One question that has been bugging me for the last six months was ‘how do I know when I’m fit enough?’
I spent October, November and December steadily plugging away through the dark mornings and the grim weather, increasing the distance each weekend whilst chucking in a session or two of 2 x 20 intervals where I could in the week. Whilst not exactly a training plan to make Team Sky envious, looking at training load at least I appeared to be fitter in December than I was during the Summer. I felt pretty good, but how does ‘good’ compare to your garden variety 4th cat?
Winter miles without a wet arse, sponsored by SKS mudguards….
To answer this I enlisted the services of Russell Hampton at Marginal Gains Cycling (http://www.marginalgainscycling.co.uk/) and took on the ramp test. Best not to google that before giving it a go as all you will find are tales of vomiting, seeing spots and jelly legs. Which pretty much sums it up to be honest! The test takes on average between eight and fifteen minutes and starts at a low resistance level.The aim is to maintain a steady cadence, say 90 rpm, whilst the resistance increases until you can’t sustain that cadence any longer. The weirdest part is that nearer the end of the test, when the seconds pass like minutes, you’re breathing like a hyperventilating rhinoceros, seeing spots and concentrating equally on 90 rpm and not vomiting, it just ends. Like that its over. The results give you an indication of your functional threshold power (from which power zones can be derived) and your heart rate zones. I’d already worked out my heart rate zones using the British Cycling threshold test but this was a great chance to see how the two correlated.
And the results? Well, pretty good actually. I’m no Marcel Kittel obviously, but power wise I’m pretty strong which is reassuring, stronger than I thought in fact. Worth remembering here that I’m heavier than your average racing whippet (and not just because of all the Jaffa Cakes and Smarties I consumed over Christmas!) so I need to be putting out better numbers than my lighter competitors just to level the playing field.
Would I recommend Wattbike based torture? It’s well worth doing if you want to get an idea of where you are power wise. Marginal Gains combine this with a personal evaluation which assesses training, nutrition, goals, pedalling efficiency and strengths/weaknesses. Overall, I’d put it right up there with a proper bike fit.