How often to test & what test to do

Susie posed today’s Coaches Corner question about Testing. She wanted to know How often we should test and What tests we should do.

Testing periodically is key to monitoring progress and checking whether the previous weeks / months training is working. If you have positive test data, then you can imply that the training is working. If the data is however not what you expected, it could come down to breaks in the training phase due to illness, injury or missed session or could indicate the the structure of the sessions are no appropriate.

How often should we test? The body needs time to adapt to the progressive sessions over the course of the previous weeks / month. The body will through in accordance with rest periods & balanced diet with then become stronger, faster & more efficient. This commonly is around 6-8weeks.

At the beginning: in order to start any program, setting base line data it key. Testing in week one will provide initial starting points to compare against.
Mid program: it’s not uncommon to perform a couple of basic tests mid program to provide confidence that the previous weeks are worth the pain and discomfort.
8weeks: testing every 8weeks should allow for sufficient progress to have been made in the previous block of training
NB: Tests are more commonly conducted during the Base and then into the Pre competition phase ahead of the competition phase. This is to done to add the progress leading into the season / goal event.
NB: Test too early and you will not see these adaptations,

What tests should we do? As long as you try to conduct and match the same test conditions, I.e. Treadmill or turbo or pool, then you can devise your own test within theory. With that in mind, conducting basic tests will enable clear monitoring. Here is a basic guide to simple tests.
Swim: Critical Swim Speed (CSS) – 400m & 200m Max / 750m or 1500m Time Trial – best in the pool to avoid navigation issues which will hinder the time. Time – how many lengths can you swim in a set period of time, such as 10mins. The more you swim then the fitter / more efficient you are becoming.
Bike: best conducted on a turbo or WattBike to avoid car, traffic lights or weather varying the outcome. 16, 20 or 40km TT. Record your time, average cadence, average speed to monitor progress. You could find a road loop and cycle point to point or a loop but as mentioned above traffic or weather will affect the results. With WattBikes, performing the standard marker of a Functional Threshold Power test looking at how much power you can sustain over a period of time (either 20 or 30mins). Used by all elite cyclist, triathletes this is the true guide to improved performance in your cycling
Run: simple 5, 8 or 10km time trials. Ideally treadmill but outside will also do. Park runs are ideal as the route is set, the only variable will be foot conditions, weather, other runners etc.

You can in addition visit mor high tec Sports labs, such as Surrey Sports Park / University etc to have elite level testing done. This will naturally involve an expense but the data gained could be highly beneficial for those marginal gains.