Saturday, March 23, 2013

Maximal Aerobic Power Test: so short yet so painful!

First full week of work in months! It was a draining week at my new job and it requires some adaptation. Sleeping patern has changed and I am now usually in bed by 20h30-21h00! That is pretty crazy. I had some sluggish sensations during training this week and felt my legs lacked the high intensity feel. I finished working at 14h00 today (friday) and I was planning on doing my MAP test to see where I was at with my fitness. I fueled accordingly yesterday and today and was NOT looking foward to the pain! Those tests make me nervous just like the stress you feel on the start line when racing.

I have been using MAP tests for a while now and have a serie of datas I can refer back to in order to gauge my fitness and progression. I use the British protocol of 25 watts increments per 1 minute. Canadian riders are more familiar with the canadian protocol which consist in a 30 watts increment every 3 minutes. MAP tests are very protocol dependant. I like MAP tests better then the popular 20 minutes test because it is shorter and is not pacing dependant. The most important factor is picking a protocol and sticking to it in order to compare results from one test to an other. I use this protocol for 3 reasons: 1) it is used by highly reputable British and Australian coaches and sport facilities, 2) it's a protocol from which you can estimate your Functionnal Threshold Power (FTP) and 3) it's easily done on an indoor trainer.

Estimating your FTP from a MAP test result

The result from your MAP test is the last minute average power, usually the highest 1 minute power during the test. From that data you can extrapolate your FTP. It has been said that one's FTP usually falls within 70% to 80% of MAP. Most people use 75% but I prefer being conservative so I use 72% of my final result. Depending on the individual, FTP could be lower then 70% or a little higher then 80%. Another interesting data you can obtain from this test is your mean maximal 5 minutes power. The test's intensity usually does a good job forcing you to produce a high 5 minutes power in the last stages of the test. Typically, a rider's best 5 minutes power should be arround 90% of his MAP using the protocol described above.

The results

Since you might be a power data geek, here's the part you are probably looking foward to: today's results. I am not too much into personnal number showing and all that stuff because I think it sounds pretentious but for the sake of the blog post I will include my personnal numbers. Last 2 tests were done at the end of december and during the first week of febuary. Oddly enough, both tests resulted in the exact same MAP and 5 minutes power: 463 watts and 410 watts respectively. The only difference being the december test saw me lasting 8 seconds in the 475 watts step whilst I lasted 22 seconds in that step during the febuary test. At the time I was a little annoyed by the test's results because I had no improvement. Reflecting on the situation with the precious help of my mentor I realized the result was not bad at all since I was in the middle of a pretty intense training block involving a lot of Vo2max type of efforts. Following this block I headed south 2 weeks ago and could log some long rides and I think all of this is starting to pay off.

The multiple steps of a MAP test

Despite the fatigue and lack of confidence in my form I stepped into the pain and did my test today. The test went very well and I managed to complete the 475 watts stage and log a mere 1 second in the 500 watts step! Final results are looking good for the upcoming season: 483 watts MAP, 425 watts 5 minutes power and a 340-345 watts estimated FTP. All of which, at my body weight, are not numbers to be shy of. Estimated FTP would be exactly 347 watts but given the powermeter has an error margin I prefer staying conservative and call it 340-345 watts. The 5 minutes power is about 87%-88% of my MAP, which makes some sense since I am a bit of a diesel engine.

Its worth giving a try to such test, is easily perform on an indoor trainer and repeatable. I am quite pleased with today's results and it looks very good for the upcoming season. I hope I still have some room for improvement. But for now, I will concentrate on upcoming training sessions. Actually not looking foward to them with the new power target I will need to hit!

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