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Tracking an athlete's fitness development requires fitness testing. It is important to carry out this monitoring so that the effectiveness of the athlete's training methods can be gauged. Fitness tracking using power is ideal for the following reasons:
- Power measurement is lag free, meaning it is suitable for performance testing right down to short efforts lasting only a few seconds
- Power measurement isn't effected by environmental conditions. Fitness testing does not need to be carried out in ideal conditions (no wind or current) in order to be comparable between tests. Valid performance tests to be carried out in various conditions.
Two of the most common methods of power-based fitness tracking are discussed in this section. Monitoring the development of an athlete's Functional Threshold Power provides a good insight into the development of their basic aerobic fitness. For this reason, it is a favorite among endurance paddlers.
Power profiling is used by athletes and coaches who want to track all aspects of fitness, from short burst to long endurance fitness. Athletes who compete in events that require both sprint-fitness and endurance, track their fitness using this method.
Functional Threshold Power is a strong indicator of fitness. It is arguably the most important factor for determining performance in events ranging as short as 500m, to as long as a marathon race. The reason for this is that it is a representation of the athlete's Lactate Threshold expressed in Watts.
Whilst endurance athletes are all to familiar with the concept of Lactate Threshold, sprint distance paddlers (e.g. 200m) will be less interested in this figure and can track more relative progress using power-profiling methods, which are explained below.
Power profiling is used to test an athlete's level of fitness over a range of long and short duration efforts. This gives the coach and athlete a total picture on all aspects of fitness.
The power profile is made up of a series of benchmark tests. A typical power profile is listed below. Coaches may refine the benchmark list depending on the demands of their targeted event.
Keeping track of your progress using a power profile like the one above allows you to gauge your current level of fitness, improvement and areas of weakness.
A distance racer (5k, 10k, marathon paddler) will be able to identify areas of weakness and adjust their training accordingly. It is important for distance paddlers to be able to demonstrate strength in all aspects of racing; to be able to cover breaks, accelerate over washes etc, a paddler must have good burst power. This ability is represented by the 30s and 1min power outputs. A paddler who finds this aspect of their race a weakness can benchmark themselves with a 1min Max Power test, and then carry out specific training with the aim to improve their output.
At the same time, the athlete will continue to profile themselves on the other distances (4min, 20min, 30s) to make sure the specific training adoptions are not sacrificing fitness in other areas, such as endurance (20min power). On the other hand, the paddler must also have great aerobic fitness, as indicated by a high 20min Max Power output.
Sprint paddlers, such as those who race 200m, can develop a profile with benchmark tests of shorter duration (shown below).
Profiling in this manner is nothing new. Time Trials over a similar range of distances will allow you to identify areas of strength and weakness also. However, the benefit of profiling using power is that you can carry these tests regardless of the weather conditions, boat setup. You don't require a perfect course, unlike TT bench-marking which requires ideal conditions for times to be comparable. You can easily incorporate these bench-marking sessions into your training routine and have regular, accurate and comparable data.