The Importance of Performance Testing

By Greg C. Moriates

From the moment you are born, you are tested by the doctor or nurse to make sure all functions are a go. Then your doctor has you perform milestone testing during each developmental period.  School begins and your teacher tests your performance in subject matters and doctors test your biological functions.

Testing, testing and more testing.  That is what life is about. So if you are serious about fitness, training, endurance sports, etc., you need to track progress, ability and set training zones through proper testing.  So why would testing be something that you put aside when you are training in endurance sports, such as triathlons, running, swimming, cycling, etc.

When you are training for endurance sports, testing is just as important to your athletic performance and fitness as putting in the actual training time.  Here are some basic requirements for testing:

  • Depending on your training block, performing testing should be completed every six to eight weeks in every discipline that you are training for.


  • Testing should be performed at the end of a rest/recovery week and should be able to be replicated so that each test performed can be compared to the previous one.


  • Testing should be completed in a controlled environment (i.e. treadmill, bike trainer, stationary bike, pool, track, etc.).

There are many testing protocols available. However, I recommend performing a 30 minute time trial as follows:

Warm Up

  • 5 Minutes easy. Incorporating 3×1 minute hard efforts with 1 minute easy between sets.
  • 5 Minutes Hard Effort (You need to put out the highest watts/effort/pace that you can sustain for the 5 minutes).
  • 10 Minutes Easy

The Test

  • 30 Minute Hard Effort.  After the first 10 minutes had passed, begin to record your data for the next 20 minutes.  Focus on form to distract you from the pain (music helps).

Cool Down

  • 5-10 Minutes Easy Pedaling.

Basically, go at a pace/effort that you can hold for 30 minutes at the highest level of pace/heart rate/power. The average power of heart rate of your 20 minute all-out effort will be your functional Lactate threshold (FTH) or the beginning of Zone 4. To determine your training zones, use the following table.



% Average Power

% Average Heart Rate


Aerobic Endurance




Sub-threshold/Muscular Endurance







Notes: To calculate Zone 3 for someone who’s test results determined a FTH to be 300 watts multiply 300x.76=228 watts and 300x.90=270 watts.  Therefore, the individuals Zone 3 range would be 228-270 watts.


Less than Zone 2 is used for recovery and greater than Zone 4 is maximum anaerobic efforts.

I want to make it clear that these training zones are dynamic.  They will change from test to test and they will increase and decrease with training and de-training.  If you are going a couple of watts over your calculated zones, but feel like you can hold that power, do so and reevaluate/adjust your training zones for next training session.

Perform testing every six to eight weeks, adjust your training zones as needed and set yourself up for an epic year!