Some athletes like to get metabolic testing done to find out lactate thresholds, threshold power and VO2 max. Honestly, I don't care about lactate threshold or VO2. I think testing in a lab can be fun, and that data is interesting sure, but it isn't important really.
FTP, or Functional Threshold Power, is important. It is extremely important if you want to better understand the training stress you are under as an athlete, improve strategizing and pacing during endurance events, and predict your performance.
FTP is simply an estimation of the best power output an athlete can do in an hour. This is NOT related to heart rate, as this is about output, not what your heart does. This about the watts you can produce, which equates to performance. HR does not equate to performance, everyone's HR is high who is competing hard.
So how do you estimate FTP, if not in a lab. Field tests are the best estimation tool in my opinion, because they are easily repeated and replicated, with results that can be trusted, based on years of experience from many coaches. The key is just simply having a power meter on your bicycle.
Here are the 3 common field tests I do with athletes....
1. 30 min SOLO time trial - The key part of this is solo, where an athlete does a 30 min interval as hard as they can go, on a flat stretch of road, and take 100% of the average power value for that 30 min interval. The reason it needs to be done alone and on a flat stretch of roads is competition and climbs inflate the number.
2. 30 min trainer time trial - Much like the test above, this one is simply done on a trainer. The results of this are usually a little lower than out on the road, but if you are consistent with this test, this test will be fine.
3. 20 min trainer time trial, minus 5% - This test estimates FTP quite well, and is probably a bit easier mentally than the 30 min version on the trainer. After the 20 min TT, you take 95% of the average power for the interval.
Which test you choose to do doesn't matter so much as being consistent with the follow-up testing you do. If you do a 20 min trainer TT test in the winter, that is what you should do in the summer months as well, even if the weather is better.
Once you have this value, you can now begin to track and better understand your training. I hope to discuss different training metrics over the coming weeks.