It is hard to measure progress if we don’t know what to measure it against. Before each major phase of training, it is good to check in, see where you are at and establish new baselines.
There are a number of different lab-based test you can use to establish a baselines. In the opinion of this coach, the most important is finding your VO2 max and lactate threshold and then checking in later in the season to see if your body is responding positively to the training. It’s one of two tests that I pay for every year. (The other is a body fat test done in the Bod Pod at a local university. Sure, it’s not specific to triathlon yet it is a good measure of my overall health and body composition.)
These are easier and cheaper to administer since you need only a watch and no specialized equipment or knowledge. I’ve listed some of my favorites as an athlete and coach below. Each should be completed after a very thorough warm up.
Swim – 3 x 300 at max effort with (:30) rest OR 15 minute timed swim for distance.
Bike – 45 min max effort for most OR 6 minute (or 20 minute, depending on the goal) critical power test for power-based athletes OR a local time trial if available (we have a good 11 mile one here in Minneapolis).
Run – 30 minute max effort for distance OR 5k time trial.
The goal then is to retest at the start of each training phase, if not monthly depending on the test. It’s a no B.S. way to measure progress. You can fake a workout. You can’t fake the numbers from a marker set like the ones listed above.
This is the seventh in a series of ten posts dedicated to athletes thinking about their first long course race in 2012. Check back tomorrow for thoughts on the financial aspects involved in Ironman 2012