Have all the "Power Tools" ... Now What?

By Marilyn Trout | 02/23/11


We’ve teamed up with Marilyn Trout, certified USA Cycling Elite Coach to answer Voler Newsletter List members’ training questions. You can view her coach profile at http://www.linkedin.com/in/mountainpedalscoaching80903 Send your cycling inquiries to Marilyn, and for a limited time, if yours is selected to be answered in our Training column, Voler will send you a $20 gift certificate that can be used towards any purchase from the Voler Store at http://www.voler.com. To submit your inquiry, e-mail her at trout_mic@msn.com, and type “Voler Training Question” in the subject line of the e-mail.

Voler E-Mail List member Ray Middleton is our 66th winner of a $20 Voler gift certificate! His training question follows…

Have all the "Power Tools"… Now What?

Hello Coach,

It seems to me I have all the things I need to train with power. Training software, a trainer that does watts, and have ordered a PowerTap wheel. I've been collecting lots of data but now what do I do with it?

Ray Middleton
Estes Park, CO


Like most things in life, having the tools is one thing, knowing what to do with them is quite another. You need to give yourself a reference point to which much of your training can be based upon. This very important number will be the “north star”  of your training.  From there you can identify your “training zones.” 

Intro to Power 101

A power meter records your effort from a muscular viewpoint (watts). Distance is not a part of the equation.

Power = Speed (cadence) X Force (torque)

A heart rate monitor records from a cardiovascular point of view.  The watts that you are able to produce are what drive the bicycle forward. It measures your true rate of work (power). Your heart rate is your body's response to the pressure you are exerting on the pedals. Whereas heart rate is affected by hydration, air temperature, core temperature, how well you slept the night before, level of stress and other factors, a power meter measures your power output. It doesn't take into account life. That's why a smart coach looks at all the factors in an athlete's life when designing a program that incorporates both the physiological and performance response measurements, if available.

Training Zones (heart rate and/or power)

Until these are established, it is impossible for training intensity to be determined. A simple 30’ time trial with your power meter will provide all the information you need to get the job done. No doubt you are familiar with the typical training zones using the heart rate based system. (Take a look in the Voler archives for my October ’08 article, Training through a Collar Bone Fracture (http://vclub.velowear.com/archive/2010/07/07/successful-recovery-from-collar-bone-fracture-training-tip.aspx), for further testing details.) The training zone concepts that are used in relation to the powermeter follow along the same lines.

Practically Using the Data

Once you have established your personal training zones, you can become very specific.   “Using Power to Improve Your Time Trialing” June ’09, delves into the specificity of training using the different measurements of critical power and how you can effectively train for a particular event. Creating your training schedule using the power zones depends upon your strengths and weaknesses and the goals you have for the season. Knowing how to apply and analyze the data zeroes in on the training tasks at hand, avoids overtraining and helps you perform to your potential without “burning your matchbook.”

Joe Friel has written a good article that provides a basic understanding of power which I think you'll find helpful, http://www.trainingpeaks.com/pdfdoc/trainwithpower.pdf. His book, “The Cyclist’s Training Bible” is a very good resource especially for the self-coached athlete and Hunter Allen's "Training and Racing With a Power Meter" gives a more in-depth approach for those with a more scientific palette.

Lastly, a word of caution. There is an affliction that can slowly distract and, at times, undermine an athlete’s entire season. It is the "analysis paralysis" of the techno-gadget. Just remember…the power meter is just one of many tools in your toolbox to be a successful cyclist. 

All the best this season,

blog comments powered by Disqus

New to Cycling? Voler has you covered with training tips and gear to get you started.  Find out More