Testing is an important part of any training programme. It provides an evaluation of strength and weaknesses of the athlete and lets the coach provide a more focused basis for training prescription. It is also a great motivation tool for the athlete as improvements can be seen in black and white.
When looking at tests think about these three points.
1. IS IT VALID?
Does the test assess what is intended? Does it apply to reality, for instance does a bench press 1 rep max have any prediction or physical benefit to running a marathon? To ensure validity make sure to research your sport and the physical demands that are required.
2. IS IT RELIABLE?
Can your test be easily reproduced? For instance running a 5km time trial on a trail will have a very different result to a road or a track.
3. IS IT ACCURATE?
This should be obvious but can be overlooked, make sure your test does what it says on the tin.
This will be a two part blog, the first part looking at your aerobic capacity and the second at strength testing.
We will now look at ways you can measure your aerobic fitness.
VO2max refers to the maximum amount of oxygen that an athlete can utilize (per minute) during an intense workout, it has been shown to be a good predictor of performance.
VO2max tests in their nature are tough, as the athlete will have to work at his/her maximum effort for a prolonged period. In my mind the two simplest methods for this are a beep test or a time trial. I will include charts for both these tests at the bottom of this post.
Beep testing. I remember the dreaded beep test from my time with the marines. Anyone who has done these will probably wince, they can get intense. You will need two cones or markers and a way to measure 20m. Place the markers out. If you have a friend to do this with all the better (especially to keep each other honest). Next you will need to play the audio tape (https://youtu.be/EWERrAxWYLo)
When the tape starts run to the cone, you must get your foot behind the cone or on the line before the next beep. Each time the test levels up the beeps get faster, and so will you! You are finished when you fail to contact the line twice in a row. Make sure you note down your score and then compare it to the table to get your estimated VO2max score. CLICK HERE FOR TABLE AND CALCULATOR.
The next method is your 5km race time or time trial. Make sure to perform this on a track or flat loop that you can reuse when retesting if performing a time trial. Do warm up before this with a short easy run (1-2km). Once you have a time you can compare it to the table to get your estimated VO2max score. Other distances can be used to predict your VO2max but running longer than 5km for a time trial is a very hard effort and should be probably saved for race day.
LACTATE THRESHOLD TESTING
Lactate threshold is a good measure of aerobic fitness. It is the point at which the body can no longer recycle lactate in the muscles. The higher your lactate threshold the longer and faster you can sustain your running speed.
To do a lactate threshold test you can pay for a test that involves taking pin pricks of blood to measure blood lactate or perform a time trial that predicts fairly accurately your lactate threshold. You will need a Heart Rate monitor, a flat running surface or track and a stop watch. The basic rule of this test is that you run for 30 min at your maximum pace. THAT DOES NOT MEAN AS FAST AS YOU CAN FROM THE WORD GO. The hard part of this test is getting your pacing right. If you slow down from starting too fast the test loses its accuracy.
Here’s how to do it. Warm up with some light running and running drills.
To perform the test. Run for ten minutes and record your Heart Rate, keep running until you hit 30 minutes and record your HR as you finish. Add both Heart Rates together and divide by two. This is your Lactate Threshold heart rate. Your LT pace is the your average pace for the entire test (as long as you were fairly constant).
Do not test every week, these tests are tough workouts in their own right. They should be used sparingly throughout a training cycle.
The above tests are great for recording improvements and seeing where you are in training. But remember many factors can effect the results, the time of day you perform the test, how fatigued you are by prior training and sleep patterns and stress at home or work. The best predictor of your aerobic fitness will be on race day.
Time trial/race VO2 max table.