But, now the holidays are over, we are firmly in 2019 and it is time to re-focus forward towards this season's goals. Hopefully you are motivated and ready to rip into your training regimen!
If you train with power on the bike, a challenging point is in determining where to set your CP - Critical Power - when you do start training regularly on the bike again. In-season CP will not be a good measuring stick because your fitness at the beginning of the off-season is nowhere near what it is at the height of racing. Certainly, you could perform an CP test “out of the gate”, but when moderately out of shape, the test becomes both mentally and physically distasteful, and the results can be a bit skewed.
So, what’s an athlete to do?
Here’s a simple way to establish a baseline CP that will be close enough to get you training at the right intensities for your various zones. Take your weight in pounds (1kg = 2.2lbs) and double it. If you weigh 150lbs, then it is 150 x 2 = 300. If you are over 35 years old, subtract 0.5% from this number for every year above 35. So, if you’re 45, you subtract 5% from 300, which equals 285. This is your ballpark FTP. Now, take that FTP value and divide it by 0.80. This brings you within range of what your CP could be.
Remember, training zones are “zones” for a reason. There are no absolutes in terms of an ideal or best percentage at which to train a specific energy system. So, if the above estimate is off by 10-20 watts – in either direction – the effect it will have on your training zones is minimal. My suggestion is to start with the above formula, use it for the first 4-8 weeks of your off-season training, and then complete an actual CP ramp test.
By giving yourself a few weeks of buffer from your final race to no training to unstructured training to beginning preparation for next season, you will allow yourself to better ease into your regimen with little to no downside in your actual preparation. And, you're removing any initial pressures about either conducting a stress test in which you're really not ready to perform, or puzzling over how to establish some preliminary training zones on the bike.
So fast forward ... You’re back into some sort of regimen for your off-season training and have been at it for a few weeks. You’ve used an estimate of your CP, but it’s time to establish an actual baseline CP with a proper ramp test.
After testing many athletes and going through countless CP tests myself, here’s my take on it. While the ramp test can occur with different durations at each "step", I prefer the '10w increase every 1min' approach. There needs to be a more dynamic inclusion of sub-aerobic, aerobic, threshold and supra-threshold efforts to get a well-rounded result. When I've done the longer steps of 3-5min, this also entails a larger wattage increase every time -- either 25w or 0.5w/kg, depending on the protocol. Nothing wrong with this approach, but I feel it is less effective in producing a usable result. My 2 cents.
Whichever way you decide to go about it, make sure you decide on a protocol that you can get excited to replicate over time so that you are comparing apples-to-apples one test to the next. Also, frequency of testing – every 6-8 weeks is good enough. Training zones are minimally impacted by a handful of watts, so no need to test every month. Lastly, conduct the test at either the very end of a recovery week or the very beginning of a training cycle after a recovery week. This ensures you are rested both mentally and physically, and ready to give the test the effort it requires.