I’ve found that a really easy way to measure the progress we’re making in our training is to look at the output/input ratio that’s being generated by each workout. I thank Joe Friel for writing about this in his recent blogs, especially since it’s a relatively simple and “low tech” method. I’ve been using this myself in my recent training and find it pretty valuable, but as with everything, it has its limitations.

How does this work? The Input side of the equation is the effort that you’re putting into your workout. This is usually measured in Heart Rate. So, for example, if you did a 45 minute time trial at an average Heart Rate of, say 150, you have your Input side. The output side is expressed in any number of forms. If you have a power meter, the average (or normalized) power for your 45 minute time trial would be your output (the result you were able to produce for your effort). If you don’t have a power meter, or you want to use the Output/Input ratio for running, you can use other measures. For cycling, you can use average speed. For running you might use also use speed or pace.

Here’s an example. An athlete rides a time trial of 15.0 miles at an average speed of 21.5 MPH. Her Heart Rate averaged 150. Her Output/Input ratio, then is 21.5/150, or .1433. Two weeks later, she rides the same course and her Heart rate is 148 and she averaged 21.8 MPH. Her ratio for this ride is 21.8/148 = .1472. Tracking this over time will provide a nice pattern of how her training is impacting her performance.

The beauty, in addition to the simplicity of the system, is that you take into account both your effort and your results. Just riding the same course at a faster speed wouldn’t necessarily indicate an improvement in fitness because it doesn’t look at what your effort was to produce the result.

Here are the conditions you’d look to establish:

  • Do this “test” at the same time of day each time.
  • If cycling, ride the same course. If running, do this at a track.
  • Replicate any other conditions that you can: Sleep quality/quantity, pre-workout nutrition.

After each test, log the results and look to see if there was anything different from the previous times (weather not favorable, tired/overstressed, traffic got in the way, etc.). Log those and take them into consideration when interpreting how the result relates to the pattern you are creating over time.

For additional examples, see the next page.

Questions? You can comment or ask questions by contacting me at chuck@ipmultisports.com.