightforward approach that breaks down the event into manageable segments. In this case we suggest 5-minute milestone goals.
Achieving each 5 minute milestone is 25% closer to completing the goal of a successful 20 minute test.
When the inevitable discomfort of lactate build-up sets in, there is some relief in knowing that each completed minute is one step closer to another 25% milestone, and ultimately, a successful Threshold Test.
As for pacing the effort, it is important to understand and respect what Lactate Threshold means.
Theoretically, the human-body can perform sub-threshold efforts indefinitely, in contrast, going over threshold cannot be sustained indefinitely. Even worse, the higher we go above our lactate-threshold the shorter the duration of effort we can sustain.
With this in mind, we suggest starting the Threshold Test at a moderate effort rather than a fast effort. It is much better to do the first 5-10 minute just below your Threshold than slightly over it.
By going over Threshold, early in the test, an Athlete risks a significant dip in their average power output in the final minutes of effort.
This is because the build-up of Lactic Acid forces the body to reduce its power production substantially.
The moral to pacing this type of effort properly is this: it is better to be slightly conservative at the beginning, rather than overly anxious, your results will be better by being patient!
At Big Wheel Coaching we talk a lot about mindset and believe that a strong and determined mind is the most powerful part of every successful Athlete!
In regards to Threshold Testing, the proper mindset is one that allows the Athlete to recognize that a maximal effort is not going to ‘feel’ good.
If you somehow manage to ‘feel good’ after a maximal effort, you probably did something wrong!
We like to tell our Athletes that the only way to get more comfortable in the ‘pain cave’ is to go there.
Although that sounds obvious, it is much easier said than done. This self-inflicted physical anguish can be difficult to manage, but with the help of the proper mindset it can be a positive experience.
A good piece of advice that we received is to treat the ‘suffering’ like waves of the ocean.
Every surfer knows they cannot win a fight with the ocean, so the best way to cope with the discomfort of ‘suffering’ is to relax and let it wash over you (figuratively, of course), like a wave.
Developing a mindset that is less resistant to the discomfort can go a long way to producing excellent maximal efforts.
Don’t fight it - flow with it, and never give-up or quit!
#5: You Only Go Faster
For those cycling fans that watched the Tour de France in the late 80's and early 90’s they heard Greg Lemond coin the phrase, “it never gets easier, you just go faster.” His advice is sage and besides being a ‘stud’ on a bicycle, the man was apparently part philosopher.
Because a Threshold Test is a maximal effort, it will be hard… no matter what.
When done properly you may even have to stop and sit down after the test.
The important thing to remember is that the purpose of the test is to give your best effort and not assume any sort of negative outcome from the performance.
Concentrate on going as hard as possible, and the rest will sort itself out.
Threshold Testing is not glamorous, in truth it is very difficult, but the end result and what can be gleaned from the testing process can be helpful beyond just producing more power. Photo Credit: Danny Munson, DMunsionPhoto.com
We hope that this discussion of threshold testing and the tips offered will help you perform your next threshold test confidently and powerfully!
…Or at least not be intimidate or dread the protocol when it comes up on your workout calendar!
With that said, and our hope of seeing you have a wildly successful 2019 season, if you have questions about Threshold Testing, it’s execution, or when it is applicable in your training cycle, please contact us.
We would be happy to discuss how it applies to your preparation and goals!
Until Next Time, Be Safe, Train Hard, & Have Fun!
-Brian and Joy McCulloch
Big Wheel Coaching
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