May 26, 2012

Relative Fitness

We all know the value and import of 'fitness' - that undefined element of racing success that seems so transient and largely elusive depending on how much you ride. If you don't ride you don't have much capacity, but lots of freshness...if you ride a lot you have capacity, but little freshness...what power types call ones training stress balance....and while I appreciate the essence of it, I have of late been a bit perplexed by its application...

I always consider 300W to be a decent reference point of where I'm at. If 300 is easy to hold I'm probably doing ok in my progress, but I don't do too many full hours at 300W, and have only done a 'best' 60m at about 326Wnormalized - or about 4.3W/Kg. I've done much better on 20m or so...up to about a 4.65W/kg (man do I want to see 5W/Kg sometime). Anyway, a couple of weeks ago, after a solid stint of not riding - I did an hour of power at 307Wnormalized, which was very suprising since I had no real fitness, freshness, or capacity to speak of - then again that's not too bad for having a TOTAL of 29 hours of training in April and May, so what gives?

What allows for a baseline of relative fitness that is roughly 88% of an all time best*? The first step was validating the power numbers were I opened the file and hand edited I'd calibrated it mid-ride as well, so I feel pretty confident. I think a bigger question is the speed of degradation of ones fitness...without this getting too far into the article format here are some points to ponder...

1. 5 weeks of detraining in swimmers showed a peak VO2 loss of 7% and a similar decrease in resting metabolic rate as well.
 2. The effects of detraining are less noticeable in long term athletes, and the return to 'fitness' is quicker too...sort of the 'once you've been there, it's easier to get back there" rule. I did find this interesting though - the long term benefits of doping (in this case steroids) as a permanent adaptation (and possible impact on doping jurisdiction:

Ok, so the point of this post was to look at relative fitness - to that end I'd have to say that my sustained steady state fitness seems to have a fairly high basement - that is to say even when I don't train much I can still hit some pretty good numbers on steady state efforts. But, unfortunately, racing is often not about steady state fitness, it's about attack, assess, counter..and that requires the type of fitness that I do not have right now, and which is the kind of elusive that makes one wonder if 6-months will be enough (I doubt it)...


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