It’s around 10:30am on a Friday morning. Feeling a little anxious, I’ve set up my bike on the Turbo and started warming up for what will be toughest six minutes of my year so far.

I’m preparing myself to take a semi-endurance based test, which will set the baseline for the next few months of training.

What is a 6 minute test?

Athletes use a 6 minute test to determine their wVO2 Max. A level of intensity that is sustainable for somewhere in the region of eight minutes. This is the point at which our bodies are unable to process any more oxygen, even if the exercise intensity is increasing. It’s our physiological ceiling, if you will. Once we go above it – well – before long things start going black.

It doesn’t sound like much, does it? Six minutes; It’s nothing! Except when you’re giving it everything.

All it takes is a minute to go from “C’mon! I’ve got this”, to “please, please let it end”

I rode the test well for the first four minutes. At that point I felt strong enough to push harder, knocking the bike into a bigger gear. This was the beginning of the end for my test. I held it together (just), even selecting a bigger gear again at 5 minutes.

My intention was to really drive the last minute using every fibre of every muscle in my obedient legs.

What actually happened was my legs just got up, walked away and left me with half a minute left on the clock.

But the damage had been done already. I work better when I spin my legs instead of trying to push the big boy gears and instead of changing up I should’ve just pedalled like a loon until my heart exploded.

I made it to the end but I lost a good 5 watts in that last chaotic, painful, (so very painful) minute. A lesson learned for next time.

Why do a 6 minute test?

There are many reasons to take a six minute test. For a start, the hill I’m going to climb in October should take me somewhere between four and a half to five minutes. So it’s good to know what kind of power I can sustain during that period. For any athlete though a six minute test is one of the most powerful predictors of endurance ability. (Right after the dreaded 20 minute test; but at least six minutes is over “quickly”).

Using the test results you can estimate your 20 minute Threshold power, or your Functional Threshold Power. These numbers will in turn determine your training zones. Knowing these zones is the best way to both measure and gain improvement. Training Peaks (the software I use to analyse my training data) has a great article about them if you’re interested in learning more.

My Results

6 Minute test 30/01/2015

Weight 55.2kg
wVO2max Power 352w [6.38 w/kg]
Test Cadence 116rpm

Other estimated values using the Flamme Rouge training plan calculations

20 min Threshold Power 334.4w [6.05w/kg]
Functional Threshold Power 318 w [5.76w/kg]
Calculated rel VO2max 89.83 ml/kg/min
Calculated abs VO2max 4.96 l/min

The estimated values (interesting as they are) I believe are a little optimistic. In my latest 20 minute test I managed 311w, giving me an actual FTP of 298w. That’s a pretty big difference!

The vO2 Max values I imagine are simply wrong. If you take a look at some of the World Records that score would give me a higher vO2 Max than ‘Big Mig’, Thor Hushovd, Edvad Boasson Hagen, and even Lance Armstrong. Unlikely…

What do my results mean?

They mean I’m doing good for the end of January. Despite my ‘real’ training having only just started, I’ve already bettered last years efforts. The way I look at it now: My peak from last year is now my base for this year. If I build on this new base, the peak is set to be even higher in October.

My peak from last year is now my base for this year. If I build on this new base, the peak is set to be even higher in October.

W/kg (Watter per kilogram) is the magic number in the above results. This is how many watts I can produce per kilogram of bodyweight. The more watts and the less weight, the better you’ll climb a hill on a bicycle.

In the chart below we can see the different levels competitive cyclist, along with a typical W/kg value. From untrained newcomers all the way to world class professionals.

cycling-power-table

This puts me somewhere near the middle of “Exceptional: Domestic Pro”, which isn’t bad for a hobbyist!

What’s Next?

I’m pleased with my result overall. I set a personal record for both my five and six minute power figures and I weigh a less than I did before. As always I’m left with the feeling that I haven’t quite reached my true potential during this test. Something I hope to improve on next time.

With my training set to become more intense over the next few months, I’m excited to see what affect it will have on my five and six minute power going into Spring!