Question: I did some physiological testing at a university lab. The results were depressing! According to the physiologist, my wattage at lactate threshold and watts per kilogram of bodyweight were both below average for my racing age group. But racing, I was on the podium many times. Why the discrepancy between test results and race results? — Maria H.
RBR Replies: As you may remember from your school years, some people are good test takers and others aren’t. Many people who do miserably at tests do great in real life situations. It sounds like you’re a “gamer,” an athlete who outperforms herself in competition.
Consider the standards the lab is using to compare athletes. Perhaps it doesn’t have a sufficient number of tests for building valid norms. Perhaps because of few subjects, several who happen to do well on an ergometer skew the scale. But as we know, lots changes out on the road.
It’s never good to give great weight to physiological tests — or feel depressed about them. They evaluate only one part of the competition equation — power. They don’t reveal anything about tactics, ability to read a race, teamwork, sprinting talent or guts.
As exercise physiologist Andy Coggan, PhD, one the authors of Training With a Power Meter says, “The best predictor of performance is performance itself.”
Gary Turney says
Years ago when I was doing a lot more running, I also belonged to a gym and occasionally I would hit the treadmill. I could NEVER run 5 miles or so on the treadmill as fast as outdoors, and my legs always ached more after a treadmill run. The reason became obvious, to me at least, after considering GPS tracks for my outdoor runs. When outdoor, my running speed at times was variable on a short scale – seconds – with instantaneous pace registering from 6 to 10 minute miles (I typically ran 7:30 – 8:00).. This is due to microvariations in running conditions – slight rises and drops, bumps, dodging potholes and dogs, turns, wind, etc. Whereas on a treadmill, footspeed at every timescale is necessarily constant at the speed the treadmill is set. So outside, you are introducing all these minor variations in how leg muscles are used. Not so on a treadmill, you are constantly using the exact same muscles the exact same way. Thus, on the treadmill, minor overuse and fatigue sets quickly in, you can’t perform as well, and those minor aches appear. Anyway, that’s my theory – have no idea if it’s valid but it makes sense to me.
I’d guess this concept carries over to biking to some degree, including trainers (depending on settings and type) and lab tests.
Kerry A Irons says
It might just be that it is “easier” to go hard in a race situation than when strapped into the vomitron. Fresh air, excitement, competition, etc. can stimulate some people in ways they just can’t deliver in the lab situation.
This reminds me of that famous race horse, Seabiscuit!
It’s the podium that counts!
Richard Rogers says
I emphatically agree with Kerry Irons, regarding the Vomitron. I tell you in all honesty that I often gag/retch after a hard workout.
I have done the most intense, and structured/repeated workouts of my life, this year. For most of this year, I’ve used two fans in my basement training room.
Less than a week ago, I got a powerful 20″ fan. I now have three fans. The 20″ in front of me, the old fan behind me, and the third fan at the window.
The improvement in my performance has been astonishing to me!!! ***Both*** of my 80K rides in the last week were PR’s. My perception of effort has gone down by at least 1/10. Just an extra fan cooling me has brought about such a surprising increase in performance.
This is why indoor training is contrived, and not really realistic of what you can accomplish outdoors. Heat management indoors (and the nuisance of wiping away perspiration) is such a major factor in performance, that it is a much bigger factor than the marginal benefits of training for months.