Shortly after the flight of the Snowbird Human-Powered Ornithopter in 2010, I started working with the Peak Centre for Human Performance. Since then, I’ve raised my functional threshold power (the power you can sustain for 1 hour) from 273 Watts to 344 Watts, and my one-minute power from 678 Watts to 773 Watts.
The Peak Centre provides facilities for accurate lab testing, measuring power output, oxygen consumption and lactate levels in the blood. The results of the tests determine various physiological thresholds that allow the athlete to optimize their training plan. The philosophy is that each type of workout addresses a specific physiological system, and that, given your current fitness level, there is an optimal level of effort to help improve each specific system.
Last week I was back at the Peak Centre for my next Zone Check and 1 minute power test. My training this summer was heavily focused on peaking at the end of August, after which we gave my body a couple of weeks to rest and recover. So these test aren’t my best performances to date, but they give the baseline for starting the next phase of training in which, ideally, I should be able to peak even higher than August.
The first test is a 1 minute power test, somewhat representative of the helicopter flight. It’s not exactly the same as a Wingate test, which involves going all-out right from the start. Instead I start at roughly 900 Watts (the estimated power for the first part of the helicopter climb) and try to hold that power as long as I can. The results are shown in the graph below, with an average power of 738 Watts (slightly down from my best performance of 773 Watts).
The next day I did my Zone Check, which involves increasing the power output by 30 Watts every 3 minutes until physical failure. At each stage lactate levels are measured through blood samples and heart rate is recorded. By using a CompuTrainer the power can be fixed extremely accurately at each stage. The CompuTrainer adjust its resistance with cadence so as to keep the power constant at whatever the given setting (power = torque*angular velocity). So if you slow your cadence, the CompuTrainer increases the resistance. The lactate and heart rate results are shown below. Again, not my best performance (last October I completed the 430 Watt stage and got 1 minute into the 460 Watt stage), but this is understandable given the tapering and weight loss for the flight, and the recovery period since. Either way, this provides the baseline for training zones going forward.
Heart rate and lactate levels vs. power for Zone Check test with three minute intervals between power steps.
We’ve uploaded both videos to our YouTube Channel, and you can check them out at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q2Njtel-Es0&feature=plcp
Working with the Peak Centre has not only improved my performance number, but it has helped myself and the rest of the AeroVelo team to developed an accurate, science-based, understanding of high-performance physical training.