Why I Train With Power
PowerTap Grassroot Athlete, Jim Rosen, recently wrote a blog about why he trains with power - starting with the basics.
Many of my triathlon and cycling friends know all about power meters. But some don't. I decided to write a quick post about the pros of training and racing with a power meter for those people who have not looked into it or who may have never considered it. Much has already been written on the subject so rather than go into lengthy explanations, I will provide a few links to some of the articles written about power meters as well as my own personal take on it.
First, we need to define what a power meter is. Here is a snippet from Wikipedia about cycling power meters:
"A cycling power meter is a device on a bicycle that measures the power output of the rider. Most cycling power meters use strain gauges to measure torque applied, and when combined with angular velocity, calculate power."- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cycling_power_meter.
Using a power meter, a cyclist can get instant feedback by way of a handlebar-mounted computer. The computer can display exactly how much power a cyclist is producing at any given moment as well as provide an average over time. Unlike speed, power is not affected by hills, wind, terrain, or other environmental factors.
For instance, let's take a hypothetical situation. None of these numbers are real world numbers. I am just making them up to try to get my point across.
Let's say that my training has lead me to be able to bike at 200 watts steady for 1 hour before I am too tired to continue. Let's say that I go for that one hour ride on a Sunday and push 200 watts the whole time. After the one hour is up, I find that my average speed was 20 MPH. The following Sunday, I go for the same ride and I again push 200 watts for an hour. But this time, it is very windy and after I am done with the hour, I find that I have not traveled as far and my average speed was 16 MPH. In this example, I was putting out the exact same effort on both days but my speed was affected by environmental factors. In cases like this, average speed does not truly measure the amount of effort being exerted. However, watts are watts. No matter what the environmental conditions, my work rate can be measured accurately regardless of wind, road conditions, hills, etc.
So why is this important? In the context of racing, pacing is racing. When we race, we want to be able to put out the maximal sustainable effort. If we go too hard at the beginning, we will bonk and slow down towards the end and our results will suffer. If we go too easy, we may end the race with excess energy that could have been used to go faster. An athlete who is experienced and intimate with his or her capabilities will be able to measure out the proper amount of effort throughout a race. Using a power meter can quantify effort accurately independent of environmental factors.
Perhaps equally or maybe even more important, the power meter is an crucial part of training. Training with a power meter can sling shot an athlete's performance on the bike. Using power zones to create a specific training regimen will shorten the amount of time needed to see performance gains. Again, a lot has been written on this subject and I am not here to explain it all. In fact, I am very fortunate to have a coach who knows it all. My coach gives me very specific workouts all based on power. And when I am done, I can upload my power file for him to analyze. He can then use this data to inform my training plan and measure performance gains. Together with my heart rate data, my coach can use scientific principles to design workouts that will give me the optimal training stressor which will lead to performance gains.
Before I provide you with links to the experts, let me just tell you that my experience with my PowerTap G3 power meter has been amazing. Using the PowerTap is easy and there are just a few things to learn about it. It is really a no brainer. I have gotten so much faster and stronger over the last 10 months by using power data to guide my workouts. Granted, you have to put in the work. But if you follow a well-crafted training plan based on a valid power test, improvements will happen and they will happen fast.
Not only will you get faster but training with power can be fun too. Functional Threshold Power or FTP is a key measurement that is used to create your zones. It has been fun to watch my FTP climb throughout the last year. And it can be even more fun to calculate my watts per kilogram which is a precise measure of pure cycling ability and can be used to compare oneself to other athletes. When I did my first power test on April 1st, 2014, my FTP was 190. After a solid 10 months of training, my FTP is now up to 220. Of course there is a limit to how high I can build but I am a long way from reaching that ceiling and I know that with more training under the expert guidance of Dave Luscan at DLMultisports, I will continue to get stronger and faster.
So why do I use a power meter? Well, it is an excellent tool to get faster on the bike more quickly than I could without the power meter. It also introduces some fun metrics to track. If I want to podium in my age group, I need to get faster. Using a power meter, I will get there faster than without one.
And now, as promised, here are some links to the experts who know more than me and who write better than I do. If you want to learn more, check them out. And check out these articles if you are interested in stepping up your game.
- Training with Power
- Cycling Training Articles from Peaks Coaching Group
- Training Peaks - How to Interpret Power Data and What to Do With It
- Joe Friel - Why You Need a Power Meter
Jim Rosen is a PowerTap/CycleOps grassroot athlete. He discovered triathlon after receiving surgery on both knees in 2009, an even that prevented him from participating in his true passion - soccer. Jim joins his wife, Melissa, in racing and training for triathlons under the eye of DLMultipsorts in Richmond, VA. His longer term goal is to maintain good health and be the most active person I can well into old age. In 2015 Jim has his eyes set on some specific goals, including completing Ironman Louisville in 11 hours. Best of luck to you, Jim. Learn more about Jim at http://jimsoccernut.blogspot.com