Here are some tips to make sure your FTP Test goes really well! Get ready for the challenge!
This test measures your functional threshold power and can be used to set your training zones and benchmark progress.
The test protocol that I will talk about today is from “Uncle Andy’s” book, “Training and Racing with a Power Meter.” However, many of these tips transfer well to other protocols. As discussed in Part One, we are doing the test to determine the Functional Threshold Power. Actually going out and riding for roughly 60 minutes semi quasi steady state at this intensity is brutal and impractical so we follow a shorter protocol the determine FTP. I touched briefly upon the science behind this in Part 1.
- Know the testing protocol in advance.
There are a number of different ways to conduct a power test. What matters is that you select a method and stick with it for your season so you can compare performance. Memorize the session so you can move through it seamlessly!
- Work your mental game. This is what I call your Mind Power
The body follows the mind so do what it takes to stay positive and amped. You’ll notice the protocol above calls it a “challenge” rather than a test. Consider the key session a challenge to rise up to conquer rather than a “test” to pass or fail. We are seeking a very hard effort from your body and therefore stressing out about a “test” will diminish your results. Get your mind excited for the opportunity to see what your body can do. I like to call it a challenge because athletes are more inclined to embrace a challenge with enthusiasm and attack it with vigor than with something sterile like a “test.” What motivates you? What is your “why?” Each athlete is unique but considering these things helps your body produce more bike power by tapping into your “Mind Power” on challenge day!
- Schedule the Power Challenge on a day and time that makes sense.
First thing in the morning after an active recovery day when your health is strong is an ideal time to perform a test. The day after your longest/toughest session with muscle soreness and a hangover after a long day at the office with a head cold would be sub optimal.
The day before the Power Challenge, check your power meter battery. Charge your cycling computer and/or watch. Ensure your tires have air. Ensure your kit is clean and ready to go. Set out everything you need on FTP test day in advance. Having your power meter battery fail at minute 12 of the test is very frustrating! Make sure your heart rate monitor is reading. You DO want to wear this for benchmarking and as a secondary reference point for later. Warn your family members…maybe even the neighbors about the yelling potential in those 20 minutes. Get a cool bucket (just in case) beside your bike. Set out your nutrition in advance so that you are well fueled and hydrated. Make it easy on yourself for Power Challenge day!
- Perform the Challenge in a controlled environment.
Ideally this would be in an indoor trainer in a cool environment with multiple fans blowing and zero distractions. Doing this on a flat stretch of road is also acceptable but indoor testing is going to be the most repeatable and least risky! The fans are to keep the engine cool! Set a play list. I don’t often listen to heavy metal but when I do it is in the middle of a FTP test! Music can help push you and if you are indoors you can take advantage of this! Set up visual cues such as an inspiration board, a confidence building or lucky object, a piece of paper with a mantra written on it or your goal written down.
- Pace the FTP Test well.
Really see how hard you can go in that 5 minute section. Do not “sandbag” it. You will recover in that 10 minute spin.
Start the 20 minute FTP test around where your last test was if you have tested in the past eight or so weeks and if it feels right dial it up a notch. Otherwise go by what your training data indicates is possible or simply gauge on how it feels. You want your initial power to be something you can hold for the entire 20 minutes. Do not start out “too fast.” This should be lower than your 5 minute power for sure! Hit lap every 5 minutes to break it up. Think about getting to that 5 minute marker and holding onto the power until then.
In the first 5 minutes…
You’ll feel confident and wonder if you are starting out too low. Heart rate will gradually climb as you settle in to this pace. Select a gearing and cadence that feels natural to you and avoid shifting excessively as that is a distraction. Commit to this wattage output.
From minute 5 to 10…
You’ll be breathing heavier and may even feel those muscles burning. However, you’ll still be holding on to that wattage. Heart rate will continue to climb.
The hardest part is going to be the next lap but stay in the moment. Be present.
From minute 10 to minute 15…
Mental power matters most for this part of the FTP test. This is where most athletes tend to fade. Be strong and remember your body can do more than your brain wants it to. Those fatigue signals can be overridden so hang onto the power. Stay with it one second at a time.
By minute 16…
You should be embracing the “pain” and simply riding and pushing down on the pedals. It is brutal. You can drill it home anyway in those final 5 minutes. Don’t be afraid to curse or yell if you are even capable. It should be burning but as you hit “stop” at minute 20 you’ll be glad you stuck with it!
Your FTP will be that 20 minute power number from the FTP test multiplied by .95. This should be rounded to keep it simple. From here you can determine your training zones.
To learn your watts per kilogram simply divide your FTP by your weight in kilograms. This is relevant for hilly courses as the higher your w/kg the easier time you’ll have making it up the climbs.
Contact me if you’d like help establishing your zones
– Coach Kelly