I have been training myself and training athletes with power since 2001 and really have developed an affinity for it. It’s akin to a religion really! To get started I want to make it clear that we talk about power meter training using devices that measure the applied forces on the power meter versus devices that use information and a formula to calculate power. The devices which are the best for measuring power are SRM, Quarq and PowerTap. SRM is the very best on the market with the most accurate data as they measure the applied forces closest to where the cyclist applies force, the pedals.
The great thing about training with power is the data is in real time. With heart rate training there are more variables which effect it and heart rate is only a response to the work being done. But with power the watts shown is the work being done and visible right away. So for cyclists and triathletes who are doing intervals of 1-3 minutes in length it is more accurate to use wattage as the watts can be seen right away. With heart rate those same intervals would not be as accurate as the heart rate takes time elevate.
Another great benefit about using power is that you can and should test with it every 8-10 weeks to acheive the following:
-New power zones to train by
-Quantify your improvement over time
-Acheive a solid Zone 4/5 workout
Over time you can track how you are improving and it always feels good when you see improvement. Just as you have HR zones to train by you will now also have power zones. Let’s say you’re a triathlete, than it would be a good idea to do a couple different tests. A twenty or forty minute all out test is great to achieve the aforementioned. But, if you are a cyclist focusing on short criterium racing than it is very important to test your 6 and 10 minute best so you can have accurate power training zones to train those energy systems.
Achieving your optimum power to weight ratio is CRUCIAL to power training. If you decrease your weight and increase your power you will be faster, period. For more on this very important aspect to power training look at my past blog posts ont he subject.
Downloading and evaluating data is another good reason to train with power. Having a visual of your ride is helpful as you can see parallel information related to cadence, HR and power. Having a trained professional look at your ride files can be very helpful to iron out such issues related to pacing and race strategy.
I hope this helped answer a few basic questions about power training and there is so much more that can be donw with this great training tool. So when choosing to train with power do your best to find an experienced coach or advisor make heads or tails of the plethora of information.
Ride smart, ride hard, recover better.