Forum home Road cycling forum Training, fitness and health

Measured improvement?

nevmannevman Posts: 1,611
As the title says,how do you measure whether you are getting fitter or not.
I can see the benefit of timing over measured distance but that isnt always possible given different factors eg weather,wind direction,time of day.
Not sure what HR tells me about fitness-would the average drop and again would it be a reliable measure
What do others use to inform them of steady progress particularly over the winter?
Whats the solution? Just pedal faster you baby.

Summer B,man Team Carbon LE#222
Winter Alan Top Cross
All rounder Spec. Allez.
«1

Posts

  • danowatdanowat Posts: 2,877
    Power

    HR can be an indication of fitness, I find it much "easier" to hit my max when I am fit, than when I am not.
  • HerbsmanHerbsman Posts: 2,029
    TRY timing yourself up a long hill that's sheltered by trees. Do this at the same time of day every time you do the test and try and do it in the same weather conditions if possible. Each time, have the same number of rest days before the test. Do the same warm up. Etc. Try and control as many variables as possible.
    CAPTAIN BUCKFAST'S CYCLING TIPS - GUARANTEED TO WORK! 1 OUT OF 10 RACING CYCLISTS AGREE!
  • antflyantfly Posts: 3,276
    If you can maintain a higher heart rate for longer you are getting fitter. If you can't get it up you're tired and should take it easy.
    Smarter than the average bear.
  • "If you know your power, then at best heart rate is redundant but at worst it is misleading."
  • antflyantfly Posts: 3,276
    How is he going to know his power ?
    Smarter than the average bear.
  • nevman wrote:
    As the title says,how do you measure whether you are getting fitter or not.
    I can see the benefit of timing over measured distance but that isnt always possible given different factors eg weather,wind direction,time of day.
    Not sure what HR tells me about fitness-would the average drop and again would it be a reliable measure
    What do others use to inform them of steady progress particularly over the winter?

    you dont need to measure anything. why are you wanting to get fitter? racing? a sportive?

    to answer your question, if you could only manage 20 miles 6 months ago but now you get 50 in, you are getting fitter. simple. you will spot improvement from what you could do vs what you can do. i see how i recover quicker from high efforts, hills etc, as my fitness improves. if you plan on racing, gauge yourself against club mates over time.

    if you are not seeing change in the above, you may not be getting fitter.
  • antfly wrote:
    If you can maintain a higher heart rate for longer you are getting fitter. If you can't get it up you're tired and should take it easy.
    As has been mentioned, this is most definitely not a measure of fitness.

    Improved fitness (on a bike) is primarily a function of being able to sustain a higher power (relative to body mass) for durations of interest. The trick is how does one determine if they are sustaining a higher power?

    If fitness is starting off at a pretty low level, then the changes in fitness in the initial phases of consistent/sound training will be obvious signs like being able to ride a bit faster overall, able to go further without significant problems (e.g. cramps), being able to hang onto a regular group that you previously had trouble, climbing hills faster, a drop in waking heart rate as well. However, once your fitness gets beyond that initial improvement phase, then the changes are more subtle, and assessing them (if desired) requires more precise methods.

    As noted, speed is an unreliable indicator since the speed-power relationship is affected by many uncontrollable variables.

    Obviously using a good power meter (e.g. SRM, Quarq, Powertap) is the best way to measure power for a cyclist, or you could get a test every so often on equipment that is accurate and reliable (e.g. an ergometer like a Wattbike, or properly used Computrainer). Another is to time yourself up a steep hill climb, as the uncontrollable variables that affect the speed-power relationship are reduced significantly (but the precision of the power estimate will still be less than what's possible with good power measuring equipment).


    A Bike Radar item I wrote a few years back:
    http://www.bikeradar.com/fitness/articl ... ing-19175/
  • antflyantfly Posts: 3,276
    Not many of us have power meters or access to wattbikes so the question is how do you know if you are getting fitter using an hr monitor ? I suppose if you can do a regular route at the same speed or faster, with a lower ave heart rate, you are getting fitter. In other words it gets easier.
    Smarter than the average bear.
  • RChungRChung Posts: 163
    antfly wrote:
    If you can maintain a higher heart rate for longer you are getting fitter.
    antfly wrote:
    if you can do a regular route at the same speed or faster, with a lower ave heart rate, you are getting fitter

    Hmmm. If you do a regular route at a slower speed, you'll take longer. If you take longer and you do it at a higher heart rate, by your first reasoning you're getting fitter.
  • antfly wrote:
    Not many of us have power meters or access to wattbikes so the question is how do you know if you are getting fitter using an hr monitor ?
    You can't. HR is not a measure of fitness and so you need to use other means to assess fitness. Hence my previous post about signs of improved fitness.

