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Metabolic testing

Having a Sports Science background makes me interested in all things physiology and testing. I’m sure we are all familiar with various tests, FTP tests, lactate testing, VO2max tests, etc. But it was some interviews I listened to with Sebastian Weber of InScyd that got me really interested in metabolic testing.

What previously would have required a trip to a lab, was now accessible to those with a power meter…with all the testing done at home. Though I went through their demonstrations and some of their education, I decided it was a bit expensive for me and my clients.

However, I was listening to the brilliant Endurance Innovations Podcast a while back, they were interviewing the guys behind the website AeroTune. I’d not heard of them previously, but I really liked what they were saying.

There were two episodes, the first one I heard was about their aero-testing platform…and actually, that was what made me download the podcast. However, during that interview, they started talking about their metabolic testing platform and that was much closer to the price range I was looking for.

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Easy to do a home or on the road, following their very clear instructions.

Find out your:

  • VO2max
  • VLamax
  • Fatmax
  • Critical Power

Why metabolic testing?

The reasons for getting metabolic testing are actually something I hadn’t considered a huge amount before, mainly because of expense and the fact you’d have to travel to a lab to get it done. This new type of modelling allows you to test at home with the power meter on your bike. This makes it both far more convenient and far more affordable.

These two factors combined have the added benefit that you will not only be able to get tested, but you will also be able to re-test at appropriate times to check on progress and correct course if necessary.

Metabolic testing goes beyond simply finding out a simple measure like FTP…WAY BEYOND!

With accurate metabolic testing, you find out the ‘how’ behind the threshold measure. What metabolic pathways are you using to achieve your FTP.

As a time trialist, I was particularly interested in my VLamax. I was keen to see if I could take advantage of lowering this in the pursuit of a higher sustained power. Without this knowledge, training is less targeted, exciting times!

I was also interested to find out where my ‘FATmax zone’ was too. Definitely keen to take advantage of knowing that and seeing if I can improve it.

That’s key with the test and re-test…you can find out if what you doing is having the expected results!


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interpreting the results

Aerotune also gives you some great feedback in your results form that has some information about your results and some suggestions on how you might direct your training.

Beyond that, the information is just such a great starting point and can give your training some real focus.

As with any training, it starts with your goals. What do you want to achieve? The goals you set are the ‘end point’ if you like (or more likely a waypoint), but what’s key here is that with metabolic testing you have a starting point. A much more accurate starting point.

I think metabolic testing is the missing piece of the puzzle. You can certainly make very educated guesses at your starting point and there are other ways of establishing your starting point and therefore the focus of training. However, I believe this is a more accurate way of finding the starting point.


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Models of possible changes

Your test on the day is the starting point, the programme models the potential benefits of changes to your VO2max (above) and VLamax (below). This allows you start planning your training too make the changes you want. No more guess work!

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Obviously, you still have to put in the hard work!! But there is a comfort and confidence that this testing brings to your training that is very motivating. Also, because this is a very convenient and affordable platform you can re-test and check your progress.

The day to day planning and the month to month progression of your workouts is still of vital importance. You can’t get away from that, but with a look into your metabolic profile, you can make all the hard work pay off to the maximum.

Any questions

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The key to improving your endurance performance


There are so many things to look at in training. I find it all extremely interesting and spend a huge amount of time listening to podcasts, reading and attending seminars on training, physiology and anything I think will help my athletes.

When you listen to all the ideas, tips and tricks you have to remember, ‘how does this affect today’s training, this weeks training, this months training etc’.

As I’ve learned more and more, the one word that all the advice points back to is ‘patience’.

It began to crystalise as the root of almost all of the advice as I was on a lovely Z1 ride in the Jura Mountains.

It’s the most important thing, yet is almost absurdly simple you could miss it. I’ve read cycling magazines for years and even though occasionally there are articles that allude to this; it is massively overwhelmed by the ‘get fit in 4 weeks’ programmes and the ‘boost your FTP in less than 4 hours a week’ high-intensity training articles.

