Measured improvement?

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nevman
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Measured improvement?

Postby nevman » Wed Dec 19, 2012 12:12 pm

As the title says,how do you measure whether you are getting fitter or not.
I can see the benefit of timing over measured distance but that isnt always possible given different factors eg weather,wind direction,time of day.
Not sure what HR tells me about fitness-would the average drop and again would it be a reliable measure
What do others use to inform them of steady progress particularly over the winter?
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danowat
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Re: Measured improvement?

Postby danowat » Wed Dec 19, 2012 12:14 pm

Power

HR can be an indication of fitness, I find it much "easier" to hit my max when I am fit, than when I am not.

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Herbsman
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Re: Measured improvement?

Postby Herbsman » Wed Dec 19, 2012 13:08 pm

TRY timing yourself up a long hill that's sheltered by trees. Do this at the same time of day every time you do the test and try and do it in the same weather conditions if possible. Each time, have the same number of rest days before the test. Do the same warm up. Etc. Try and control as many variables as possible.

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antfly
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Re: Measured improvement?

Postby antfly » Wed Dec 19, 2012 13:28 pm

If you can maintain a higher heart rate for longer you are getting fitter. If you can't get it up you're tired and should take it easy.
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Trev The Rev
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Re: Measured improvement?

Postby Trev The Rev » Wed Dec 19, 2012 13:42 pm

"If you know your power, then at best heart rate is redundant but at worst it is misleading."

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antfly
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Re: Measured improvement?

Postby antfly » Wed Dec 19, 2012 13:52 pm

How is he going to know his power ?
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poynedexter
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Re: Measured improvement?

Postby poynedexter » Wed Dec 19, 2012 20:39 pm

nevman wrote:As the title says,how do you measure whether you are getting fitter or not.
I can see the benefit of timing over measured distance but that isnt always possible given different factors eg weather,wind direction,time of day.
Not sure what HR tells me about fitness-would the average drop and again would it be a reliable measure
What do others use to inform them of steady progress particularly over the winter?


you dont need to measure anything. why are you wanting to get fitter? racing? a sportive?

to answer your question, if you could only manage 20 miles 6 months ago but now you get 50 in, you are getting fitter. simple. you will spot improvement from what you could do vs what you can do. i see how i recover quicker from high efforts, hills etc, as my fitness improves. if you plan on racing, gauge yourself against club mates over time.

if you are not seeing change in the above, you may not be getting fitter.

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Alex_Simmons/RST
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Re: Measured improvement?

Postby Alex_Simmons/RST » Wed Dec 19, 2012 21:30 pm

antfly wrote:If you can maintain a higher heart rate for longer you are getting fitter. If you can't get it up you're tired and should take it easy.

As has been mentioned, this is most definitely not a measure of fitness.

Improved fitness (on a bike) is primarily a function of being able to sustain a higher power (relative to body mass) for durations of interest. The trick is how does one determine if they are sustaining a higher power?

If fitness is starting off at a pretty low level, then the changes in fitness in the initial phases of consistent/sound training will be obvious signs like being able to ride a bit faster overall, able to go further without significant problems (e.g. cramps), being able to hang onto a regular group that you previously had trouble, climbing hills faster, a drop in waking heart rate as well. However, once your fitness gets beyond that initial improvement phase, then the changes are more subtle, and assessing them (if desired) requires more precise methods.

As noted, speed is an unreliable indicator since the speed-power relationship is affected by many uncontrollable variables.

Obviously using a good power meter (e.g. SRM, Quarq, Powertap) is the best way to measure power for a cyclist, or you could get a test every so often on equipment that is accurate and reliable (e.g. an ergometer like a Wattbike, or properly used Computrainer). Another is to time yourself up a steep hill climb, as the uncontrollable variables that affect the speed-power relationship are reduced significantly (but the precision of the power estimate will still be less than what's possible with good power measuring equipment).


A Bike Radar item I wrote a few years back:
http://www.bikeradar.com/fitness/articl ... ing-19175/

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antfly
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Re: Measured improvement?

Postby antfly » Thu Dec 20, 2012 00:15 am

Not many of us have power meters or access to wattbikes so the question is how do you know if you are getting fitter using an hr monitor ? I suppose if you can do a regular route at the same speed or faster, with a lower ave heart rate, you are getting fitter. In other words it gets easier.
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RChung
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Re: Measured improvement?

