Training with Power
Cycling is unique in that we have a direct way of measuring our power output.
Before getting into the details, let’s talk about what power is, exactly.
Power is measured in watts and is a snapshot of the work you are doing at any given point in a workout or ride. When using a power meter, if you suddenly mash down really hard on your pedals, the computer will display a number (in watts) that is directly relative to how hard you pushed your legs.
For some perspective: One horsepower is equal to 746 watts.
The best part: coaches can use that measurement to tailor your bike workout to your specific ability!
For those who are considering it, here are a few solid arguments for choosing to train with power:
1. It’s more precise.
Most people are familiar with weight lifting strategies. You start out with lower weights, and do repetitive exercise with increasingly higher loads to increase your muscle strength. Training with power is not really that much different, because the end goal is the same and we use a direct measure (watts) to achieve that goal.
2. It makes your workouts more productive.
When we used to train strictly with heart rate or perceived exertion (PE), we were looking at mostly the effect of the exercise. How high you see your heart rate go up is a reaction to the power output, and PE is a subjective assessment of the effort you put out. All are useful, but when you focus on a specific power output for a certain amount of time, for instance, when doing hill repeats, we are able to train our muscles to output more for that given time. Instead of watching our heart rate maintain over the exercise, our heart rate goes up for the duration, as your watts stay the same. This would be similar to doing repetitive weight exercises. By the end of a 20-rep set, your heart rate gets higher and higher.
3. It’s easier to see your direct fitness and strength improvements.
Ahhh, the end result… the ever-coveted strength and fitness gains that directly result in climbing hills faster, out-sprinting that riding buddy who never seems to lose fitness, or keeping up with your friends on those long summer rides. We all know that what you can do outside on rides varies due to heat, weather, and other factors. We also know that we are never in control over what someone else can do in the way of performance on the bike. Having something to bring you back to center, like seeing your personal sustained power output improve over time, can bring you back to home base in regards to your own abilities.
When we get back to the basics of fitness, no matter what the discipline, focusing on improving ourselves should be our baseline focus, and using a power meter is an excellent way to accomplish that.
Power Training Packages: