Everyone is probably settled in to the winter routine by now, including short days, long nights and lots of time on the trainers. You're also probably looking for ways to get a little extra out of your efforts this season. We're going to cover 2 training concepts in this issue that will help you dial in your efforts for your current fitness level and get you going on the basics of training with wattage. The basic training concepts of Functional Threshold Power and Training Zones will be part of our common language in subsequent articles when we begin to address more specific details and complete training programs.
Fitness Testing to Establish Your Functional Threshold Power (FTP)
First, let's talk about fitness testing. This is a bit of a buzz word these days with more and more people turning on to getting feedback on their training effort with a heart rate monitor and/or watt meter and tailoring training programs to their own unique fitness levels.
With a fit test, we're trying to establish a wattage number that corresponds to our lactate threshold and gives us a functional threshold power number. Think of lactate threshold as the point at which your body can no longer run on just oxygen alone and you start to dig into your glycogen reserves. Lactic acid begins accumulating in your blood stream faster than it can be flushed out and you're beginning to go anaerobic.
There a several ways of testing your fitness on the bike. For the sake of brevity, let's just touch on one. In their book, "Training and Racing with a Power Meter," Hunter Allen and Andrew Coggan, PhD, suggest a doing an all-out 20-minute time trial effort. After performing the effort you take your average wattage and subtract 5% from it. They call that number your Functional Threshold Power.*
If for instance you've ridden your time trial effort and after 20 minutes your average wattage measured with your Kinetic Power Computer was 245 watts, you'll multiply that by .95 to get your FTP.
(245 x .95 = 233 watts)
Why Do I Need to Know My FTP?
The beauty of knowing your FTP is that you can tailor your workout program to your exact fitness level. No more trying to ride 300-watt intervals for 30 minutes when you're FTP is 230 watts. You can adjust those types of workout target numbers to fall within your abilities to execute, adapt and improve.
Okay, now we've covered the very basics of determining FTP with a watt meter. We aren't concerning ourselves too much with heart rate numbers right now since you are presumably riding your trainer and using a power computer. So let's proceed with a defining our training zones using the FTP number we've generated above.
Calculating Training Zones
Allen and Coggan define 7 levels for power-based training. Chris Carmichael, Joe Friel, and any other coach will have a similar set of training levels based on percentages of a fitness test number.
We're going to stick with Allen and Coggan to keep this simple. To determine each of the 7 levels, you need to take a percentage of the FTP number you determine.
- Level 1 Active Recovery = < 55% of LT
- Level 2 Endurance = 56-75% of LT
- Level 3 Tempo = 76-90% of LT
- Level 4 Lactate Threshold = 91-105% of LT
- Level 5 VO2 Max = 106-120% of LT
- Level 6 Anaerobic Capacity = 121-150% of LT
- Level 7 Neuromuscular Power = maximum effort
Again, take the FTP number you've tested and determined through your 20-minute time trial effort and apply these percentages. Write them down. These are your TRAINING ZONES. Our hypothetical rider should know for instance that if they're doing longer tempo intervals at say, 20 minutes each this winter they should be holding their wattage in a range of: 177 watts to 210 watts.
As you can probably see, figuring out your FTP is pretty straightforward stuff. The hard part is knowing how and when to train each of these zones to maximize your potential and to properly prepare for specific events.
Try It Yourself
Figure out your Functional Threshold Power. Be sure your body is rested, this is like a short race effort. Allen and Coggan's protocol is as follows:
- 20 minutes easy warm up
- 3 x 1-minute wind ups with a minute rest between (100 RPM pedal cadence)
- 5 minutes easy
- 5 minutes all out (hard at first, but not so hard that you can't complete the effort)
- 10 minutes easy
- 20-minute time trial effort (like the previous 5-minute all out effort, keep in control, hard but steady, you don't want to over cook it and die at the end)
- 10 to 15 minute cool down
Finally, we do recommend that you use a Kinetic Power Computer on a Kinetic fluid trainer to achieve accurate wattage measurement. Our PCs measure current wattage, maximum, and average wattage. They also measure cadence and our wireless T-725 WL will measure heart rate as well. These are all the important feedback features you'll need to get started on a wattage-based training program.
*Check out "Training and Racing with a Power Meter," by Hunter Allen and Andrew Coggan, PhD,for a much more in depth explanation of the concepts above.
Google: "training with wattage" and follow any number of links for more information