January 23, 2018

Training With Power On The Bike

Jarrett Pflieger

By now, you have probably heard of training with power (watts) on the bike. The pros and elites of the sport have been doing it for a while, but in the past few years it has been growing in popularity with age-group competitors as well.

What exactly is power and why should you consider training with it?

Power, measured in watts, is basically how much force you are exerting on the pedals at any given time in the workout. So how does that help you?

Power is the most objective measure of exertion you can find on the bike. It is free from the effects of variables in training like sleep quality, supplementation, fatigue levels, training duration, etc. For years, the most popular method of measuring exertion levels on the bike, and in other events, has been heart rate. Heart rate is better than nothing, but it is constantly being affected by the aforementioned variables.100 watts today is the same as 100 watts tomorrow, whereas heart rate can change on a daily basis.

So power is an effective measure of exertion levels, so how does incorporating it into your training make you a better cyclist?

1. Marker sets

Marker sets are meant to gauge your current level of fitness to compare with previous and future results. They let you know how your training is changing your body, whether the results are positive or negative. Since heart rate is so volatile, having power readings during marker sets is an incredible way to accurately measure your cycling abilities.

For example, you do a 10-mile time-trial on a power measuring bike and it shows you produced an average of 200 watts during the course of the workout. The next time you do that exact same workout, you should aim to improve on that average power number. Higher average power means faster bike splits, plain and simple.

2. Efficient workouts

Have you ever done a workout and felt a little too fresh after, like maybe you could have pushed a bit harder? How about the opposite, where halfway into your workout you are already burned out. Knowing your body through training with power could prevent this. A good training zone test can show you how your body can handle different exertion levels over different time periods. Once you know these zones, you can make sure you are training in the appropriate zone for your goals without risking going to hard or too easy and wasting time.

If you have access to a power-measuring bike, whether an indoor cycle, CompuTrainer, or the bike you ride outside with, you can constantly monitor your workout to make sure you are in your correct zone. Eventually, your instinct will kick in and you will begin to feel how much power you are producing without even looking at a power meter.

3. Tangible goals

Having goals is key for any athlete planning to be successful. In order to be a good goal, it must be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time based. Aiming to increase your average wattage is a great goal to have. It is very every simple as you only have to concentrate on one number.

When you start trying to calculate pacing, average speed, distance, etc. it gets a little complicated and you might lose sight of your objective. With a power-based goal, just hop on a power measuring cycle, do your time trial, and see what the number is. The numbers don’t lie.

Now that you have some ideas of how training with power can help you, the next step is to purchase equipment, or find a place you can train with power. CompuTrainers are great power measuring indoor trainers, but they can get pretty expensive. You can get a power meter on your own bike, but this can get pricey as well. If you can’t bring yourself to drop a few grand on some high-end equipment, your best bet is to find a gym, or a friend, that already has the equipment. Look around on the internet or ask around the local triathlon and cycling coaching community, you are bound to find something.

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