    The only sensible use for a HRM is as a guide to relative exercise intensity at relatively steady state sub-threshold and threshold levels. If you are using a power meter, then the HRM is redundant.
    antfly wrote:
    I suppose if you can do a regular route at the same speed or faster, with a lower ave heart rate, you are getting fitter. In other words it gets easier.
    The only measure of fitness is power output - be that from a direct power measurement device, or a proxy measure for power such as sustainable speed on rollers (with tyres and pressures controlled), or time/speed up a steep climb. Speed on flatter terrain is far too influenced by factors out of one's control to assess fitness.

    If you cannot sustain more power for a duration of interest, you are not fitter. What your heart rate does isn't really relevant.
  • bahzobbahzob Posts: 2,195
    It really isn't all that difficult.

    If you have a power meter one fairly accurate test is a max 3 minute effort. The power on for this will correlate quite closely to your MAP which in turn will give you a good indication of your training zones >> overall fitness.

    For those without a power meter this is good news. You just need to be able to measure progress on a max effort of around 3 minutes.

    And the best way to do this is find the steepest hill you can and time yourself up it. The steeper the better, , this will minimise the effects of other vagaries like wind/weather. (up to a limit you want to be riding seated with normal technique).

    Time up that hill will be a good measure of improvement.

    (Even those who use power (and other measures) will typically have a test like this. At the end of the day while power is great it only really matters when you translate it into a real world performance.
    Most famous probably >> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VsnAF652bWc (The methodology is valid, even though his methods clearly sucked)

    An alternative, if you can't find a hill or as a control is a 10 mile TT. (Notwithstanding Alex's opinion above which is an overstatement. While subject to wide variation due to external factors time trial results are still a good measure of fitness, especially when you look at trends over time which will smooth out the effect of other variables).

    Find a course nearby and ride it regularly. Most courses are designed with the intent of allowing a high AVS and minimising the effects of external variables.

    If you ride the same course regularly your moving average of times will come down as you improve. To take account of varying conditions you can just do the same as Top Gear. Record your times under, say, 3 categories: Perfect Conditions/Average Conditions/censored Conditions and have separate averages/PBs for each. As you improve you may find yourself doing rides in censored Conditions as fast as you used to do them in Average and this will be a real boost and indication of improvement.

    (Note: Ofc times on the 10TT will change dramatically according to the type of bike ridden/riding postion. So if measuring "power"/"fitness" is your main priority then you should always use the same position. However it's also good to go for absolute speed. So, maybe have 2 PBs for each type of ride, one in a fixed postion (say riding upright) and the other trying to max aero efficiency. Do all this and you will end up tracking quite a few different numbers. If they all trend in the same direction it will be a clear sign of improvement and correlate with what your HR and perceived effort is telling you.)
    Martin S. Newbury RC
  • GiantMikeGiantMike Posts: 3,139
    Since I got my powermeter I do 20 minute power tests on a turbo.

    Before I had a powermeter I used to do a 16 mile circular loop and noted the time it took.

    Both of these measures correctly recorded my improving fitness, but the PM is obviously more accurate and removes most of the variables inherent in the road test.

    Whatever you do take individual results with a pinch of salt and try to build up a picture of various results over time.
  • danowatdanowat Posts: 2,877
    bahzob wrote:
    If you have a power meter one fairly accurate test is a max 3 minute effort. The power on for this will correlate quite closely to your MAP

    Really?
  • Tom DeanTom Dean Posts: 1,723
    bahzob wrote:
    If you have a power meter one fairly accurate test is a max 3 minute effort. The power on for this will correlate quite closely to your MAP which in turn will give you a good indication of your training zones >> overall fitness.

    For those without a power meter this is good news. You just need to be able to measure progress on a max effort of around 3 minutes.

    Of course you can use any repeatable test to measure progress. Whether or not you use a PM, what is the relevance of a 3 min test's relationship to MAP or any other metric?
  • antflyantfly Posts: 3,276
    RChung wrote:
    antfly wrote:
    If you can maintain a higher heart rate for longer you are getting fitter.
    antfly wrote:
    if you can do a regular route at the same speed or faster, with a lower ave heart rate, you are getting fitter

    Hmmm. If you do a regular route at a slower speed, you'll take longer. If you take longer and you do it at a higher heart rate, by your first reasoning you're getting fitter.
    OK smartarse. The higer heart rate is for interval training not averages.
    Smarter than the average bear.
  • antflyantfly Posts: 3,276
    antfly wrote:
    Not many of us have power meters or access to wattbikes so the question is how do you know if you are getting fitter using an hr monitor ?
    You can't. HR is not a measure of fitness and so you need to use other means to assess fitness. Hence my previous post about signs of improved fitness.

