Train smarter by training with power

3x20 LT session

If you wondering what you could to different for the next race season, you should consider buying and training with a power meter. Of course there could be other things that may help, such as more focus, better diet, build a bigger base etc.  However, if you feel you have peaked in your abilities and you are looking for an edge you should look at using a power meter.

Some people think that a power meter is just another device that provides  numbers, like the distance, time, cadence , speed and heart rate of your cycle computer.  It’s an expensive gadget to just display some numbers.   For the serious athlete, amateur or pro, the power meter is the tool help guide you in your training and racing goals.  If used correctly, the device can get you closer to the top step.

Training by power is similar to training by heart rate, but with precision.  If you are training by heart rate there are too many variables that will give incorrect reading. It could take 1-5 minutes for the heart rate to actually get up to the number you want, and by that time your interval is over.  Other elements like   stress, diet, weather, illness, fatigue all have a say in how your heart rate reacts to training.  It could be higher or lower then it should be for the actual work being done, giving you false readings and misleading you in your training session.  Potentially putting yourself in a hole that could take weeks or months to come out of. With a power meter feedback is instant.  You know right way if the work you are doing is meeting your workout goal. If you can’t meet the goal, you know there is something off and you should just head home.  For instance, if you set out to do some VO2 Max intervals, you can’t keep your power at the right numbers,  that could be that you are too fatigued and the workout isn’t going to help you but dig a deeper hole.  I’d suggest just head home with an easy spin and follow up with another rest day. There are other benefits to training with power.

  • estimate nutrition needs more accurately.   Using the kJ (Energy) reading on your computer, you can estimate how may calories to take in during a ride, and what you need for post ride/race recovery
  • accurate reading of the work you have done
  • better tools to evaluate your progress throughout the season.
  • you can measure your fitness with power tests to see if you are gaining or lossing power.
  • compare your power meter reading to your heart rate affirming your freshness or fatigue during training bouts
  • using it during races can tell you where your weakness and strengths are during your events.
  • There is no lying with a power meter.   You either hit your goal or you didn’t.  It makes you accountable in your training.
It can take months to see gains from using a power meter.  You need a month or so of riding to get used to the power meter numbers.    You’ll need to take the test, and find your functional threshold power (FTP).  Once you have your FTP, you are on your way to improvements.  For endurance racing, all your workouts are based on your FTP, whether it’s 20-60 min efforts or 3 min efforts, it’s all based on FTP. My custom plans include training with power which focus on your weaknesses and builds on your strengths.

TrainingPeaks Performance Management Chart

The Base period is a good time to start training with power.  You can ease in to the new approach, learn the tools and not be worried about hitting the numbers from the start. By the time you are ready to hit some intensity, you’ll be ready with your new tool and off to a good start of the season.
MTBCoach is a reseller for QuarqPowerTap and SRM power meters.  When a power meter is purchased from MTBCoach it includes a 6 month custom training plan for free.  The plan will also include two phone consultations on using your power meter.
Posted in Training Blog.

cwilhelm

Head Coach for mtbcoach.com. USAC Certified Cycling Coach.

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