PowerTap and Power in Training & Elite Competition
By Camilla Lindholm, Swedish Professional Triathlete
Before I used a cycling power meter for bike training, I relied on heart rate. However, heart rate training proved to unsatisfactory because heart rate can change due to many factors, such as athlete "freshness" or outside temperature. Soon after switching to training with a power meter, I quickly discovered the power training truism: power is that power is power. Unlike heart rate, power is not impacted by external factors such as riding in hot weather, tiredness, dehydrated and more. So how exactly do I use power to train?
I began by discovering my FTP by doing an all-out effort test on the bike with my PowerTap power meter. From that I calculated my power and broke it across different power training zones. Once this was completed, it was easy for me to plan my training. For example, I know exactly what power zone to ride in when training for Ironman or Half Ironman triathlon. Through training with a cycling power meter I've been able to notice that it's easy to slip out of a power training zone, especially when pushing too hard up a hill – something I did not notice when I was training with heart rate because HR does not always respond that quickly. Through these climbs I've learned that if you go hard into 3-4 hills, it will impact your overall power average and could have a negative effect on your upcoming run. In short, power training helps you work smarter and not burn through all your energy on the bike.
Additionally, as an athlete living in a very windy place, training with power has been a relief. Before riding with a power meter I would go out for a ride and sometimes come away thinking I was in bad shape because of my slow pace on the bike. With the PowerTap I can actually evaluate my fitness with accuracy. Now I can see that I'm generating the same amount of watts and pushing hard, even if the pace seems not so fast. This process works both ways – you can't fool yourself either. Along those same lines, I also can evaluate which cadence is the most effective. All the power data shows on the cycling computer, so if I push a heavy gear and the effort feels harder for my legs I might think that I am strong. But then if I shift down to a lighter gear and pedal a little bit faster while putting up the same power numbers, that helps me find the most efficient cadence while helping me improve overall.
I also use my PowerTap cycling power meter in competition. Before training with power I found myself pushing a little bit too hard in the beginning, which caused me to be too tired in the end and impacted my run negatively. Normally I am a bit back from the pack after the swim and would try to take back as much time as possible on the bike in the beginning at a pace that felt so easy. But after a while I got more and more tired.
Now that I have my power data during competition I know that I have the right pace from start, in addition to feeling more confident overall. My power data also helps remind me to slow down a bit in the hills, which makes me actually last longer and bike with higher overall power. Since I started to compete with power I actually performed faster bike splits and run splits.
Camilla Lindholm was an aerobics and spinning instructor before she took up the triathlon in 2005. She was 30 years old, with no experience in running, biking or swimming when she began training in her native Sweden. Improvement came fast for Camilla. In 2007, two years after learning the sport, she competed as a pro and finished 7th in Ironman South Africa. She was the first woman to ever win the European Powerman Duathlon Championships twice in a row in 2010 & 2011. And taking on a new challenge in 2012, she took time off and became a mother. In 2012 she also suffered a brain bleeding but she made her come back 2013 and managed to set PR in all three disciplines. You can learn more about Camilla by visiting her website.