I do understand it; it’s not sexy to say you. need to be patient, you need to get on your bike regularly, keep intensity under control and make sure you occasionally go hard and occasionally have a day off.

There’s clearly a lot more to it in fairness, but all the high-intensity stuff is really not the key. 

The Key to endurnace performance: Patience!

I also think there are many layers to patience. You need to be patient on a micro level, meso level and macro level.

Have patience in the ride you are on; what is its purpose? If it is an easy Z1 ride (3 Zone model), then use your gears, keep it easy and don’t go chasing that rider that just overtook you.

If it’s a hard ride with quality intervals, be patient and work through the intervals as prescribed…don’t go out all guns blazing and blow up before the end.

That brings me on to another area where patience is key; be kind to yourself when you make mistakes! If you did blow up before the end of your interval session, don’t beat yourself up. Learn from it and try and do better next time. If you keep making the same mistake all the time, that’s a problem. If you make mistakes and learn, you are getting better.

On a meso level, you need to be patient to let the sessions build. Be patient in the week, if it’s an easy ride, ride easy, don’t chase a Strava KOM that day or your planned hard session the next day will be of less quality and not create the desired adaptation.


Also, be patient on a macro level. Don’t take shortcuts to try and get fit quick…it doesn’t work in the long term. We’re in an aerobic sport, training the aerobic system is what gets you the gains. Being consistent over time, managing your intensity and building a powerful engine all comes back to being patient. So simple,  but ultimately the key to endurance performance.

Given that we are close to the end of the summer season and many will be planning a bit of time off the bike before setting about their winter training. So first on the list of being patient Is giving yourself a suitable amount of time off the bike or at least off hard training.

Don’t get sucked into the rubbish about losing all your fitness and getting behind on your training!! It really is rubbish, have confidence and patience in your process, if you aren’t racing until next April…why would you want to be fit in November/December anyway?

I’ve heard some physiologists and coaches talk about how the body may not necessarily need a break if training is well designed. However, the mind definitely needs a break. It will be different for everyone, some will have a few weeks of no bike and no training. Some will choose to get a few easy rides, but. much. lower frequency, volume and intensity.  Some. may choose a different activity to stay active,  but not train as such. A great time to spend with family and give back if you’ve been away for a lot of racing.

It’s important you get this reset. The biggest you can make is train too hard now.  The great shame of this is that it’s a mistake that can be made so easily. That’s mainly because your body can cope…at least for a while. 

The tragedy is that you will cope for long enough that by the time you realise your mistake and start burning out the season will actually be in sight…but your motivation will be rapidly running out. I can speak to this from personal experience!

Be patient, focus on the appropriate intensities. Spend time with your family and friends. Spend time fixing any niggles you might have with some good off-bike training (More in for on that here).

It’s a good time to focus on things like getting a bike fit, which means you can make any changes needed and have plenty of time to adapt to them before you have to start pushing hard on the pedals again.

Here’s an example of a case study that involved a masters rider having the patience to control intensity, completely changing their riding over an offseason and getting the rewards in their results.

Case study

A Masters rider who used to train for cycling with a lot of Z2/3 riding (in a 3 Zone Model). A typical week of training consisted of 2-3 sweet spot rides on my turbo trainer, 1 threshold ride/race and 1 long ride.


This resulted in a pattern of regular colds, particularly after a ‘peak’. Nothing too bad, but it would always knock them back a couple of weeks.

Progress was good for a few years but in the 3rd and 4th seasons stagnation and burnout. Towards the end of this period, I started seeing this pattern of frequent illness and stagnation.

Changing to a polarised training approach in late 2018 delivered a more consistent winter and build into the 2019 season. You can see the difference in intensity in the graph on the right.

The biggest difference was a feeling of freshness almost all of the time and when the racing came so did the PB’s. FTP had been about 305 for 2 years and now it was 323.

