Power Based Cycling Coaching

Why Train With a Power Meter

Why Train with a Power Meter?

We are never too young or too old to train and race with a power meter. I hear this all the time, “Why should I train with a power meter?”
Well, the truth is you can learn a lot about your strengths and weaknesses using a power meter. I call the power meter the “truth detector” to determine how hard or easy your training and racing was.

It is the most affective tool you can get to go faster on a bike

Joel Friel

Heart rate monitors:

Heart rate by itself actually doesn’t tell you much. You will never know how hard you are really going..

Here is a very simple equation for power P=F*V (power = force * velocity )

This simple equation would be hard to determine with heart rate alone. However, using a power meter you can determine your maximal power for 5 seconds, 1 minute, 5 minutes, 20 minutes, and your hour of power.

How does the power meter work

Well it is very simple the strain gauges in the power meter detect the torque and RPM. Which then send a signal to your computer via ANT, Blue Tooth, etc. Important Note: Before every ride you should always zero your power meter. Create good habits and this will allow you to have good training data. When the temperature changes +/- 10 degrees this can offset your power meter. Recalibrating the power meter before each ride give your power meter a true zero otherwise your power readings can be off +/- 10 to 30 watts.

So why use a power meter.

Well if you are science based athlete you want to see results and learn how to improve. Then using the power meter will give you information about your ride and training to determine what you need to work on or fine tune. The best way to start is first purchase a power meter then use it on all your rides. Track all your data from your easy rides to your sufferfest rides. Once you have some data look at how you did on you rides. Make a note of how you felt. Then when you are ready for the ultimate suffer perform a field test to determine your training zones. The field is very different for your pros compared to your recreational rider. A pro might do a 20 minute or 1 hour field test. While most recreation to Cat 3 riders are best to do a 8 minute field test to determine their training zones. The field test is very similar to your lactate threshold also known as your Functional Threshold Power. Most people will call this your hour of power.

Normalized Power

Normalized Power provides a better measure of the true physiological demands of a given training session. It is an estimate of the power that you could have maintained for the same physiological “cost” if your power output had been perfectly constant. Once you have your training zones you can see if the program you are following is working or not.

Junior Cyclist First year with a power meter at the age of 9 thru 10:

Power Profile

You can see from year to year improvements in fitness and power. From the graphs above and below we can see the blue bar CTL (Chronic Training Load) which is the riders fitness level and show how much the rider has been training. The purple bar ATL (Acute Training Load) which is the short term stress on how hard an athlete has recently been training. The TSB (Training Stress Balance) also known as the rest. In this graph you can also look at an athletes best 5 second, 1 minute, 5 minute, 20 minute, and FTP.

Junior Cyclist 2nd year with a power meter at the age of 10 thru 11:

Power Profile

WKO+ records and weights the cumulative TSS result of each workout to determine both acute training load (ATL) and chronic training load (CTL), which is displayed in the Performance Manager. ATL is a 7-day weighted average of a cyclist’s TSS and provides a measure of short-term or acute training load. CTL, which can be set at a 28-day or a 42-day weighted average of TSS, provides a cyclist with a measure of long-term cycling fitness. The goal should be to increase the blue line or the CTL gradually to peak for your major events. Fitness (CTL) + Freshness (positive TSB) = Form. When the CTL and TSB touch this means you are on form for your event.

Junior Cyclist 3rd year with a power meter at the age of 11 thru 12:

Power Profile

So how to use the power meter:

Most of the time when cyclist use a heart rate monitor to do intervals they have to wait for their heart rate to hit a certain target level which could take several minutes. During this time they could be guessing on how hard to work. With a power meter you soon learn that the interval starts as soon as the power hits the targeted zone.

Pacing with a Power meter

Using a power meter in a long steady race such as a triathlon or long time trial is one of the best tools you can use. When everyone else is fighting a head wind, going too fast or guessing how hard to push when going up hill, the athlete with a power meter is just rolling along at the prescribed power zone. Allowing you to hold it right at the sweet spot which is at or right below your FTP.