There is endless content available across the internet and in various books on the subject of training with power. In these two articles, I am not intending on describing the benefits of training to power vs training to heart rate – others have done a great job of that already.
Much of what I’ve read describes different types of blocks of training, various training sessions and has some kind of link back to FTP, fitness, form or CTL graphs in a software program such as TrainingPeaks, GoldenCheetah, Strava or TrainerRoad.
It took me quite a while to figure out what works for me because there are so many opinions, so much science and so many types of intervals to consider.
After much research, trial & error and mistakes, I’d like to share what I’ve figured out. This is not intended as a manual or product review, more of a point in the right direction.
Following from Part 1. Power meters, we continue to look at what you can do with the power data and how you can use it to get faster.
2. Training with power
At this point, I should state that I am not a qualified coach (I would need to be BC level three), and am neither a physiologist or doctor. I have however worked with all three during my journey from aspiring racer towards (aspiring to be a) proper bike racer. These are my opinions, which I have formed from a lot of listening to other people’s opinions.
You might be reading this and thinking – there is no way I could ride a CX race to a particular power - and you would be right. For CX, power is a training tool rather than a racing tool.
For road and TT, racing to power is useful. The demands of these events make them simpler to train for with power than CX too. I didn’t make that point to rub people up the wrong way, but it is fair to categorise them as mostly aerobic events. Of course, anaerobic efforts play their part, but CX has a greater anaerobic demand as well as an aerobic demand.
So you have recorded some power data – what next?
Several simple / bundled software products will take your power data and display a graph based on the volume of your training stress (TSS). TSS is calculated from the length of time you rode and how hard you rode. The graph tracks progress based your recent training completed calculated against your six week history of training stress. As the line (CTL) goes up you’ll probably be getting (aerobically) fitter. If you suddenly increase the TSS you are doing, your TSB will drop and it will warn you of overtraining.
This graph is often called a PMC (Performance Management Chart).
FTP – is a commonly used term in cycling. FTP (Functional Threshold Power) is generally referred to as the maximum power you can sustain for one hour. Thankfully, most software systems calculate FTP with an algorithm or like Zwift/TrainerRoad, via a shorter test. A 1-hour max effort is not top of my list of things to do regularly!
Similar to CTL, FTP is an aerobic measure.
However, off-road or interval sessions with on/off power generate low TSS and low average power compared to their higher physical cost. This means that the simple CTL graph is not as useful beyond a base phase and FTP doesn’t provide the whole picture for anaerobic fitness.
Some software programs have integrated a power model chart into their systems in recent years. This shows the maximum power levels you have recorded against time - the max you’ve done for 1s, 5s, 1min, 5min, 20min etc.
Again, a useful graph, but what do you do with it?
There are others available, and you may already be subscribing to one/some of these;
Strava – shows the data described above, but doesn’t offer any training guidance
TrainingPeaks - shows the data described above, you can purchase training plans, but they don’t adapt/integrate with your power data. A PMC graph tracks progress, which you have to subscribe to premium to view
TrainerRoad – uses the data described above and integrates closely with their included training plans. But the information is not very viewable making it difficult to track your progress
GoldenCheetah – uses the data described above and some seriously useful additional functions for anaerobic performance. It is a very sophisticated system but I think you would need to fully conversant with training with power to use it. There is no training guidance, so is best thought of as a training analysis system.
Best of all – it’s free
There is a system that is streets ahead of the others
WKO5 is TrainingPeaks’ coaching software package. You buy it outright for around $200 rather than subscribe, and upload to it via a free TrainingPeaks account, which can be linked to whatever bike computer system you use.
As well as the metrics described above, WKO5 will model and track V02Max, matches, fatigue resistance and anaerobic capabilities.
There are two things which sets WKO5 apart;
- WKO5 will set power levels and intensities for whatever type of interval or phase you are in. So, you are guided with accurate, effective and most importantly personalised/individualised, training levels.
- The free education support offered between live online seminars, all of which are recorded and available on YouTube, written guides and a Facebook group is absolutely amazing, all you have to do is invest some time learning how to train.
These combined with the software itself make top level self-coaching a real possibility. The learning offered effectively coaches you to coach yourself and makes it very easy to set yourself a training strategy, create and adapt a plan and to know where you are at in the process.
Of course, self-coaching has its own challenges, compared to the objectivity of being coached by someone else, but most coaches that offer individualised power training charge $200-350/mth!
If you are training with power already, or want to add the objectivity of training with power, WKO5 is by far the best training software package.
Bad data in = bad data out
Sophisticated software systems such as WKO5 and GlodenCheetah are sensitive to good data being input into them.
The metrics, and for WKO5 - the intervals section, will be wrong if the sessions you upload have power spikes. Power spikes can be cleaned up but is a time-consuming manual task.
The 2400w pedal strike spikes from my friend’s Stages meter throw out all of the metrics, in one ride recently it reported 5x the TSS and the power spikes multiplied his anaerobic fitness 4 times!
The power models, and the metrics that are calculated from them, need maximal power inputs to be accurate. This means that once a month you’ll need to do a maximal test at 20-30 minutes or a short c.15s and medium 2-5min maximal test.
These can easily be integrated into regular training and will help you to see how your training has worked. It is all explained in the WKO5 webinars so is an easy process to follow.
I have avoided the Pandora's Box question of training methods...
How long a base phase should be?
Whether Vo2 intervals should be 3 or 5 minutes?
How much should you be running?
Partly because the answers are very individual and partly because the answers are already out there. The CX webinar below is a great place to start and The Cyclocross Bible has a great chapter on the subject.
During the previous version of WKO(4), Tim Cusick delivered a webinar on training for CX. Whilst the software has since been updated, the content is excellent and well worth a watch.
Is it worth it?
I have no doubt that training with power is a worthwhile investment.
If in addition to the cost of a reliable power meter, you invest the time to learn how to use the software, and commit the process, I’m sure you will see significant gains.
Compared to the prices of other software products, such as Microsoft Office or Windows, WKO5 is not an expensive software product. The value of the ongoing development and support goes well beyond the $200 price.
WKO5 Education page - https://www.wko5.com/wko-education
WKO Facebook Group - https://www.facebook.com/groups/WKO4powerusers
TrainingPeaks guide to PMC Chart - https://www.trainingpeaks.com/coach-blog/a-coachs-guide-to-atl-ctl-tsb
Golden Cheetah - https://www.goldencheetah.org
Take a look at our other articles - https://cyclocrossracer.co.uk/blogs/cyclo-cross-racer-ideas-reviews-and-advice