Here’s a summary of the time trial PB’s:

  • 19:57 for 10 miles (down from 20:56)
  • 50:46 for 25 miles (down from 54:55)
  • 1:49.45 for 50 miles (down from 1:56.42)

There were no episodes of illness, allowing training to be more consistent and more PB’s would surely have happened if there had been racing in 2020!





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Stay Healthy

Meaning both not getting injured and not getting ill.

If your training is too hard or too frequently intense you will get little illnesses and injuries that break your consistency.

Keep your easy sessions easy, for most athletes, this means around 80-90% of your training is below 78% of your max heart rate.

Be Consistent

Once you are disciplined with your intensity, you will stay healthier and consistency will come.

Getting on your bike as much as you can, in balance with the rest of your busy life, will be the thing that impacts your fitness the most.

Sustainable rhythm

All this put together means that you can put together long stretches of sustained endurance training stimulus that creates greater adaptation and performance gains.

It’s important to remember to keep life in balance, fit the training in around everything else and don’t dig too deep into your energy or your partner or families ‘good will’. Find a balance.



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“Cycling in Switzerland is a joy! The air is fresh, the views are amazing, the roads are smooth, there are no gel wrappers, old tubes, etc on the side of the road and the terrain is ideal!”

Cycling in Switzerland

Pretty big news!! The move came about quite suddenly, with an opportunity for our family to move to Switzerland. We jumped at the chance as it’s an adventure we were really keen to take advantage of.

Though any move is stressful (we moved in July) things are finally settling down a bit now. My bikes. finally arrived from the UK last week and I’ve finally managed to get out for a few rides.

FIrst Ride

The first ride was more eventful than you’d hope for! About 20. minutes in my seat clamp decided to give up, forcing me to return home, standing all the way!!

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Determined not to give. up, I got. my TT bike out…sensibly swapped off the 60 tooth 1x chainring!! Headed out the door with what turned out to be 1 gear (34×23) in the small chainring and a handful of gears in the big ring…all fun and games

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As you would expect in Switzerland the scenery is spectacular!! 

Also, there is no shortage of hills for what was a serious ‘Over Geared Effort’ session today!! But I was out on my bike and very happy!!

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I’ve also managed a couple of rides on the mountain bike with the boys this week. There are incredible trails through the forest right on our doorstep!

Back to Training

Having missed more training in the last month than I have in the last few years, I’m not exactly in peak condition…but the base is there and I’ll get it all back.

There’s so much awesome cycling on my doorstep in the Jura Mountains and within reach are the Rhone-Alps across the lake, climbs like the Col de Madelaine about 2 hours away and the Stelvio about 4-5 hours away…I’m really going to enjoy a couple of epic rides!!

The online coaching. doesn’t change, it’s all set up to be remote, so my current clients are able to carry on with no change and anyone interested in joining can do so at any time.

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How to perfect your pedalling


If you ride a bike, pedalling is something you can just ‘do’. It’s easy, you’ve been able to do it since you first jumped on a bike as a kid. However, does that mean you are good at it? Could it be improved?

As an avid cycling fan it’s hard not to notice how good some pro’s are at pedalling. Vincenzo Nibali springs to mind as someone who pedals beautifully. So can we mere mortals improve our pedalling and will it make us a better cyclist?

Understanding the basics

For this article we will be thinking of the right leg, so when we talk about a clock face the numbers are relative to the right leg and the crank with the chainrings on.

Pedalling is a skill, so it can be learned and improved. Essentially, it is the muscular coordination of moving the pedal around its’ fixed circle diameter.

