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  • Writer's pictureStars and Spokes

Our first expedition fitness test: FTP madness!

Weekly Highlight: Our first expedition fitness test, great to get so much useful data 💪

Weekly Lowlight: Our first expedition fitness test, turns out FTP tests are quite emotional 🥵

Next Week's Blog: We commence our 'Meet The Team' series, starting with Tim our expedition Physical Trainer


A point to note, military gyms have been given dispensation to remain open during COVID, at significantly reduced capacity - this ensures military fitness standards can be maintained. All serving military personnel, like us, must be ready to deploy on operations at short notice.

Pascal here. Ah yes, the Functional Threshold Power (FTP) test, well that was pleasant (it really wasn't!).

The one minute intro video below provides an overview of the test, and introduces you to my indoor cycling torture device (other people call them Watt Bikes...). Later in the blog I have included some of the key FTP test data for reference, as they flash up quickly in the video.

The first point to make here is that neither Dan nor I are road cyclists by background, so our current training regime is often a voyage of discovery...Our most recent discovery occurred this week, it's called an FTP test - I've definitely had more fun 20 minute periods in my life! Under the watchful eye and guidance of our excellent (and eternally patient) expedition Sport Scientists (Joe & Lana - find out more about them in an upcoming blog!), we spent a morning on Watt Bikes undertaking our first expedition fitness testing session. Culminating in the completion of an FTP test.

The FTP test provides a cycling fitness score - expressed as POWER per KILOGRAM of bodyweight (given in Watts/KG). This is great for us, as we can re-test ourselves every two months and objectively assess and track our fitness progress - and tweak our training structure accordingly, should it be required. To attain your score, you have to cycle at a 'comfortably hard' (oxymoron?! - equates to about 75-80% of 'maximum' effort) pace for 20 mins, aiming to keep this constant throughout the test. The first 10 mins are fine, life feels great. However, in the second half the minutes seem to turn into hours and your legs begin to feel like they're made of lead...!

The aim is to keep your power (the blue line) constant throughout the entire 20 minute test - for us, at 250-270 Watts

All of the data from our tests (power output, bodyweight at start of test, heart rate, discomfort level) was then passed to Joe and Lana, they plug it all into some sort of Sport Scientist super computer, then provide us with our overall fitness score and a range of other useful stats to inform our future training.

And so onto our results. Being of very similar fitness levels, Dan and I scored broadly equivalent results. This makes the life of our expedition Physical Trainer (Tim) much easier, as he can consider us as one, when it comes to setting us training sessions and goals.

FTP Score: We both scored within the 3-3.5 Watts/KG range. In terms of overall power generated, we both held an average of 250-270 Watts throughout the 20 minute test.

Our results in a bit more detail, the key figure being the POWER per KG figure

To provide some context for reference, top end pro cyclists score at 5-6 Watts/KG (but they all take performance enhancing drugs right?!), recreational cyclists generally score 2-3 Watts/KG. Not coming from a road cycling background ourselves, we were happy with our results - they provide us with a benchmark figure, our aim is to increase this figure over the coming months - stay tuned for future test results in the coming weeks and months!

Next week we will be introducing Tim, our expedition Physical Trainer. He will discuss how he will be using these results to structure our future training, ahead of our epic 5000 km across the USA in July.

What is your FTP score? How have you managed to improve it over the years? We would love to hear about how other cyclists have got on with their own FTP tests - are we the only ones to find it quite so emotional....?

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