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The explosion of testing

Updated: Aug 4, 2021

With many athletes resuming training after a deserved end of season break, we at Trisutto have been taken aback with the amount of new age group athletes inquiring about which ‘performance’ tests they need to complete before they get started for the new season.

It coincides with a much longer (but equally dubious) trend of national federations scheduling tests – strength, individual time trial, flexibility etc. for professional athletes, who should be resting or focusing improvements on their weakest disciplines after a brutal race season.

Pro Athlete Testing Out of season time trialling of an individual’s 400m swim, or 800m run, are tests with no point aside from administrative box ticking. They produce numbers that have no bearing on positive performance in an actual triathlon, nor do the battery of insignificant flexibility measurements and other strength protocols that athletes are asked to do in the off season.

Yet every year we suffer through the farce of athletes recovering from a successful race season, coming under pressure to maintain their spots against athletes ‘peaking’ in time for the test period.

It’s pseudoscience. Athletes that test well and race poorly are so common as to nearly be the norm and not the exception. Similarly, the numbers thrown up each year under the guise of being ‘impartial’ can be completely misleading based on any number of factors. Imagine two tests taken 6 months apart at the same venue, with the same equipment:

  • Was the test performed at the same time of day?

  • Were the weather / temperature conditions identical?

  • What was the time since the athlete’s last meal?

  • Was it the same meal?

  • Were all the meals during the previous 48 hours the same? Did the athlete do the same training on day of test?

  • Did the athlete do the same training the last 72 hours before ? What was the tiredness level of athlete?

  • Did they taper for the test?

  • What were their hydration levels?

  • How did they sleep the night before?

  • Was the athlete experiencing any family or relationship issues?

  • How has the equipment been maintained / calibrated?

There are no impartial numbers. And it’s why for over 30 years at Trisutto our athletes take their tests and have their performance judged at the only place they count – Championship Events.

Age Group Testing So let’s move on to the proliferation of tests done at the start of the season for age group athletes and used as an indicator for development of your training program. I know it all sounds scientific and cutting edge, and I also know how many of you enjoy looking at graphs and measurements.

Unfortunately, the reality is such data will also have absolutely no bearing on what you will need to improve your swim, bike and run capacities. If you decide to do Ironman what is needed for your training is very black and white – no matter what the test says: Performing 3.8km swim, 180km bike, 42km run is an an inflexible and herculean task regardless of the starting test point or your numbers. Whether your goal is 8 hours or 18, what one needs to focus on are the individual swim, bike and run techniques to cover such a distance, and then a training regimen that is adapted to compliment these techniques and goals.

It is simple, but honest. Across sports race day performance has nothing to do with the testing lab. And just because there is a proliferation of new businesses built around such testing it is not a testament to their legitimacy, but of the gullibility of cashed up triathletes looking for easy speed.

I will give you the best piece of research information that you will receive and we hand it out for free here at Trisutto: Performance under pressure comes from mental self discipline that needs to be learned through training and awareness of what it takes on race day.

No testing protocol is going to help you when you’re under pressure and need to find a way to overcome. My tip is find a coaching solution that can provide help with developing those race skills. That is far superior and cost efficient than the expense of trying to buy performance with testing and equipment.

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