Is Power Training for Me?
Do you love graphs, spreadsheets and numbers? I am nerd myself with maths and science qualifications in addition to my British Cycling Coaching qualifications and have to admit a power meter really is best suited to a rider who is interested in analysis and number crunching, otherwise it tends to end up as ‘just another thing to do’. Power Training is not necessarily for everyone.
They are not cheap and just owning a power meter does not make you an overnight pro. It takes patience, learning and dedicated training to reap the rewards and of course no device is going to help if you haven’t defined exactly what you want to achieve, set you goals and committed to doing the training. Ideally power data needs to be analysed by a coach to allow it to be used in perspective, but there is plenty of software available to help you do it yourself.
So what are the advantages?
Power gives you an honest and true measurement that is relatively unaffected by temperature, wind speed, road surface, and heart rate or any other outside parameters. You can gather data for the same ride over a period of time, for instance you might get a slower time over a standard training route, but if your power numbers are up, for a lower effort (reduced heart rate) then you can be sure your training is working!
Power can also tell you when it’s time to rest or you are at risk of overtraining. Seeing significantly lower power outputs for a known heart rate, or higher heart rate for a known power means it’s probably time to cut a ride short and take a rest day.
Using power zones eliminates guesswork from gauging exercise intensity, so training becomes less haphazard and you can train more specifically for the demands of your chosen event(s).
The numbers can also be used to monitor your effort levels (pacing) during an event ie in a time trial or on a climb for a steady pace and your zones also help enforce real recovery rides, your power numbers will tell you if you’re “cheating” on a recovery day by riding harder than you should.
Testing you peak power for various time durations will help to define your weaknesses and also your strengths which will help you decide which events to target and your power numbers can therefore help with goal setting. British Cycling have published figures for Elite, Cat 1, 2, 3, 4 riders which are a good starting point for determining the power output required for certain events.
Before you start you will need to do a fitness test so you know what your starting point is and also to provide clear goals and targets to re-evaluate against. This will allow you to set training zones and make your rides more specific and outcome dependant.
The simplest and most useful test is Functional Threshold Power (FTP) Test. Your power to weight ratio is also calculated from your FTP by dividing FTP by KG. This figure is probably one of the single best indicators of cycling performance, especially on climbs, and you should see it increasing if you’re following a well designed structured training plan.
You can find test protocols and calculators on the British Cycling website to calculate your FTP, Power to Weight ratio and zones in the really handy Insight Zone.
Power really is the gold standard in terms of training and will ensure every single ride and training session counts and brings you closer to your goals.
Holly Seear is a Level 3 British Cycling Coach with her own company www.springcyclecoaching.co.uk , this article was taken from a talk she gave recently at www.7hundred.co.uk a female friendly bike shop in Windsor.