I need more power …

If I am to complete the Whistler Gran Fondo this year in reasonable time, then I need more power.

Last winter I trained with a heart rate monitor. My Suunto watch has a built in “personal coach” that told me when, and how hard to train. By the time I got outside on my bikes again, I was noticeably stronger, faster, and better prepared for the cycling season.

I will continue to use the heart rate monitor but this winter I’m focusing on becoming more powerful, and to do that, I need to objectively measure my progress, or lack there of.

Enter the power meter.

I workout using a Keiser spinning bike which has a built in power meter. It measures the power delivered to the pedals during the workout, and calculates the average wattage for the session.

What are good numbers for these tests? I’ll try to remember they are relative, and my goal is to improve, not to become a professional road racer.

The above video demonstrates 3 fitness tests for cyclists –

  1. Sprint Test – peak power (watts) over 6 seconds from a standing start
  2. Maximum Aerobic Test – average power (watts) over 3 minutes
  3. Functional Threshold Power (FTP) Test – average power (watts) over 20 minutes

They help cyclists monitor their fitness level, and subsequently manage their workouts. In particular, I’m interested in the FTP test. It measures a cyclist’s ability to sustain the highest possible power output over 45 to 60 minutes.

These are my test results on January 17, 2016:

Sprint Test – 603 Watts

Maximum Aerobic Test – yet to be completed

Functional Threshold Power (FTP) – 301 watts x 95% = 286 Watts (Most pro cyclists produce about 200 to 300 watts on average during a four-hour tour stage and will average 405-450 watts at their threshold.)

The real measure of a cyclists climbing ability is their power / weight ratio. Lighter riders with the same ratio are able to climb faster. It makes sense. So, the best method of improving climbing ability to is to generate more power, and lose weight at the same time. For those of you who have tried, this is easier said than done.

Power/Weight Ratio – 286 watts / 80 Kilo = 3.6 Watts/Kilo (For men, 3.6 w/kg is about on par with a strong Cat 3 road racer of the same weight.)

These are my baseline numbers. I have no idea if they are accurate. This was the first time I completed these tests, and I’m confident I will test better next time now knowing what to expect. Nevertheless, this is my starting benchmark. Every month, until Gran Fondo day, I will complete these tests, and modify my training accordingly.

My goal is to increase my power / weight ratio. I’m shooting for an FTP of 325 watts and a watts/kilo of 4.3 watts. This means a lot of heavy lifting, regular repeat hill climbs, and fewer calories in the months ahead.

Stay tuned as I outline how I plan to do this, and the progress I’m making.







15 thoughts on “I need more power …

  1. Nice numbers, I wish mine were that good! Good luck training, I find training to power fun and motivating. Makes indoor training a whole lot more motivating. One think though, I could be wrong but I think power/weight should be caluculated using your FTP (286) and not your avg power number.

  2. It’s really NOT an easy undertaking–I did ballet (poorly, I might add) for years and the balance between weight and sheer power is complicated. Good luck! It will be interesting to continue reading about your approach.

    • You get more interesting every week. I never would have imagined you as a ballet dancer. I live near a ballet school and often drop in to watch training in progress. It’s remarkable.

      You are right. It is not an easy undertaking. When I lift heavy, I want to eat more. Instead of losing weight, I put more on. Some of it will be muscle, and that’s OK. I think ballet dancers and competitive cyclists have something in common. They starve themselves. Do you have any tips you can share?

      • I really wasn’t a ballet dancer though I loved it to the point of obsession. 🙂 I just don’t have the body for it–no matter how thin I get I have broad shoulders and hips so I never look ‘right’. I’m also not flexible enough. As far as diet goes I probably didn’t eat enough, though I did eat really well–lots of fruits and vegetables and old grains like kamut, quinoa, and bulgur. But never before bed. I also took a lot of supplements and ate a LOT of dark chocolate. I would probably do things differently these days but I do know I made sure my protein levels were sufficiently high and I ate carbs mostly in the morning but not before bed. I suspect I’m not the best resource, lol. However–a lot of the thinking around food has evolved when it comes to dancers so perhaps you could do worse than to check in on what they’re up to. Also, every body is different and you likely have certain foods that are amazing for you and certain foods that aren’t pushing you forward, regardless of what the health industry says. If I come across anything great I will definitely send it your way!

      • Ilian, I appreciate your comments. For the most part, I have a good diet. I’m vegetarian and subscribe to Brendan Frazier’s Thrive diet (http://www.nomeatathlete.com/brendan-brazier-thrive/). But I don’t eat enough dark chocolate 🙂 and must admit I eat few carbs in the morning. When I am overly active, and that is most of the time, I feel like something is missing. It may be protein. I’ll make a few changes. Thanks again.

        Are you telling me you don’t dance any more because you do not have the “right” look?

  3. I’m sure you’ll hit those targets. For the Gran Fondo I think like you say power to weight is going to be important as I’m guessing there’s a fair few hills in there! Your sprint power looks a little low compared to your FTP though at only double your FTP. Keep at it! 🙂

      • It’s a bit tricky from a standing start. You have to select the correct gear – not so low you are unable to generate the power, and not too high so you can’t turn the pedals over. I think I was in too low a gear and next time I’ll do some testing beforehand.

    • Thanks for the encouragement. If you have experience training with a power meter i would appreciate tips regarding how best to train to increase power – weights, hill repeats, intervals … I have a lot of hills and several local mountains to train on but am interested in learning how best to train for this during the off-season.

      • I used my powermeter for training mostly on the turbo as it’s much easier to consistently hold a certain power, plus it’s more responsive than heart rate. Out on the road your power is so variable, even on seemingly flat or unchanging terrain, that it’s hard to “train” to. Trying to hold a steady, set power range for hill repeats is a good start for road training – or averaging X amount of watts over a longer 10-20 minute interval.

  4. Pingback: Those last few pounds … | PedalWORKS

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