Monday, June 10, 2002 - Athlete Perspective
NSDT Update: The Testing's The Thing

By: Tasha Betcherman

The time has come to test our strength, endurance, speed and power. With the summer training well underway many athletes will begin to implement a variety of physical tests. Tests are used to evaluate and compare performance from year to year or possibly just to try something new and in the meantime set an inaugural standard. The testing doesn't have to be complicated. Almost anything will do, from the basic endurance run on a local trail loop or hill to the usual sit up, push up, pull up strength that most skiers are accustomed to. The thing is to keep it controlled by using the same protocol so the test can be repeated again and again. Testing is a useful tool that can be used to evaluate training and make changes if deemed necessary.

The term "Testing" sounds serious and hard. Many of us are reminded of an academic test that we may have failed or faired poorly at. That's not it at all. Physical tests are better looked at as the challenge of the moment rather than simply empirical data accumulation. Although both views, challenge and data are worthy and telling aspects of tests.

In the coming weeks, the National Senior Development Team based out of Canmore will begin the first round of a battery of tests. The plan begins with a few strength tests including a double pole machine with wattage and a jumping test on a power output matt. The next thing is the running tests at the local gravel track and then an uphill rollerski time trial in the skate technique with very exact measured points for split calculations and what have you. All this is put together to give the athletes an idea of how they faired. They can then compare to previous attempts at the tests. The coach may find the results an indicator of some sort of trend within a group or on an individual basis a need to modify something or to just carry on. The battery of tests is then repeated towards the end of the summer.

You don't need all this fancy equipment though; anyone can put together some tests. Here's the thing: simple basic tests are just as good and way more practical for clubs. They can be plenty more fun because you can use your imagination. The blue loop or red loop at your local trails is fine for a running test. Hilly dirt roads can be great for an uphill running test just as you can do sit-ups and pushups outside on the grass with a partner. Practically anything can be a test. The world is your testing ground. You never know when your test will become infamous and years from now people will be saying "remember when Jim ran the Hydro line hill test in fourteen minutes flat" or "can you believe Jenny dragged an old tire across the stadium from flag pole to flag pole in fifty two seconds."

One other thing to keep in mind about testing is that it has to be replicable in order to be valid. So it's a good idea to record the protocol so that the tests can be repeated exactly the same way year after year with different groups of athletes. Likewise, the same trail loop should always be used for say a five kilometer test run keeping in mind that the conditions and erosion might make it an invalid testing tool from year to year but still fairly valid within one summer. The same thing goes for equipment, if for example you used a Michelin AT al terra tire and six feet of rope to drag from flag pole to flag pole in the stadium make sure you use the same type of tire and rope next time.
Best wishes to your testing protocol and of course much more importantly, have a great summer outdoors.

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