Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Training with Power

When I first started training two years ago, it was pretty easy to see that I was getting faster each month. I made huge changes in my fitness those first couple months. However as the length of time I have been training grows longer, the increases in my fitness have grown smaller. The changes seem so small now that I wonder if I am actually making improvements. Wondering whether I am improving by killing myself on a threshold interval makes it really hard to stay motivated.

I feel like I started a new adventure yesterday. I did my first functional threshold power (FTP) test. This is a hard number that basically tells me how fit I am. I can repeat this test every month and compare the number to previous months to see if I am getting faster or slower. I can also compare my number to a chart of rider profiles to see how I compare to other riders.

You might not just ask why don't you go ride the same loop every month and time yourself? That is much cheaper and simpler way of doing it I guess. It doesn't take into account though things like changes in the wind or rain or tires or temperature or etc... I think if I had been timing myself every month for the last two years it would have been better than what I have been doing which was nothing.

The power meter also buys me some other things.

I can track how hard and how fast I have to pedal on different types of rides using a techinique called Quadrant Analysis.

This is important because it not just how long you train but how close your training matches your actual races. They call this specifity. Basically it just means if all your training rides were long slow flat rides and your race was a short fast hilly ride then you probably won't do very well.

I can also use my functional threshold power results to create Power levels. These levels will help me make sure I actually resting on my recovery rides or make sure I am actually over my threshold on my high intensity rides.

I can also track how much power I can produce at different intervals using the Mean Maximal Power Curve.

This will tell me what my strengths and weaknesses are. For example a very good sprinter can go for 15 seconds or longer without a significant slope change on their MMPC. Someone with excellent VO2 power(3-6minute power) will have a slight 'rise' in the curve during that time period. For a Time trialist, the curve will have very little slope change throughout the entire curve.

I can see after a ride where I went over my limit and how that affected my power afterwards. The WKO software will quickly highlight where I went over my threshold power.

Cylists call this burning a match. The idea is that when you start a ride you only have so many matches in your matchbook. Everytime you go over your threshold you burn one or matches. Once you use up all your matches then you run out of energy and either quit or limp home.

While I am riding I can see how much effort I have expended and at what intensity. My ergomo pro power meter will track Total Stress Score and Intensity Factor. Total Stress Score can be seen as the total amount of energy I have expended. The Intensity Factor is basically the rate at which I am expending my energy. As my IF goes up, the duration I can ride goes down.

I can also track my training loads through a season to make sure I am not overtraining or undertraining using the performance manager chart.

This chart will show me both my long term and short term training loads. It will also give me a numerical value to tell me how rested I am. It is up to me to find through trial and error how much stress I can handle before I need to rest and how much rest I need before I can race, but once I figure these numbers out I can use the chart to repeat those same numbers in the future.

So considering all these things I think it was smart to get the power meter. I have a mathematical brain and having hard numbers makes sense to me.

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