Beginner’s Journey to Power Meter Racing and Training: Part 3

power meter

Beginner’s Journey to Power Meter Racing and Training: Training

Now that you have done some testing, found your functional threshold power, and set your training zones with the help of your power meter (see Part 2), its time to get down to business.  Its time to take what you gathered from testing and apply it to your training.  This is where the benefits of using a power meter start to really show.  Since power is an absolute, unlike heart rate or speed, you can really use it to dial in your training to target specific physiological adaptations.

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of unique workouts that one can do to target each of the seven zones, as laid out by Hunter Allen and Andrew Coggan, but for the sake of time and space, I will only share a simple workout for each zone that you can perform.2016 cannondale supersix evo

The Stochastic Nature of Cycling

You’ve probably noticed that your watts don’t stay constant.  One moment your computer reads 200 watts and the next 500.  This is partially do to riding outside where the roads aren’t perfectly flat and the wind is constantly changing.  For this reason, it is virtually impossible to target a specific wattage goal while performing intervals.  Instead you should aim to stay withing a specific range, basically the zone which you are trying to work on.

One way to ensure you are doing the necessary work to see the desired improvements is to check the average and normalized power for your intervals post ride, once you have uploaded your power profile to your software of choice.  For short intervals (1 to 10 minutes), focus on keeping your average power inside your desired range.  While for longer intervals (20 minutes and up), use normalized power to determine if you are hitting your targets.

Normalized Power: an estimate of the power that you could have maintained for the same physiological “cost” if your power had been perfectly constant instead of variable

Basically, normalized power is calculated by taking your average power for every 30 second segment of your ride and than finding the average of those numbers.  It smooths out your power profile and compensates for the peaks and valleys that occur while riding giving a more accurate picture of the work you did.

Zone 1: Active Recovery

The goal of these workouts is to recover from the previous days workout or to cool down at the end of a workout.  All it is is an easy spin to flush waste from your muscles, keep the rhythm of riding, and maintain muscle suppleness.  It is very important to keep your ego in check on these rides because the pace of this ride will feel very slow.

The Workout: 1 hour at 50-55% of FTP.

Zone 2: Endurance

The goal of these workouts is to build a base of endurance and enhance aerobic fitness.  These long, steady paced rides also garner a number of other benefits that will help your performance which I covered in a previous series. (Base Training vs. High Intensity Training)

The Workout: 15 minute warmup followed by 2 hours or more at 69-75% of FTP with a 15 minute cool down.2016 cannondale caad 12

Zone 3: Tempo

The workouts completed in Zone 3 offer the best bang for your buck training.  These workouts provide some of the greatest adaptations meaning they are great for the time crunched cyclist.  The pace will feel fast and the intervals will take some work but focus on your normalized power to keep it within your target range.  When starting training in this zone for the season, begin with 30 minute intervals and gradually build up to intervals of 2 hours or more.

The Workout: 15 minute warmup followed by 30 minutes to 2 hours at 76-90% of FTP with a 15 minute cool down.

Zone 4: Threshold

Your goal for these workouts is to improve your functional threshold power by riding right at your functional threshold power.  Simple.  Intervals in this zone should start out feeling moderately hard but end up feeling quite difficult in the last 3 to 5 minutes.  The workout here is one of my personal favorites and go to workouts.

The Workout: 15 minute warmup followed by 2 x 20 minute intervals at 96-105% of FTP, with 10 minutes of rest in between, followed by a 15 minute cool down.

Zone 5: VO2 Max

Workouts at this intensity are designed to improve your power output at your VO2 Max.  Since the intervals are relatively short, 3 to 5 minutes, you can really start to get creative with the workouts you perform to keep your training fresh.  Do to the required effort, I find it helpful to do these efforts on a hill where fighting against gravity ensures you are staying on the power and hitting your target zone.

The Workout: 15 minute warmup followed by 5 to 8 hill repeats of 5 minutes at 106-120% of FTP, with 5 minutes rest in between efforts, and wrapped up with a 15 minute cool down.2016 cannondale supersix evo

Zone 6: Anaerobic Capacity

We’re getting really hard now with these efforts.  They may be short, 2 minutes or less, but you have to go all out for the allotted time.  So don’t worry about looking at your power numbers, just go for it.  These efforts are going to hurt as they stress your anaerobic capacity system.  There is lots of variety in the workouts in this range because there is a big difference between 30 second and 2 minute intervals.

Workout 1: 15 minute warmup, 8 efforts of 2 minutes at 135% of FTP with 2 to 3 minutes of rest in between followed by 10 minutes of recovery.  Then begin a set of 8 efforts of 1 minute at 145% of FTP with 3 minutes of rest in between.  Finally, finish off with a 15 minute cool down.

Workout 2: 15 minute warmup, 8 to 10 hill repeats of varying lengths (45 to 90 seconds) at 140% of FTP with 4 to 5 minutes of rest in between, wrap things up with a 15 minute cool down

Zone 7: Neuromuscular Power

These are super short, high-intensity efforts of less than 15 seconds.  The explosive and short nature of these efforts make it difficult to focus on your power meter so just go all out.  When performing these efforts just imagine sprinting for the line on the Champs d’Elysee against Marcel Kittel.

The Workout: 15 minute warmup, 10 sprints of 15 seconds, 10 sprints of 10 seconds, 10 sprints of 5 seconds, with enough rest between efforts to ensure complete recovery, finish with a 15 minute cool down


Now its time to get to work.  Apply what you’ve learned here to your training and get creative.  Your power meter will let you really focus your training so that you can see great improvements in your riding.  In Part 4 of the series, we will look at how to use your power meter while racing.  So get training.

Special thanks to Stages Cycling for supporting this series by providing a power meter for use!

Beginner’s Journey to Power Meter Training and Racing: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

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