    The only sensible use for a HRM is as a guide to relative exercise intensity at relatively steady state sub-threshold and threshold levels. If you are using a power meter, then the HRM is redundant.
    antfly wrote:
    I suppose if you can do a regular route at the same speed or faster, with a lower ave heart rate, you are getting fitter. In other words it gets easier.
    The only measure of fitness is power output - be that from a direct power measurement device, or a proxy measure for power such as sustainable speed on rollers (with tyres and pressures controlled), or time/speed up a steep climb. Speed on flatter terrain is far too influenced by factors out of one's control to assess fitness.

    If you cannot sustain more power for a duration of interest, you are not fitter. What your heart rate does isn't really relevant.

    OK, it will have to be the hill method then, although I suspect heart rate does have something to do with fitness.
    Smarter than the average bear.
  • amaferangaamaferanga Posts: 6,789
    antfly wrote:
    RChung wrote:
    antfly wrote:
    If you can maintain a higher heart rate for longer you are getting fitter.
    antfly wrote:
    if you can do a regular route at the same speed or faster, with a lower ave heart rate, you are getting fitter

    Hmmm. If you do a regular route at a slower speed, you'll take longer. If you take longer and you do it at a higher heart rate, by your first reasoning you're getting fitter.
    OK smartarse. The higer heart rate is for interval training not averages.

    If you were as smart as RChung (I'm assuming it's Robert Chung?) then you'd probably not be calling him a smartarse.
    More problems but still living....
  • antflyantfly Posts: 3,276
    edited December 2012
    Whoever he is if he has something informative to add he should say it..
    Smarter than the average bear.
  • danowat wrote:
    bahzob wrote:
    If you have a power meter one fairly accurate test is a max 3 minute effort. The power on for this will correlate quite closely to your MAP

    Really?
    It'll be in the ballpark, but I'd suggest something longer than 3-minutes for most people, unless you are specifically interested in ~3-min performance (e.g. goal event is shorter pursuits).

    3-min power has the complicating factor of having a substantial anaerobic energy contribution (~25-35%) and so underlying aerobic fitness change may be more or less than the change in 3-min power (or steep climb speed) might indicate. Hence it's better to (also) have a longer effort where possible, as that will more reliably indicate aerobic fitness changes.
  • danowat wrote:
    bahzob wrote:
    If you have a power meter one fairly accurate test is a max 3 minute effort. The power on for this will correlate quite closely to your MAP

    Really?
    It'll be in the ballpark, but I'd suggest something longer than 3-minutes for most people, unless you are specifically interested in ~3-min performance (e.g. goal event is shorter pursuits).

    3-min power has the complicating factor of having a substantial anaerobic energy contribution (~25-35%) and so underlying aerobic fitness change may be more or less than the change in 3-min power (or steep climb speed) might indicate. Hence it's better to (also) have a longer effort where possible, as that will more reliably indicate aerobic fitness changes.

    I would have thought some athletes would have an even more substantial anaerobic contribution than that? Is the 35% the ceiling even for a predominantly fast twitch athlete?
  • RChungRChung Posts: 163
    antfly wrote:
    Whoever he is if he has something informative to add he should say it..

    1. I am Robert Chung
    2. I am an censored .
    3. I did add something informative: that your statements are not well thought-out and, therefore, readers should wonder whether you're a reliable source of information.
  • antflyantfly Posts: 3,276
    1. If you say so
    2. Most probably, isn't everyone..
    3. Being condescending isn't the same as being helpful and informative.
    Smarter than the average bear.
  • HerbsmanHerbsman Posts: 2,029
    Unless I'm missing something, I don't think he was being condescending ...
    CAPTAIN BUCKFAST'S CYCLING TIPS - GUARANTEED TO WORK! 1 OUT OF 10 RACING CYCLISTS AGREE!
  • bahzobbahzob Posts: 2,195
    danowat wrote:
    bahzob wrote:
    If you have a power meter one fairly accurate test is a max 3 minute effort. The power on for this will correlate quite closely to your MAP

    Really?
    It'll be in the ballpark, but I'd suggest something longer than 3-minutes for most people, unless you are specifically interested in ~3-min performance (e.g. goal event is shorter pursuits).

