A couple weeks ago I attended the Innovations in Training with Power for Endurance Sports (ITP4ES) conference in Indianapolis. The conference was about innovations in and the future of endurance sports training. The list of presenters included some of the brightest minds in the sport like Andy Coggan, Tim Cusick, Dean Golich, and others.
Since training with power has become mainstream in cycling, FTP has been the one benchmark to measure your cycling prowess. No doubt that if you were going to pick one metric to track, FTP would be it. However, it is easy to become too hyper-focused on FTP (especially if you are estimating FTP based on a 20-minute test).
I consider myself an early adopter of the new science/metrics that are available in WKO4, such as: Modeled FTP (mFTP), Time to Exhaustion, Functional Reserve Capacity, Pmax, and Stamina. These metrics give you a more complete picture of the athlete and, depending on the athlete’s goal events, can be instrumental in success.
Over the coming weeks I’ll be writing more about my experiences in using these new metrics in a series called: “Beyond FTP.” Thanks for reading & stay tuned!
If you are a cyclist serious about improving your performance, you need a power meter. Speed and heart rate do not necessarily represent your true performance on the bike. Speed is dependent on hills, wind, drafting, terrain, and other factors. Heart rate is a measure of the effort your body is putting into the bike. Power meters track your exact output, measured in watts. What do you do with this information? Here are 11 ways a power meter can help you improve your ride:
- Track your fitness changes. Am I getting better? Without a power meter, it is hard to tell exactly. With a power meter, you can accurately compare your output against previous efforts and published benchmarks.
- Identify strengths and weaknesses. Time Trialist, Sprinter, Pursuiter, or All-rounder- your power data will reveal what your relative strengths are on the bike. This is called Power Profiling.
- Specificity of training. Training zones are not arbitrary, they are based on your body’s different energy systems (i.e. Lactate Threshold, VO2 Max, Anaerobic Capacity, etc.). Training with power is the most accurate way to target and improve each of those systems.
- Avoid overtraining and injury. Simply tracking mileage or time spent on the bike does not account for intensity. A power meter gives you that information and allows you to accurately track training stress.
- Achieve Peak Performance. Leveraging tools like TrainingPeaks and WKO4, you can achieve peak performance by managing Fitness, Fatigue and Form through a Performance Management Chart.
- Track your efficiency. Analyzing heart rate (input) as compared with your power (output) gives insight into how efficient your body is during steady state (time trials, triathlons) efforts.
- Position and aerodynamics. Bike fit is not just about comfort, it is about identifying trade-offs between power output and aerodynamics (reducing drag)… this can only be done with a power meter.
- Race pacing. For steady state efforts, using your power meter to pace during a race is a HUGE advantage. Keeping your output consistent regardless of conditions (hills, wind, terrain, etc.) will help you produce your best time.
- Race analysis and preparation. Reviewing your race data will provide insight into the specific demands of the event , where you did well, and where you struggled. Use this information to prepare yourself for the next time you do that race or one similar.
- Motivation. Seeing your power numbers and fitness improve over time is a huge incentive during training, especially during winter months spent on the trainer.
- Save time. Unless you are a professional athlete, time to train is probably your biggest limiter. With a power meter you can create very specific, focused training sessions to fit your schedule.
“The only competition that matters is the one that takes place within yourself. It isn’t about external factors.” – Pete Carroll. Win Forever
In creating a philosophy for Attack Cycling, “Always Complete” is a key principle. Some may recognize this as the core theme of Pete Carroll’s coaching philosophy at the Seattle Seahawks. When I dug deeper into this idea, I realized that this is something that I have always embraced, but never really thought of as one of my core beliefs.
“Always Compete” may seem obvious for a professional athletic program, but it goes much deeper than showing up to compete on the weekends. This principle speaks more about the competition within ourselves to improve whether it is professionally, athletically, or even family life. It is actually less about trying to out-do someone else and more about out improving upon your former self.
There are obviously a lot of opportunities to compete on a bike. Across the multitude of official cycling disciplines, to informal group rides, to chasing KOMs on Strava… it is a sport for lifetime competitors. But even more than the head to head competition, cycling is first and foremost a completion within yourself.
What is the competition within yourself look like? It’s waking up at 5:30 AM to jump on the trainer in the winter. It’s getting in the long ride when the weather is miserable. It’s looking forward to your periodic FTP test as an opportunity to beat your former best.
Competing with yourself to show constant and consistent improvement is key. It is great (and necessary) to have a goal to be working towards… but it is easier (and more fulfilling) to get there by stringing together a series of personal victories rather than a singular focus on your goal event. The closer we get to your goal event, the more and more your training victories are going to mimic its demands. This not only prepares you physically, but mentally as well… You are training yourself to win.