I have often been asked by triathletes who train with power, "how do I know at what power output I should be riding during a race?"

Whether it is a Sprint triathlon or an Ironman, this is a great question because using the races leading up to your "A" race is the perfect time to fine tune the wattage you select and use on the big day.

In my readings I recently re-discovered a very simple field test, described by Triathlon Coach Joe Friel, known as the CP30 or Critical Power test.

The test is simply a 30 minute time trial, completed at your highest sustainable output for the duration of the test, with the resulting test data allowing us to develop power training zones specific to your abilities.

Your CP30 is the Average Power output you are able to sustain for the full 30 minute period. The goal is to have as little variation in power as possible, between your starting output and your end output.

This test is also a great way to better understand steady state effort, pacing strategies what your tolerances are.

From your Average Power output, we can establish training zones, just like heart rate training zones, with a lower and upper value for each zones. Each training zone designed to develop a specific element of fitness.

The beauty of this test is:
  • it is a very simple test to do on your own
  • you do not require expensive equipment (assuming you have your power meter already)
  • results are simple to evaluate and implement into your training program.
  • it is a fantastic tool for tracking your performance improvements on a regular basis (every 4-8 weeks).
In Part 2, I will look at the test protocol itself, and I will finish the series with Part 3, evaluating and implementing the test results.

James Greenwood is a competitive tri and multisport athlete currently training for Ironman Canada 2009. A level 1 Triathlon Coach, he holds a post graduate degree in Exercise Science, and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the NSCA. James is also currently the resident health and fitness programs expert at MyPypeline.com, and has starred in a number of multisport specific fitness videos.
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