Before starting the post, just some quick housekeeping. This week I’ve made an effort to get a few more visitors to the site – making it easier to comment, share and follow. If you haven’t yet, check out the facebook page. It would be great if you could share any content that you’ve found particularly helpful. Fellow bloggers, I’m happy to post links to your sites if you’ll do the same for this one.

Secondly – I’m looking for some general feedback on the layout of the site. Is there anything that could be made easier about the navigation, do any pages need a rethink etc? Also, are there any posts that you would like to see on the site? As ever, any constructive comments are always appreciated. Right – boring bit over.

Training with Power – my experience so far

It’s in every training manual. If you really want to get better, buy a power meter. Back in February I was curious as to whether the hype was worth it. I was also in a tricky position, having lost a large amount of fitness through injury and facing the task of getting to Race fitness by April. To that end, I decided to invest in one such device. More specifically a Stages system, one of the more budget friendly options.

One of the first things I noticed was how much easier it was to keep to the right training zone. I’d only ever used RPE before, considering heart rate to be too unreliable. I realised I’d made a classic mistake in my training, making the easy sessions too hard and the hard sessions too easy – reducing the overall quality. It made me push harder as well, seeing your output will make you want to sustain the effort for the full amount of time.

Another was how useful the numbers could be in relation to overtraining, though not after I’d made a mess of things the first time round. Back in late June I set off for a threshold session (classic 2×20), I felt absolutely fine – only when I saw how low my power output was did I begin to question matters. Ordinarily I can sustain about 280W for a 20 minute interval, that day 250 was a struggle. I pressed on, thinking there might be something wrong with power meter itself. Wrong – the next day I was ill, this was the start of a bout of overtraining. In short – the numbers don’t lie.

Making sense of vast amount of data that I was suddenly provided with did prove to be a struggle at first. However, after reading a few books (more on this later) I learnt that the most useful information could be gleaned from a 5 minute post-ride analysis.

My personal favourite metric is that of TSS, which basically quantifies the training impact of the ride – taking into account both volume and intensity. For example, riding for 1 hour at threshold = approximately 100 TSS. I’ve done 4 hour rides that only equated to 150. Many a time, I hadn’t worked as hard as I might have thought, just by looking at the length or average speed of a ride. TSS is a far better number around which to build a training program than training volume (e.g. you might aim for 500 TSS/Week).

It’s motivating to see a positively sloping line on a graph, displaying increased fitness (known as CTL). Your fatigue is also tracked (ATL). The balance between the two is known as TSB – essentially it is a measure of form. Using these numbers, you have a far better chance of coming into form at the right time. It’s a matter of reducing ATL whilst maintaining CTL to as greater extent as possible, reaching an optimum TSB.

Right – geek stuff over. I must admit that it isn’t always plain sailing, it can be frustrating if the numbers don’t improve. You can begin to feel like a slave to the data. Nowadays, for some rides I’ll keep my power meter on but not have any numbers displayed on the Garmin. From time to time it’s good to just go and ride a bike, without any particular objective in mind.

It is also easy to lose sight of the simple fact that power isn’t everything. My power to weight ratio at FTP was 4.5 W/Kg at the time of my first Race, I recently had a VO2 max that put it at 67. These numbers are about average for a 2nd Cat. I still got dropped within the first five minutes of 4th Cat closed circuit race. Technique and tactics are important too, arguably more so at lower levels.

That’s not to mention the costs, though they are falling all the time. You can pick up a decent one-sided power meter for around £350, still a lot of money. If you don’t compete and just ride for fun, it’s not worth it. Unless you are lucky enough to have a coach, in order to make the most of a power meter you have to put in some effort. The numbers you see whilst out on the bike are only half the story.

If you really want to get faster then buying one will make more of a difference than any piece of aero or lightweight equipment. As we all know, it is the rider that wins the race – not the bike. I am in no doubt that training with power has made me far fitter than I have ever been before.

. If you are interested in investing – here are some useful links.

  • The Power Meter handbook by Joe Friel Provides an excellent introduction to the principles of training with power, it’s a very easy read and easily contains enough information to get you started with the analysis.
  • For something more advanced, try Training and Racing with a Power Meter. To my knowledge, what isn’t in this book probably isn’t worth knowing. I haven’t yet had a question that wasn’t answered somewhere within.
  • For a really quick guide to getting started with power, take a look at this video .

For today, that’s all from me. Stay tuned.

Ps – Would anyone like to see a more detailed post on training with power, any questions that other sources haven’t answered?

 

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