A power meter is probably the best tool ever develop to help you reach your cycling goals.
What is power?
The actual force/energy your legs are using to pedal the bicycle with device - power meter that can be installed almost anywhere on the bicycle drive-train. Done correctly, anyone and everyone can benefit from the increased accuracy, consistency and time efficiency that a power meter will add to their training. Simply put, training to power allows you easily define your weaknesses, accurately track your fitness changes, and refocus or adjust your training.
Why not just train with heart rate?
Although heart rate may be the most accessible and affordable means of quantifying your training, it is not as effective and productive as training with power. Heart rate lags, meaning when you suddenly increase the intensity, it takes some time for heart rate to climb to the target level. It drifts upwards; this is a natural increase in heart rate despite little or no change in pace/speed. Heart rate is affected by internal and external factors such as fatigue, sleep, hydration, body temperature, air temperature humidity, motivation, caffeine, altitude, stress. For instance, when you are tired/fatigue you will struggle to get you heart rate up, an endurance ride targeting zone 2 heart rate could easily become a zone 3 power workout.
Training to heart rate is still effective and provides a valid means of monitoring and measuring the intensity and workloads, and it gives us even greater insight into how the body responds to the workload and the stress that we're putting it under when combined with power.
To learn more about training with heart rate, click here.
Improving your numbers is the key to getting fitter...
Define your weaknesses
Test regularly to see if you’re improving and calibrate your training zones.
Use a structured training program and train in your appropriate zones.
Know your limits and train consistently, stick to the plan and train within it guidelines.
Record, analyse, adjust and add notes; provide feedback if you use a coach.
How to get started
So you’ve bought a power meter, what’s next. Well you'll need to perform a test to calculate your Functional Threshold Power (FTP); this is generally defined as the maximum power you can sustain for an hour. Times have changed, and training with power goes beyond your FTP, that being said improving your FTP is one of the best ways to improve cycling performance.
There are multiple ways to go about testing your FTP, the test result provide relevant information needed to make decision on training, and is a tool to keep you training at the right level, not a rating of your ability as an athlete.
Lets talk about zones
Once you have your FTP, you can then use it to calculate your training zones. Listed below are 7 commonly use power based training zones. Why use training zones? Training zones offer a quantifiable method of guiding workouts and determining intensity. The use of training zones will increase your chances of succeeding at your realistic goal.
This is known as Active Recovery where average power is below 55% of FTP and the corresponding heart rate range is below 68% of LTHR or below 60% of MHR.
Duration: 45 to 90 minutes
Perceived exertion: Very easy, RPE below 3
What it should feel like: Easy spin or light pressure on the pedals, minimal sensation of leg effort or fatigue.
Benefits: Training at this intensity will boost your recovery.
This is known as Endurance training where the target average power is 56% to 75% of FTP and the corresponding heart rate range is 69% to 83% of LTHR or 60% to 70% of MHR.
Duration: 1 to 6 hours
Perceived exertion: Easy to moderate, RPE 3-4
What it should feel like: All day effort, breathing is more regular than during an easy ride, but you are still able to hold a continuous conversation.
Benefits: Basic cardiovascular training, training at this is the intensity improves aerobic capacity; in other words, stamina. Your body will get better at burning fat and your muscular fitness will increase along with your capillary density.
This is known as Tempo training where the target average power is 76% to 90% of FTP and the corresponding heart rate range is 84% to 94% of LTHR or 70% to 80% of MHR.
Duration: 1 to 4 hours
Perceived exertion: Moderately hard, RPE 4-5
What it should feel like: A "spirited" group ride, breathing is deeper and more rhythmic than during an endurance ride, conversation may be somewhat challenging.
Benefits: Training in this zone will make moderate efforts easier and improve your efficiency.
This is known as Lactate Threshold training where the target average power is 91% to 105% of FTP and the corresponding heart rate range is 95% to 100% of LTHR or 80% to 90% of MHR.
Duration: 10 to 30 minutes
Perceived exertion: Hard, RPE 6-7
What it should feel like: Race pace, continuous sensation of moderate or even greater leg fatigue, deep and shortness of breathe, and difficult to hold a conversation.
Benefit: Your body will get better at using carbohydrates for energy and you’ll be able to withstand higher levels of lactic acid in your blood for longer.
This is known as Vo2max training where the target average power is 106% to 120% of FTP and the corresponding heart rate range is above 106% of LTHR or 90% to 100% of MHR.
Duration: 3 to 8 minutes
Perceived exertion: Very hard, RPE 6-7
What it should feel like: Vigorous effort with strong to severe sensations of leg effort or fatigue, breathing is ragged and conversation is short.
Benefits: Training in this zone will increase your anaerobic and muscular endurance, power and cardiovascular levels.
This is known as Anaerobic Capacity training where the target average power is 121% to 150% of FTP and heart rate is generally not use as a guide.
Duration: 30 seconds to 3 minutes
Perceived exertion: Very hard to maximum, RPE 8-9
What it should feel like: Very hard and short effort with severe sensation of leg fatigue, can barely breath and able to speak a few words.
Benefits: Training in this zone can increase the amount of power produced over short period.
This is known as Neuromuscular Power training where target power/effort is maximal, way above 150% of FTP and heart rate is generally not use as a guide. Power is useful as a guide but only in reference to similar efforts.
Duration: Less than 30 seconds.
Perceived exertion: Maximum, RPE 10
What it should feel like: Maximal, very short, unable to speak.
Benefits: Sprint training forces the physiological adaptations to increase neuromuscular power, recruit more motor units, hypertrophy of more type II muscle fibers, and improve recruitment synchronicity (Linossier, 1997; Lucía, 2000).
Tip: All you need to do is to commit to the maximum effort for the required duration.
So now you have some background information to training with power. If you haven't already done so you should consider creating a training plan or partner up with a coach to help you get the most out of your cycling.
Or find a pre-built plan here.
That is it, thank you for reading, I hope you found it to be a useful resource.