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The Triathlete Blueprint newsletter #19-The Vanity-FTP Trap






Read time: 3min.

By Coach Yan Busset



The Vanity-FTP Trap: Don't Mix Testing with Racing


In the world of endurance sports, the FTP (Functional Threshold Power) test has become synonymous with defining an athlete's level. It's the metric that athletes often fixate on, a number they wear as a badge of honnor, and a benchmark for comparing themselves to others. But, in this quest for a higher FTP, many athletes fall into a trap - they become "20-minutes athletes" obsessing on the vanity of their FTP score, rather than focusing on their ultimate goal: race day performance.


The classic FTP test, a 20-minute all-out effort to measure your sustainable power output, is an ok tool for assessing your fitness. But here's the catch: it doesn't paint the full picture, especially if your primary objective involves hours of endurance racing rather than a shorter effort.



So, the question is:

Are you working to increase your FTP or do you genuinely want to be faster on race day?


Don't get me wrong; having the goal of raising your FTP can be a great side motivational tool and a nice target. It's satisfying to see that number climb as a testament to your hard work and dedication. However, it should be viewed as a side effect of a comprehensive improvement in your overhaul bike fitness. If you train to be better at 20min efforts to raise your FTP, you may end up with producing most of the power anaerobically and not aerobically: Big engine but poor efficiency, not the best if your goal is to perform on half or full Ironman.


As a coach, when training triathletes for long-distance events, the FTP is a secondary guideline. My main focus is tracking the development of the aerobic/high Zone 2 threshold. This aspect is paramount when preparing for a race that demands several hours of sustained effort. The ability to maintain a strong and steady pace over extended periods far outweighs the importance of a high FTP.


It's time to refocus and understand your true motivations as an athlete.

Take a moment to contemplate your ultimate goal - is it the test or the race itself? To gauge your abilities and optimize your training, it might be time to have a deeper look to your whole metabolic efficiency by testing differently. Stop training for the test and train for the race.


This shift not only challenges your physical limits but also forces you to confront your motivations. Are you a petrol head, relying heavily on anaerobic power bursts, or more of a diesel athlete, who excels aerobically over longer durations? Comparing different duration tests can help you identify your strengths and weaknesses.


It's crucial to remember that FTP is only one of the tests in your tool box to define training and racing zones, not the ultimate measure of your athletic profile. Stop chasing the FTP trap, prove your real value on race and not on the test. Useless to be a professional at training and race every sessions.


By resisting the temptation to only focus on your vanity FTP scores and re-aligning your training with your real race goals, you'll unlock your true potential as all rounded endurance athlete.


Thank you for reading and see you next week!


 

Whenever you’re ready, there are 3 ways I can help you:


1. If you are looking for support for your triathlon journey, I recommend you book a 30min 1on1 video consultation with me here.


2. If you are looking for an online coaching service check here.


3. if you are in the Helsinki area and looking for the best training group check here


 

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