Postby RChung » Thu Dec 20, 2012 03:57 am

antfly wrote:If you can maintain a higher heart rate for longer you are getting fitter.


antfly wrote:if you can do a regular route at the same speed or faster, with a lower ave heart rate, you are getting fitter


Hmmm. If you do a regular route at a slower speed, you'll take longer. If you take longer and you do it at a higher heart rate, by your first reasoning you're getting fitter.

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Alex_Simmons/RST
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Re: Measured improvement?

Postby Alex_Simmons/RST » Thu Dec 20, 2012 05:50 am

antfly wrote:Not many of us have power meters or access to wattbikes so the question is how do you know if you are getting fitter using an hr monitor ?

You can't. HR is not a measure of fitness and so you need to use other means to assess fitness. Hence my previous post about signs of improved fitness.

The only sensible use for a HRM is as a guide to relative exercise intensity at relatively steady state sub-threshold and threshold levels. If you are using a power meter, then the HRM is redundant.

antfly wrote:I suppose if you can do a regular route at the same speed or faster, with a lower ave heart rate, you are getting fitter. In other words it gets easier.

The only measure of fitness is power output - be that from a direct power measurement device, or a proxy measure for power such as sustainable speed on rollers (with tyres and pressures controlled), or time/speed up a steep climb. Speed on flatter terrain is far too influenced by factors out of one's control to assess fitness.

If you cannot sustain more power for a duration of interest, you are not fitter. What your heart rate does isn't really relevant.

bahzob
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Re: Measured improvement?

Postby bahzob » Thu Dec 20, 2012 09:44 am

It really isn't all that difficult.

If you have a power meter one fairly accurate test is a max 3 minute effort. The power on for this will correlate quite closely to your MAP which in turn will give you a good indication of your training zones >> overall fitness.

For those without a power meter this is good news. You just need to be able to measure progress on a max effort of around 3 minutes.

And the best way to do this is find the steepest hill you can and time yourself up it. The steeper the better, , this will minimise the effects of other vagaries like wind/weather. (up to a limit you want to be riding seated with normal technique).

Time up that hill will be a good measure of improvement.

(Even those who use power (and other measures) will typically have a test like this. At the end of the day while power is great it only really matters when you translate it into a real world performance.
Most famous probably >> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VsnAF652bWc (The methodology is valid, even though his methods clearly sucked)

An alternative, if you can't find a hill or as a control is a 10 mile TT. (Notwithstanding Alex's opinion above which is an overstatement. While subject to wide variation due to external factors time trial results are still a good measure of fitness, especially when you look at trends over time which will smooth out the effect of other variables).

Find a course nearby and ride it regularly. Most courses are designed with the intent of allowing a high AVS and minimising the effects of external variables.

If you ride the same course regularly your moving average of times will come down as you improve. To take account of varying conditions you can just do the same as Top Gear. Record your times under, say, 3 categories: Perfect Conditions/Average Conditions/Crap Conditions and have separate averages/PBs for each. As you improve you may find yourself doing rides in Crap Conditions as fast as you used to do them in Average and this will be a real boost and indication of improvement.

(Note: Ofc times on the 10TT will change dramatically according to the type of bike ridden/riding postion. So if measuring "power"/"fitness" is your main priority then you should always use the same position. However it's also good to go for absolute speed. So, maybe have 2 PBs for each type of ride, one in a fixed postion (say riding upright) and the other trying to max aero efficiency. Do all this and you will end up tracking quite a few different numbers. If they all trend in the same direction it will be a clear sign of improvement and correlate with what your HR and perceived effort is telling you.)

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GiantMike
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Re: Measured improvement?

Postby GiantMike » Thu Dec 20, 2012 10:29 am

Since I got my powermeter I do 20 minute power tests on a turbo.

Before I had a powermeter I used to do a 16 mile circular loop and noted the time it took.

Both of these measures correctly recorded my improving fitness, but the PM is obviously more accurate and removes most of the variables inherent in the road test.

Whatever you do take individual results with a pinch of salt and try to build up a picture of various results over time.
my power improvement experiment blog

Rule number 100: It's your bike and your money and your time; do what you like with it and ignore other peoples' rules. Except this one.

danowat
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Re: Measured improvement?

