Big Gains on Minimal Time – Cycling

Time is precious to all of us and we want to maximize our personal lives with family, hobbies, fun, and also balance with work. Sleep needs to happen too. That doesn’t leave too much time for our personal goals with training and racing which means that the workouts needs to always have a high level of quality and purpose.

I’ve spent a decent amount of time focusing on cycling this year and developing strength and endurance throughout the season. I ride 3-4 times per week which usually includes a tempo session, threshold or strength work, long ride, and maybe one other session. My major purchase this year was a power meter. Nothing fancy but a basic PowerTap wheel for training. This has been HUGE. I can’t underestimate the impact of numbers. There is a different level of focus and purpose to workouts. There are goals for segments rather than just ideas of pedal hard, elevate heart rate (HR) for x minutes, recover easy, etc. There are markers for intervals, an easy day is still completed at an appropriate wattage, and there is room for recovery at lower output levels.

On the higher wattage end, tempo work and high intensity work has an actual level of output. Rather than leaving this type of work up to HR or perceived effort (PE), there are ranges of power that you can target. One fundamental idea that is the key to all of this is FTP or functional threshold power. FTP is the highest sustainable level of output you can hold for 1 hour. Workouts and segments are now keyed off a percentage of FTP. The downfall of HR or PE is that a rider may just not have the legs and something that feels hard may not be improving abilities due to a simple “off” day. A rider no longer goes off of PE or HR. Now, 70% of FTP is just that. Legs can be tired but the wattage is still the same number.

Applications such as TrainerRoad use a 20 minute FTP test and then take a percentage in order to determine FTP. There are other test methods available too but the 20 minute version is rather common. Pairing power with workouts on a trainer enables you to maximize time and efficiency. Now you have power targets, specific time intervals, and only voluntary interruptions. No more waiting for red lights, random cars cutting you off, turns, etc. Just get on your bike and ride.

In short, implement power on the bike in order to train smarter.

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