Training

A Power-Based Plan for Becoming a Better Cyclist

Make watts, get strong.

When it comes to the bike, it pays to have a plan, says triathlete Patricia Brant, associate coach at Peaks Coaching Group and a USA Cycling Level 3 coach. “Athletes who make peace with more of a consistent and focused plan tend to have the most success in triathlon,” she says. The key to building that plan is having the right types of workouts to address weaknesses, Brant says. Workouts will vary widely, depending on your strengths, race distance, and point in the season. Top coaches like to use functional threshold power, or FTP, the highest average power you can sustain for one hour, to make gains in your triathlon performance. Once you establish your FTP-based training zones (see test below), add these power-based workouts to your cycling repertoire. No power meter? No problem. You can also use rate of perceived exertion (RPE) to estimate your effort.

Bike Workout #1: FTP

Workouts aimed at improving FTP—thus increasing your overall power on the bike—involve completing intervals at 91–105% of an athlete’s FTP wattage or 7-9/10 of RPE. These intense work- outs should be done usually once and no more than twice per week. Be wary of going out too hard and adding some “extra credit watts” on the early intervals, Brant says—it’s the most frequent no-no she sees with her athletes and almost always means they fatigue too quickly to complete the prescribed wattage in later intervals.

Try This Workout

Warm-up:
15 min easy pedaling/endurance power
5 x (1 min fast pedals/high-cadence intervals; 1 min rest)

Main set:
Endurance pace, Zone 2 (4/10 RPE), until warmed up
2 x (10 min FTP intervals in Zone 4 or 8/10 RPE; 10 min rest)

Cool-down:
10 min Zone 1 easy pedaling

Bike Workout #2: Endurance

Endurance workouts are completed at a lower effort than FTP workouts, but for longer—they should be carried out at 65–75% of an athlete’s FTP wattage or 4-6/10 RPE. The goal, Brant says, is to improve your muscular endurance and your ability to ride longer distances with less fatigue. Because these workouts are time-consuming, they’re done once a week.

Try This Workout

Warm-up:
15 min easy pedaling/endurance power
5 x (1 min fast pedals/high-cadence intervals; 1 min rest)

Main set:
Ride 2.5 hours in Zone 2 or 4/10 on flat to rolling terrain, focusing on keeping a steady effort/power and a cadence of 90–100RPM

Cool-down:
15 min Zone 1 easy pedaling

Bike Workout #3: Tempo

Also longer in duration than FTP workouts, tempo workouts involve longer intervals completed at 76–90% of FTP or 6-8/10 RPE. Like endurance workouts, tempo training improves your muscular endurance, and it can be done once or twice a week. These workouts are favorites of busy athletes training for lon- ger races, Brant says, when they don’t have time to complete excessively long endurance workouts.

Try This Workout

Warm-up:
30 min easy/endurance zone

Main set:
Ride 1 hour at tempo pace (Zone 3 or 8/10 RPE)
Easy pedal in endurance zone, Zone 2 or 4/10 RPE, for 10 min 10 x 1 min fast pedals (100 RPM) in your tempo zone (Zone 3 or 8/10 RPE); 1 min rest between each

Cool-down:
30 min Zone 1 easy pedaling

At Home FTP

If you have a power meter, you can determine your magic number with the following test:

1. Warm up well over a 20-minute period, including a few fast cadence efforts.
2. Do five minutes hard, at a tough but sustainable effort.
3. Spin as recovery for 10 minutes.
4. Do your official 20-minute test. The first five minutes should feel difficult but sustainable, the last five should be an “I’m never doing this again” effort.
5. Calculate your FTP: Take 95% of normalized power produced for 20 minutes.

Source: Racing and Training with a Power Meter by Hunter Allen and Dr. Andy Coggan