Power training I: The concept of power

The art of training

Have you heard the saying in cycling that any training program, even a bad one, is better than no program at all? Sounds crazy, but it's true to some extent.

There's no better recipe for at worst overtraining and at best hitting a long flat plateau, than going out every day without a clear idea of what you're trying to accomplish and where you are in the big picture of your training cycle.

Just by breaking the year down into a few basic cycles, you can at least improve the chances that you'll be riding strong at the right time and that you'll continue to improve from season to season.

Writing a program is actually fairly easy, (but that's a topic for another article). As a coach, writing the actual training program is only the very beginning of helping a cyclist reach their goals. So let's say you've got a coach or you're your own coach. You've laid out the training program for the year, the time, the distances, the zones, the intervals. You're set right? Not yet.

In fact, this is only the start. Training is an art form that goes well beyond numbers written on a piece of paper and the skills and understanding of how to do it properly. Just like cycling itself, it requires a lifetime of experience to perfect.

Just one minute

It seems pretty self-explanatory. Ride for X amount of time at heart rate Y and at cadence Z, and you get stronger, no worries. However, to get the most out of your workout, it's actually a little more complex than that and when you start to get into intervals, things really get complicated.

When I was first starting off as a racer, my coach happened to see me doing some one-minute efforts on a ride. Later that night, I got a tentative phone call. "Uh ... Bloke, not sure how to say this, but you're doing it all wrong."

How could I be screwing up a one-minute interval? You pedal as hard as you can, count off 60 seconds and stop! Imagine two years of training and suddenly you find out it's all been a complete waste. Well, not exactly a waste, but the point is, there was a better, more economical way to be doing it and the sport of cycling is all about efficiency. Efficiency in equipment, efficiency in position, efficiency in strategy and in this example, efficiency in training, which can only be achieved through years of experience and a highly developed understanding of how your body works.

Power to the people

With the rising popularity of power meters, it has become increasingly easier to perform and to monitor highly effective workouts. However, before you run out and buy one, it's important to understand exactly what information they tell you and what to do with it.

In fact, I actually dissuade some of my newer clients from buying a power meter because I still feel they have things to learn about their body and their training that could possibly be harmed by starting to train with power too early.

The concept of power

I always tell my clients to train with, "The Concept of Power." Many cyclists get into the rut of thinking that the goal of any interval is to get your heart rate up. Riders become so attached to their heart rate "zones" that it becomes the all-encompassing end all be all of riding.

In racing, the goal is never to get your heart rate up, (in fact, the goal is to keep it low), so when that becomes the objective in training, it creates a confusing contradiction. Training with The Concept of Power means that increasing speed, efficiency and power in training always take precedent over heart rate. Realizing this is the first step to getting the most out of your limited time on the bike.

Stay tuned for:

  • Part II. Understanding what your heart rate means and what your monitor can and can't tell you.
  • Part III. How to train with power without actually owning a power meter.
  • Part IV. Putting it all together and training with a power meter.


Josh Horowitz is a USCF Certified coach and an active Category 1 racer. For more information about his coaching services check out contact Josh@liquidfitness.com or check out his Web site at www.liquidfitness.com.

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