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3rd September 2019 - POWER - How to use it to train and race effectively.



I always ask new clients if they have a power meter on their bike. For those that say no, then heart rate training it is. For those that say yes, guidance is still often needed on how to use their power meter effectively. Let me simplify things:


A power meter is a small device which you fit to your bike which directly measures (in watts) how hard you are pushing on the pedals. Unlike heart rate, a power meter is not affected by weather, hills, caffeine, illness etc.


Functional Threshold Power (FTP) is the highest average power you can sustain for one hour and is a good indicator of your cycling fitness. Your individual FTP is not a glamorous number to feed your ego, but an individual benchmark training metric used to determine your power training zones which is then used to structure your cycling training.


Using your power training zones when training and racing enables you to develop specific physiological attributes such as endurance and helps you to pace races much more efficiently, generally resulting in stronger runs off the bike.


I find the best way to start is to have the following data visible on your bike computer screen:


SPEED, DISTANCE, TIME, 10 SECOND AVERAGE POWER and LAP NORMALISED POWER.


The key metrics here being 10 SECOND AVERAGE POWER and LAP NORMALISE POWER.


Your 10 SECOND AVERAGE POWER should be checked every minute or so to ensure that you stay within a specific power zone and aren’t “burning matches”. “Match burning” is very easy to do and can happen when you go uphill, ride into a head wind, get too excited in the first hour of an Ironman, accelerate out of corners etc. The specific power zone will be relative to your FTP and the length of the race you are doing, such as staying in Zone 2 during an Ironman, with a cap at the top of Zone 3 when you’re going up hills.


NORMALISED POWER is the power you would be producing if you were riding along a flat road. It’s like an average, but calculated after removing all the short sharp power peaks and power troughs and gives a more usable metric to compare different rides, regardless of how hilly they were and what the wind was doing etc. If you set up your bike computer to display your LAP NORMALISED POWER, you can pace various stages of a long ride much more evenly by riding to a specific NORMALISED POWER e.g. press the lap button at the start of a long climb (each time you press the lap button, your LAP NORMALISED POWER resets).


A real-world example of this would work like this:


My training and data show that I should be able to ride a Half Ironman bike leg at around 230 watts NORMALISED POWER. As I ride in the race, I watch my 10 SECOND AVERAGE POWER and try and keep it at around 230 watts. I notice that after 10 minutes, my LAP NORMALISED POWER says 300 watts (I got a bit excited and pushed a bit hard). I press my lap button (which resets my LAP NORMALISED POWER) and back off to 230 watts. 5 minutes later, I look at my LAP NORMALISED POWER again and it now says 232 watts. Great, I’m back on track for my 230 watts NORMALISED POWER for the whole ride. 10 minutes later, I check my LAP NORMALISE POWER again and it shows 218 watts (I backed off a bit too much), so I press the lap button again and up my pace slightly. I now get to a long hill. I know I will burn a match if I ride at over 300 watts, so I stay under 300 watts by glancing at my 10 SECOND AVERAGE POWER.


If training with power is something you want to utilise to improve your riding and race performances, and you’d like to be tested to determine your current FTP and power training zones, then please get in touch. Using my experience and knowledge, I will give you all the numbers you need so you don’t have to anything other than ride your bike.


Head Coach Pat.