From a joint perspective we have the hips, knees and ankles to think about. Then from a muscular point of view we have a lot, more than it’s beneficial to worry about. So grouping things together to make things easier and picking out some of the key ones:


  • Hip extensors (glutes, hamstrings)
    • Big powerful muscles well capable of producing a lot of force to push the pedal during the power phase.
    • Hamstrings also engage as you pull the bottom of the pedal stroke (see below).
  • Quads
    • Muscles that are able to straighten the knee and very active during the power phase of the pedal stroke.
  • Calf
    • Though there is a little more to it, they are mainly for transferring the force produced in the hips and quads down through the ankle to the pedal.
  • Hip flexors
    • Muscles on the front of the hip that are able to pull up during the back of pedal stroke. Whether this is a good thing to do is a matter of some debate. I used to think you really needed to ‘pull up’ during the recovery phase…not so sure now.

The skill of pedalling is coordinating these muscles to get the bike moving as fast as possible. The goal is not to produce the same amount of power throughout the pedal stroke. The goal is to be efficient and economical (not the same thing!), which may be different for different people. So next we will look at the things we CAN do to improve our pedalling.

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what you should think about?

Things to think about:

  • Think about starting the power phase as early as possible. Visualise pushing forwards and down at 12 O’clock.
  • Once you have completed the early ‘push’ over the top change your thought to pulling backwards. This should start at about 5 O’clock on the right crank. Visualise trying to pull the cleat of your shoe out of the back of the pedal. This

Things not to think about:

  • Don’t worry too much about the main part of the power phase (3-4 O’Clock), that is automatic, so let that happen.
  • Don’t think about pulling up. This has often been recommended in the past, but I think is ultimately counter productive as it disrupts the pedal stroke as a whole.
  • Don’t ‘pull’ over the top of the pedal stroke. This engages the wrong muscles and ultimately delays the all important power phase.
  • Don’t scrape mud off your shoe. I remember reading this in a book by Lance Armstrong/Chris Carmichael when I first started cycling. Though you do want to pull back, the scraping action encourages you to force your heel down, which is counterproductive, you want your foot to stay relatively flat.

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What drills should you do?

Here are 3 great ways to start working on your perfect pedal stroke:

  1. Dead Leg Drills:
    • I used to do one leg drills until I heard Colbie Pearce talk about these on his podcast. I knew straight away these would work far more effectively.
    • Instead of taking the foot out of the pedal, leave it in and just don’t use it. It takes a little practise, but it keeps you far more balanced on the bike and really able to work on the pedal stroke of the ‘working’ leg.
    • Try a minute at a time to start with and build up your time, focussing on the key elements of good pedalling technique.
  2. Cadence Ladders:
    • You are trying to build skill and timing is a big part of skill. So training at different cadences is a great way to build the skill of pedalling.
    • Start a little below your normal cadence (eg 80 rpm) and then every minute add 10rpm to the target. Keep doing that until you reach a cadence where you can’t maintain good technique and are ‘bouncing’ on the saddle.
    • Then come back down 10rpm each minute back to the start.
    • Over time you will go further up the ladder. Though you can also increase the time spent on different levels to add to the challenge.
  3. Riding the Rollers:
    • As I said at the start, pedalling is a skill. Expanding on this, skill is the ability to execute an action successfully and I would argue that as skill increases there is an ability to execute under different conditions and timing, rollers creates a perfect environment to improve this skill.
    • Make sure you are safe, doorways are a good place to start. To start with, just get yourself going.
    • Then refine the skill. Make sure you are looking forwards and not down all the time. As you improve start incorporating the other drills into your roller riding. Even simple things like practising taking a bottle in and out left hand then right hand can be a challenge, so practise, make it smooth…build your skills.

Time to start perfecting that pedalling

WHat to do next?

There’s a lot of information here. Don’t be overwhelmed, pick an element to work on next time you are on the bike. Work at it consistently each time you ride and then when you are ready, pick another drill or skill to work on.


“Consistency is Key”

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should i get a bike fit

This is an excellent question and not always easy to answer.

The key to answering this question is; is there a good reason for getting a bike fit? In the next section I’ve outlined the reasons that may lead you to consider a bike fit, take a look and see how you fit in.

