FTP and MAF Tests – Gradual Improvements

Training had been going well for the past couple of months. As I posted a few weeks ago, I felt as though I was getting back in the groove and had been colouring in my training diary with a sea of green as I ticked off and completed workouts as scheduled. It’s all been mainly MAF zone training, which means keeping my Heart Rate at around 136bpm. This means that it’s all relatively easy, base level training which is how it should be at this time of year. Just getting myself used to training again, and building a nice aerobic base from which I can increase the intensity come the Spring.

It’s nice to see some improvement though even during the Base Phase, so I regularly do FTP and MAF tests to track my progress.

FTP Tests

The FTP test involve 2x 8 minute all out efforts on the turbo trainer – after a suitable and fairly substantial warm up of course. The TrainerRoad plans have these built into them anyway so that you test every four weeks or so. After the test the software calculates what it deems to be your Functional Threshold Power (FTP) and then adjusts your subsequent workouts based on this new number. This means that workouts remain applicable to you and at the intended intensity as you improve. The tests themselves are actually quite hard work and therefore a good training session in their own right. They are good to do, but not necessarily something to look forward to as they see you pushing yourself to the limit.

Here’s the printout from my most recent FTP Test.

8 Min FTP Test

8 Min FTP Test

As I started using TrainerRoad again in September I did one of these tests, and have since done additional tests in both October and November. It’s good to see that the results have at least been going in the right direction, with very gradual increases in FTP (in Watts)  from month to month. The increases actually equate to about 1.8% per month which is perfect.

FTP Test Results

FTP Test Results

MAF Tests

The MAF tests are much easier to carry out and not at all uncomfortable. They essentially require me to run around the track whilst keeping my heart rate as close as possible to my MAF heart rate of 136bpm. This is a fairly easy pace and therefore quite a nice test to perform. The idea of doing them on the track is just to keep conditions as consistent as possible. I then record my pace per mile and hopefully over the course of time see improvements in the form of improving pace per mile whilst my heart rate remains constant.

Once again, it has been promising to see that this has indeed been the case. I tend to do these ‘tests’ more frequently as they are easy to perform, so weekly MAF tests are fine.

Here are the results since the end of September, which as you can see show some fairly significant improvements to start with and then some more gradual improvements recently. The fact that I hadn’t been running at all prior to starting these tests in September due to a plantar fasciitis injury explain the initial improvements.

MAF Test Results

MAF Test Results

Body Composition

So, overall that would seem to be a good thing. Functional Threshold Power on the bike is gradually increasing and my pace per minute at MAF zone whilst running is improving too. Even my weight and Body Fat Percentage has been heading (for the most part) in the right direction too – although the next few weeks with Christmas will probably change that!

Body Composition Trends

Body Composition Trends

Lurgy and the Associated Losses

Trouble is, I now have some sort of lurgy – headache, sore throat, chesty cough, bunged up and all over body aches – full blown ‘man-flu’ in other words and I therefore haven’t done any training today. My scheduled TrainerRoad session on the turbo trainer has been cancelled and there’ll be no trail run either. I can feel myself losing all of the gains I’ve made already.

It’s only been a day of no training so far, but I feel as though I’m getting fatter and less fit as every hour passes. Is this a sign of some sort of exercise addiction? And to make matters worse, having three hours to spare thanks to the self-imposed ban on training means that I just have time on my hands, and that just makes me want to eat more. Three hours of training usually means three hours when I’m not eating, but now I’m sat here feeling ill, feeling sorry for myself and there’s cake calling me from the kitchen.

Adjusting the Plan

I can’t see this lurgy passing too quickly either, so it’s unlikely that I’ll be training much at all this week. I’ll have to decide what to do when it does pass though, skip a week and just carry on with the plan as if nothing had happened? Pick up where I left off and therefore do the scheduled training that I should be doing this week and put everything back a week? Or, go back a week or so to the last recovery week and start afresh from there? It’ll all depend on how many days I miss.

If it’s just a day or two then I’ll just continuing with the plan, missing the workouts I should have done – nothing ever goes completely to plan and at this stage of the game missing the odd workout won’t matter.

If it’s 4-5 days then I think I’ll pick up where I left off and do the week I was supposed to do – so, if I start training again on Friday I’ll just repeat last weekends workouts and then continue with what I should have done this week.

If it’s a week or more then I think I’ll go back and do the last recovery week again and go from there. That will take into consideration the condition of my body once I’m recovered. Rushing back into things at the same level as before I got ill but with a depleted immune system is likely to do more harm than good and put me behind in my fitness progression rather than move me ahead. Actually, now that I’ve put it like that, maybe that’s what I should do anyway. Back to the drawing board, back to a recovery week and build from there into some more FTP and MAF tests.

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Alan Cole

Alan is a Freelance Website Designer, Sports & Exercise Science Lab Technician and full time Dad & husband with far too many hobbies: Triathlete, Swimming, Cycling, Running, MTBing, Surfing, Windsurfing, SUPing, Gardening, Photography.... The list goes on.

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