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Tue 23rd Oct 2018
Training - simple tests for winter
Posted by: Editor
Posted on: Thursday 17th December 2015

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A couple of weeks ago we published the 'what should I be doing in December' training guide courtesy of the Triathlon Performance Solutions ( team of Ben Bright, Nick Saunders and Andy Brodziak.

One of the key suggestions in that piece was 'Testing' - getting an idea for what your fitness levels are now, using that information and then tracking (hopefully!), progress over time. Testing doesn't have to involve great expense, laboratories and complexity either.

In this feature, TPS have put outlined some simple field tests for winter training - all of which are free - to cover the swim, bike and run disciplines. Have a read, then go and give them a try.


Measuring your improvements off season – pacing, fitness and tolerance tests for winter training

Winter can be a challenging time for all athletes trying to improve performance. Without specific goals, or an understanding of the improvements off-season training can deliver, motivation to continue can be low.

However, it is an ideal time for athletes to improve in pacing, tolerance and fitness levels. This is a great way to keep motivated, and avoid the off-season ‘slump'. To measure these improvements Triathlon Performance Solutions have outlined some simple, no cost performance tests for all athletes to undertake during the off-season.

The aim of each test is to establish current fitness levels, learn how to pace, and improve tolerance. Repeated six weeks later, these tests enable athletes to measure improvement and stay motivated during the long off-season.

Swim test


Aim of Test: Assess current fitness level, improve pace control and set training speeds.


200m warm up building effort, Easy to Tempo
4x 25m; Building from 1-4, Easy to Hard pace - 10s rest.
1min easy swim and recovery.

100m max pace from a push start- record time - 60sec recovery.

Add 60 seconds onto your recorded max pace 100m time and begin 100m turnaround repeats on that time, dropping 5 seconds each 100m until you cannot make the turnaround time.
Only swim to make the turnaround time, no faster.

5min recovery; with easy swimming and kicking.

An example of the set is: 100m max = 1:15. Begin 100m repeats on 2:15 and drop 5 seconds from turnaround time each 100m - 2:10, 2:05, 2:00 etc. until you cannot make the turnaround - 1:25 for example. Take 5min recovery.
Ensure data recorded for future comparison.


The test establishes your basic speed (through doing a max 100m), as well as your training zone turnaround times, which you can then use to guide your training program. Your Vo2 turnaround time will be the final one you made and by adding around 5 seconds for each turnaround you will have the rest of your training turnaround zones.

Consistent training is crucial for athletes to improve long term. For example, the initial test may give 5 x 100m repeats before the targeted time cannot be reached.  Post a 6 week training phase, athlete's pace, and ability to adapt to shorter rests will have improved.

Run test


Aim of Test:  Benchmark time trial pace and test training adaptations.


15-20min warm up building intensity.
Find a familiar 15km course which can be repeated for future tests. Ride max effort. Record time and/or heart rate/power for future comparison.
30min easy riding to finish

(Heart Rate Monitor and/or Power meter maybe used, however a stopwatch will give you sufficient information.)


This test will give you your threshold HR and/or power. The rest of your training zones can be worked out from this information, guiding the rest of your training program. Training Peaks, for example, has a facility for you to work out training zones using this information.

This test enables athletes to learn how ‘hard' to ride from the gun, invaluable for 40km – 180km TT. Using the average heart rate from the first test, and riding at this consistently for second will prevent athletes ‘blowing up' over the distance. Practice is the key to learning how to pace for time trials.

Run test


Test: Assess current fitness, pacing ability and tolerance.


Use local parkrun ( - held every Saturday in the UK, a free 5km race!

Warm up 20mins.
Include some 30 sec FAST run efforts, with 1min recovery to get the body ‘ready' for a hard workout.

5km max effort
Record time, and average and max heart rate if possible for future comparison.
10min cool down jog


Similar to your bike test, this test will give you your run threshold numbers for both speed and HR. You can then work out the rest of your training zones using this information.

The advantage of this is that it is over very quickly and doesn't impact into the weekend like Triathlons do in the summer. This can be done every six weeks with minimal household disruption!

5km at max effort is a tough test, and a great benchmark of athlete's pacing and current fitness.

Repeating six weeks after consistent training will show improvements in pace and tolerance. This test is also low stress on the body, ideal for off-season training. Triathletes can make the mistake of going too long without any quality training, meaning you risk starting the season playing catch up.

We hope this compliments your training in winter and adds to another successful Tri season ahead!

More info can be found at

The TPS team

Triathlon Performance Solutions

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