Postby danowat » Thu Dec 20, 2012 10:31 am

bahzob wrote:If you have a power meter one fairly accurate test is a max 3 minute effort. The power on for this will correlate quite closely to your MAP


Really?

Tom Dean
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Re: Measured improvement?

Postby Tom Dean » Thu Dec 20, 2012 10:47 am

bahzob wrote:If you have a power meter one fairly accurate test is a max 3 minute effort. The power on for this will correlate quite closely to your MAP which in turn will give you a good indication of your training zones >> overall fitness.

For those without a power meter this is good news. You just need to be able to measure progress on a max effort of around 3 minutes.


Of course you can use any repeatable test to measure progress. Whether or not you use a PM, what is the relevance of a 3 min test's relationship to MAP or any other metric?

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antfly
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Re: Measured improvement?

Postby antfly » Thu Dec 20, 2012 11:36 am

RChung wrote:
antfly wrote:If you can maintain a higher heart rate for longer you are getting fitter.


antfly wrote:if you can do a regular route at the same speed or faster, with a lower ave heart rate, you are getting fitter


Hmmm. If you do a regular route at a slower speed, you'll take longer. If you take longer and you do it at a higher heart rate, by your first reasoning you're getting fitter.

OK smartarse. The higer heart rate is for interval training not averages.
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antfly
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Re: Measured improvement?

Postby antfly » Thu Dec 20, 2012 11:43 am

Alex_Simmons/RST wrote:
antfly wrote:Not many of us have power meters or access to wattbikes so the question is how do you know if you are getting fitter using an hr monitor ?

You can't. HR is not a measure of fitness and so you need to use other means to assess fitness. Hence my previous post about signs of improved fitness.

The only sensible use for a HRM is as a guide to relative exercise intensity at relatively steady state sub-threshold and threshold levels. If you are using a power meter, then the HRM is redundant.

antfly wrote:I suppose if you can do a regular route at the same speed or faster, with a lower ave heart rate, you are getting fitter. In other words it gets easier.

The only measure of fitness is power output - be that from a direct power measurement device, or a proxy measure for power such as sustainable speed on rollers (with tyres and pressures controlled), or time/speed up a steep climb. Speed on flatter terrain is far too influenced by factors out of one's control to assess fitness.

If you cannot sustain more power for a duration of interest, you are not fitter. What your heart rate does isn't really relevant.


OK, it will have to be the hill method then, although I suspect heart rate does have something to do with fitness.
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amaferanga
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Re: Measured improvement?

Postby amaferanga » Thu Dec 20, 2012 11:45 am

antfly wrote:
RChung wrote:
antfly wrote:If you can maintain a higher heart rate for longer you are getting fitter.


antfly wrote:if you can do a regular route at the same speed or faster, with a lower ave heart rate, you are getting fitter


Hmmm. If you do a regular route at a slower speed, you'll take longer. If you take longer and you do it at a higher heart rate, by your first reasoning you're getting fitter.

OK smartarse. The higer heart rate is for interval training not averages.


If you were as smart as RChung (I'm assuming it's Robert Chung?) then you'd probably not be calling him a smartarse.
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antfly
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Re: Measured improvement?

Postby antfly » Thu Dec 20, 2012 11:57 am

Whoever he is if he has something informative to add he should say it..
Last edited by antfly on Thu Dec 20, 2012 13:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Alex_Simmons/RST
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Re: Measured improvement?

Postby Alex_Simmons/RST » Thu Dec 20, 2012 12:22 pm

danowat wrote:
bahzob wrote:If you have a power meter one fairly accurate test is a max 3 minute effort. The power on for this will correlate quite closely to your MAP


Really?

It'll be in the ballpark, but I'd suggest something longer than 3-minutes for most people, unless you are specifically interested in ~3-min performance (e.g. goal event is shorter pursuits).

3-min power has the complicating factor of having a substantial anaerobic energy contribution (~25-35%) and so underlying aerobic fitness change may be more or less than the change in 3-min power (or steep climb speed) might indicate. Hence it's better to (also) have a longer effort where possible, as that will more reliably indicate aerobic fitness changes.


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