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Measure Your Improvement April 23, 2009

Posted by roberto in Entrenamiento.
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A good training program should make you stronger. But if you don’t have an objective way to gauge improvement, you won’t know how well your program is working — or whether it’s working at all.

The best way to know is to use a power meter and periodically perform tests at different distances. Watts are an objective way to measure increases in power output regardless of the wind and road surface.

No power meter? How about a heart monitor? If you have one or can borrow one you can come pretty close to objectivity. The trick is getting enough data points over several months, and there’s no better time to start than on your next ride. Here’s how:

  • Establish one day every 2 weeks for testing. Follow an identical protocol each time: a rest day before the test, same diet, same warm-up.

  • Use the same 3-mile (4.8-km) stretch of road. Ideally, it’ll be sheltered from the wind and won’t have traffic control devices. Or, use a loop 4-5 miles (6.4-8 km) around.

  • On test day, warm up well. Then ride the course out-and-back like a time trial or go around the loop. The idea is to negate the wind’s effect by riding both into it and with it.

  • Watch your heart rate. Keep it just below the number where heavy breathing turns into panting. This isn’t a flat-out time trial, but it’s close.

  • Record the elapsed time in your training diary. Also note your average heart rate and any environmental conditions (wind, temperature) that may have affected the test. Weather factors will vary from one test to another, but they’ll average out during several months.

Chart your times on graph paper or a computer program. If your training is effective, you’ll see a definite curve of progress (lower times) and ability to sustain a higher heart rate. If not, you’ll know that your program needs changes.

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