Performance Testing Makes You A Better Athlete
Back in 2019, Playtri had the privilege of hosting a group ride and Q&A session with Craig “Crowie” Alexander (3x Ironman World Champion, 2x Ironman 70.3 World Champion). The group ride was, of course, fun and well attended, but the best part of the evening was the Q&A session. Craig talked quite a bit about his approach to training, which offered fascinating insight into how one of the top performers in our sport was able to have such a successful career. Two things he said in particular have stuck with me over the years since that event.
The first: “Don’t get injured. Don’t get sick.” And the second (related to the first): “Use all available tests to help you succeed.”
If we wish to have solid performances in endurance sports we need to stay consistent in our training. When we get injured or get sick, we cannot stay as consistent. Depending on the severity of the injury or illness, we may even need to completely shut down our training and racing for weeks or months.
As a coach the past four years and a competitive age group triathlete the past 18 years, I’ve observed that often injury and illness can come from our inherent desire to get faster as endurance athletes. We know the goal is to be faster, so we train harder. We swim faster and longer. We do intervals on the bike trainer or enter into Zwift races on a weekly basis. We do intervals on the track or mile repeats with minimal rest. We lift heavy and attempt complex movements in the gym. And we may see some short-term gains (like I did when I was doing this type of training consistently early in my triathlon years) but we also expose ourselves to an increased risk of illness and injury. Which, sadly, I also experienced and forced me to take months off from the sport.
This is where performance testing is very helpful for every endurance athlete - age group and elite. Performance testing (along with working with a coach) can eliminate the majority of the guesswork in your training and racing. Performance testing allows you to follow the KISS rule: Keep It Simple and Systematic. Depending on the test you can learn: the best heart rate and power zones for different types of workouts and races; the amount of fat and carbs your body burns during a specific type of workout; how much sodium you lose in your sweat; and how many calories your body needs to function during the day without damaging your metabolic system. Performance testing gives you a strong knowledge of what your body’s current abilities and functionality are, so that you can make informed decisions with your coach about the best training to reach your racing goals.
Playtri offers a variety of performance testing that can be scheduled here - here’s a quick run-down:
Blood Lactate Testing for Bike and Run:
• Test with a 45-60 minute exercise protocol that includes fingertip capillary samples (blood samples) that are instantly analyzed to determine blood lactate content at the time of the sample. We’ve been doing this for over 20 years and use a proprietary testing protocol that is based on previously proven principles, and has been backed up by our in-house research and testing.
• This test determines your individual heart rate zones for a specific activity, like running or cycling (you should always do a separate test for each activity type). Also includes power zones for athletes riding with power.
• We recommend athletes have this test updated every 6-12 months as zones can shift depending on the volume and intensity of an athlete’s training load over time.
Vo2 Calorie Expenditure Testing:
• Uses a method known as “indirect calorimetry” to determine fat and carbohydrate burn during a specific activity by analyzing expired air with the use of a metabolic cart. Athletes wear a mask connected to the metabolic analyzer while completing a 15-24 minute protocol.
• This is one of our “secret” weapons for long course athletes, those looking to lose weight, and those looking maximize recovery nutrition protocol for high level training.
• We recommend doing this at the beginning and end of a training cycle for a goal - the longer the goal race distance, the more valuable this information becomes.
Advanced Sweat Testing
• Determines sodium-to-water ratio in a person’s sweat - this ratio can vary up to 500% across athletes, which means that your friend’s electrolyte replacement plan may not work for you.
• This test doesn’t require any exercise protocol - all you have to do is sit in a chair and answer some questions while we collect sweat to analyse - and it includes personalized hydration recommendations tailored towards your goal race(s).
• Strongly recommended for all athletes pursuing health or performance, but especially for long course or competitive short course goals.
Resting Metabolic Rate Testing
• Measures current Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR), which provides a baseline caloric intake for daily nutrition.
• Strongly recommended for any athlete trying to manipulate or intentionally maintain body weight, and those looking to maximize recovery nutrition protocol for high level training.
If you know you want to train smarter via performance testing, but aren’t sure where to start, head over to www.playtri.com/testing for more information on all our available test types.
Jim Rowe is a Playtri Level 4 Coach and Coach Education Lead, a USAT LI Certified Coach, and NASM Certified Personal Trainer who works with adult athletes of all abilities from beginners to IRONMAN World Championship qualifiers. Learn more about Jim at www.playtri.com/jim-rowe.