It’s always a pleasure to get out stories from other cyclists here at Headset Press and were very happy to share with you; TORQ Fitness: Performance Coaching and Fitness Testing by Emma Tang. We also have a great feature on fitness testing using lactate thresholds, well worth checking out too.
Grant and I don’t race our bikes, but we simply love riding and to get the most out of our year, especially our 3 weeks summer trip to the mountains, we use TORQ Fitness for our training. So I thought I’d write a little about this, to dispel any myths that training plans or coaching are only for those who compete.
You may be familiar with the brand from their superb range of energy and Recovery products. However, TORQ first started out in 1999, set up by Director Matt Hart as a fitness and coaching consultancy, with the nutritional products coming a little later in 2002
We started going to TORQ in 2007, after a friend recommended it. We had enjoyed three summer trips to the French Alps and the Dolomites in previous years, and we decided to explore how we might benefit from more structured training. At that time, TORQ were based in the village of Westbury, near Shrewsbury, so only about an hour and a half away from us. However, they have since relocated to the picturesque location of Bryn Mawr in Powys.
Back in 2007 we attended a full day’s education, which also included the fitness testing. The education covered various aspects of training: energy systems, aerobic and anaerobic training, nutrition etc. It was also a time to discuss our aims/goals, what we hoped to achieve and what our training capacity was. I must add that a very fine lunch was also included and the chance to sample TORQ’s products. All of this was to form the basis of our first 6 months training plan.
Since that first visit, we’ve returned every Autumn, to carry out a test, in preparation for the following year’s training plan, which we choose to run from January to June. So let me tell you more about our fitness testing experience.
It’s a good idea to have a substantial breakfast, as you need to leave a gap of 3 hours between eating, and taking the first part of the test. This is the lactate threshold test, which is carried out indoors using a power meter on your own bike or on a Watt Bike. A resting heart rate and lactate reading are taken first. Then you are asked to start pedalling at a low wattage, which you increase at gradual intervals, whilst your TORQ coach measures your heart rate and takes blood lactate readings. Don’t worry, this is painless! A quick needle click in your ear lobe is all it takes. Throughout this process you will be asked to confirm your perceived level of exertion. From this you will ultimately learn what your lactate threshold is, and what your endurance training zones will be (using power and / or heart rate).
After this, caffeine is allowed and a little food if you require it! I tend to just have a TORQ Caffeine Gel at this point (Banoffee is my favourite). I made the mistake a few years ago of nibbling on a bagel… let’s just say I paid the price with chronic stitch during the next part of the testing process!
The anaerobic threshold test is next. Historically, when originally based in Westbury, TORQ used an outdoor hill climb for this. We still do for our testing, but this will mainly be measured using an indoor protocol, for most clients in future. Marcus Willday, TORQ’s lead Coach explained “At TORQ Fitness we use a variety of testing batteries so that we can accommodate for all athlete types and fulfil sport specific testing. For example, the way we fitness test a road cyclist or time trial rider may not reflect the true fitness parameters required of a downhill rider, thus resulting in poor test validity”. Marcus also explained that an indoor test protocol allows for a more controlled environment, which is also optimal for test – retest, validity and reliability.
However, Grant and I have a bizarre love-hate relationship with the “TORQ Hill” and so we continue to use it for our anaerobic test! As our focus is riding that involves a lot of climbing, it is a suitable test medium for us.
The hill we use is just over 3 miles long, but it is steep in sections, in a very pretty setting near to Welshpool. Along with our bikes, we are transported in the TORQ van, to a parking area near the start of the climb. The name of the road makes me smile as it’s called Hope Road! I will spend well over 20 minutes hoping it will soon be over! So the aim is to ride the climb as hard as you can sustain. The road is thankfully quiet, as it is quite narrow in parts. Our coach Anthony follows a short time after, in the van. When he passes me, I know there is not far to go!
I always set off 5 minutes before Grant and he always passes me on the hill. I know he feels bad about this, worrying it will have an effect on my effort. Not so, I would be more worried if he didn’t pass by! My head is usually pounding by the finish, as I don’t like riding hard like this at all!! We hit the stop button on the Garmin, so Anthony can record the average power and heart rate.
Once we are back at TORQ HQ there is time for a snack and hot drink whilst we talk about how things went with the previous plan and what we are aiming for with the next one.
The Fitness Consultancy suite is well equipped with clean, modern showers, as well as a training / conference room which is used for the education seminars, and of course, a coffee maker!
The next step will be for us to confirm our training capacity (ie. days per week we can train, number of hours we can dedicate, any limitations that must be considered etc). This is so that the most effective six months training plans can be provided, tailored to our needs, available time and lifestyle.
TORQ offer a range of training options: we opt for the six months plan, but there are also monthly coaching plans available with different levels of support (e.g. weekly training data analysis or monthly reviews). You can also buy into the Today’s Plan Algorithmic Coaching, this does not involve a TORQ Coach but gives you access to the Today’s Plan database to allow you to build your own plan.
In January our plan will commence; there will be a mixture of indoor sessions as well as outdoor riding, especially during the winter months. Having the plan really helps to keep your training and riding interesting. Another benefit which may help those who find it hard to take rest and recovery, is that you don’t battle the need to take time out, especially when your TORQ plan is telling you to!
So is it worth it? Well as this will be our tenth year receiving TORQ training, I’d say that demonstrates a definite YES answer! My endurance has increased massively over the years and thankfully I’ve had very few injuries during this time. I can be honest in that a painful quad strain that I did experience came during a period when I was overdoing it and was not adhering properly to the month’s training schedule at that time. A lesson painfully learnt! So whether you are training for an event or sportive, for competition, or simply to improve your cycling fitness, a TORQ training plan can definitely help. Discount on the TORQ Nutrition products is another great plus point, depending on the coaching package you choose.
For full details of TORQ’s Performance Consultancy and Education Seminars head to