    3-min power has the complicating factor of having a substantial anaerobic energy contribution (~25-35%) and so underlying aerobic fitness change may be more or less than the change in 3-min power (or steep climb speed) might indicate. Hence it's better to (also) have a longer effort where possible, as that will more reliably indicate aerobic fitness changes.

    Fair comment. 3 mins is certainly the least you should do. I was bearing in mind the hills in England, many of which are short and not especially steep.

    So yes the longer the hill the better.
    Martin S. Newbury RC
  • bahzobbahzob Posts: 2,195
    antfly wrote:

    OK, it will have to be the hill method then, although I suspect heart rate does have something to do with fitness.

    Yes HR has a lot to do with fitness.

    As your fitness improves then you will be able to sustain the same power for less HR or do greater power for the same HR. Also your HR will rise less quickly as you increase load and recover more quickly as you stop effort and recover.

    Also you will be able to sustain a steady pace with less drift. If you maintain a constant pace/power then HR will still increase over time. If you are unfit this increase may be considerable, as you become fitter it will become less.

    HR will also correspond to perceived effort. I find for example that there are a number of pinch points in terms of pain if I do a ramp up from cold to max effort and these tend to appear at pretty much the same points in terms of HR.

    However none of this will tell you if you are improving or not. You can only judge this if you have an independent measure, power being the best, speed in controlled conditions being an adequate substitute.

    Say your HR is 170 and things really start to hurt.When you are unfit this may happen after doing 20 mins at 20mph. As you get fitter it will hurt just as much and your HR will still be around 170 but you will have done 20 mins at 25mph by then.
    Martin S. Newbury RC
  • antflyantfly Posts: 3,276
    Thanks, that's pretty much what I thought. So if you are riding the same route in similar conditions, then, speed and heart rate are a good indicator of fitness.
    Smarter than the average bear.
  • I would have thought some athletes would have an even more substantial anaerobic contribution than that? Is the 35% the ceiling even for a predominantly fast twitch athlete?
    It's just a range to give an idea of the magnitude, not a limit. Even a kilo TT has a substantial aerobic contribution (close to half).

    The following chart gives a indicator of what's typical:

    energysystems.png

    It is possible to assess the relative contribution of aerobic and anaerobic energy production by inspecting a power file from a well paced pursuit like effort. You can read about that in the book Training & Racing with a Power Meter, pp 244-248 (2nd edition).

    I have a blog item about it as well:
    http://alex-cycle.blogspot.com.au/2011/ ... wabac.html
  • I would have thought some athletes would have an even more substantial anaerobic contribution than that? Is the 35% the ceiling even for a predominantly fast twitch athlete?
    It's just a range to give an idea of the magnitude, not a limit. Even a kilo TT has a substantial aerobic contribution (close to half).

    The following chart gives a indicator of what's typical:

    energysystems.png

    It is possible to assess the relative contribution of aerobic and anaerobic energy production by inspecting a power file from a well paced pursuit like effort. You can read about that in the book Training & Racing with a Power Meter, pp 244-248 (2nd edition).

    I have a blog item about it as well:
    http://alex-cycle.blogspot.com.au/2011/ ... wabac.html

    Alex,

    Thanks for this. I think in the past back in the 1980s this was not so well understood. I read in the Training & Racing with a Power Meter how 2 pursuiters of similar ability had very different aerobic / anaerobic balances.

    Trev.
  • nevmannevman Posts: 1,611
    Thought so-there doesnt seem to be much agreement over measured performance does there but for me it is important this winter.I will be training for the Marmotte and LEL next year so I would benefit from knowing how I am doing through this horrible weather.Like most I dont have or justify a powermeter,just a Garmin 500 with cadence/hrm-team mates arent that reliable as some ride hard through winter and others tail off so I cant measure against them.TTs are not until April so its club rides,chaingangs and turbo-seems the long hill measurement might be the nearest I can get to a reading that will indicate fitness.Thanks everyone.
    Any more tips appreciated of course.
    Whats the solution? Just pedal faster you baby.

    Summer B,man Team Carbon LE#222
    Winter Alan Top Cross
    All rounder Spec. Allez.
  • jgsijgsi Posts: 5,038
    You have goals but quite different:
    1 - very long endurance
    2 - alpine endurance

    You have demonstrated a 'chaotic' approach at the moment - TTs.. chaingangs.. winter rides.. turbo

    Get yourself some structure and clarity and prioritise the events as they are so different.
    Either buy it in with a coach or research some structured training plans.

    You can do both events with a huge amount of willpower but if you want to do them well then bear in mind the above.
Sign In or Register to comment.