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Should I Get a Bike FIt?

Neil Poulton

Bike Fitter

“Do I need a bike fit and if so, when should I get a bike fit?”

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Do i need a bike fit?

This is an excellent question and not always easy to answer. I remember reading the Cyclist Training Bible by Joe Friel (which is an awesome book!) and he recommended not only getting a bike fit, but getting one every year. The rationale being that things change and what works one year may not the next. At the high end of performance I can see this, but it may be hard to justify at a more recreational level, especially if things haven’t really changed.

I think that is really the key to answering this question, is there a good reason for getting a bike fit? In the next section I’ve outlined the reasons that may lead you to consider a bike fit, take a look and see how you fit in.

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When Should I get a bke fit?

Given the cost of cycling as a whole, adding a bike fit into the set up really isn’t a big expense, certainly not compared to the cost of physio to recover from an injury or the time of the bike that an injury might cause.

There are a couple of reasons that would start signalling me towards recommending a bike fit:

  • You are New to Cycling:
    • If you are new to cycling, getting a basic fit will be a great way to get comfortable and avoiding potential pitfalls of a bad fit and the pain and discomfort this may cause.
    • A basic bike fit will get you a long way. Over the months/years as your riding experience and mileage increases you may find yourself fitting into another of these categories and another fit may be required to refine your position.
  • Pain or Discomfort on the bike:
    • This is probably the most urgent reason. I see lost of posts on Facebook groups asking how to solve pain and discomfort on a bike. This is a tough challenge at any time, let alone asking random strangers for the solution. If you are asking around for advice, you need a bike fit.
    • Cycling is a sport that embraces suffering, so we often dig in for too long before we admit we need to sort out our injuries. If you have pain, discomfort, pins and needles, numbness, etc it is time to seek the advice of someone that can take a look at the big picture and help you get back to enjoying riding your bike.
  • Niggly Issues:
    • This is a tricky one, because we can often ‘manage’. But if niggly issues are creeping in it may be time for a fit/re-fit. A good example is starting to get pain/discomfort towards the ends of rides, that over time starts to creep in earlier and earlier in the ride. It’s only a matter of time before this problem is limiting your training, so consider a fit for niggles that appear and become persistent.
  • Change of bike/Type of Bike:
    • This can apply to anyone, but if you started cycling, had a fit and increase your cycling over a few years. You now go out and buy a new bike, try to get it into the same position, but that is a lot easier said than done.
    • This is a great time to get a bike fit. Bikes all have slightly different geometry and getting comfy on a new bike can be tricky. A bike fit can get you in a good position on your new bike and get you out enjoying it avoiding the discomfort a big change might have caused.
    • If you change type of bike, for example, from a sportive type road bike to a more aggressive racing machine or from a road bike to a time trial bike it is inevitable that your fit will be different. A bike fit would be highly recommended in this case.
  • Something Changes or Forces a Change:
    • This could be anything from feeling stiffer as you get a bit older, making your normal position uncomfortable.
    • Or it could be an injury has forced you to sit/ride differently or is making it impossible to hold your normal poison.
    • It could be that you’ve started doing a few triathlons and you want a different fit to help you in the bike/run transition.
    • If something changes and you are finding it hard to adapt, maybe the bike needs to adapt to you a bit, so a bike fit is indicated.

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when don’t i need one?

Pain is the most common reason for needing a bike fit and it’s a bit of a no-brainer, if pain is limiting your riding or your enjoyment of riding, it’s time to get it sorted.

There are seemingly a lot of reasons to get a bike fit, probably plenty more than I’ve outlined above. However, not everyone is going to be needing constant bike fitting. If you are confident and comfortable on the bike and you are able to complete your riding with no issues then I wouldn’t rush out and try and change things…there has to be a good reason.

I certainly wouldn’t recommend going looking for changes that are not necessary, so if all is good, just enjoy your riding.


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