Training with power can be a most wonderful (and truly powerful) way to boost your training. However, only investing a fairly large amount of money into a powermeter won’t do the trick. As with all things data, it’s not only the numbers that matter but the analysis of them.
But let’s take a step back: What are we talking about when we talk about power?
In order to make my training with power as effective as possible, I talked to many seasoned athletes, coaches – and did my research. One book that stood out was Joe Friel’s The Power Handbook published by Velo Press. The book takes you through the entire journey of understanding and training with a power meter.
Power, in its most basic definition, “equals force times velocity.” In this equation, force refers to what you put onto the pedal, while velocity means how fast you are turning them. The unit power is put out is Watts, a unit named after Scottish engineer James Watt – remember those physics classes in high school?
Objectivity in Training
The beautiful thing about a powermeter is that it gives you a quantifiable summary of your workout – similar to heart rate numbers, and yet entirely different. In contrast to heart rate, “the powermeter does not lie.” It shows you exactly how many watts you are putting out, regardless of your heart rate and your perceived exertion (which can be manipulated by various stressors), and also the terrain or weather you are riding in.
Training with Power
Joe Friel’s book is divided into three parts: The first section expands upon what a powermeter is and how it works; the second part elaborates on training more effectively through power by establishing power zones, FTP and periodized training; and the final part delves into how to improve competitive performance in various racing formats such as triathlons, endurance rides and road racing. While the book goes into much detail about power, it was also a generally good read on training and stress management.
The power data can be viewed in various softwares. Analyzing your data and really looking at the development of your power graphs is a great way to measure your improvement. Watts can also be compared to heart rate values to see gains in overall fitness.
How bad do you want it?
Powermeters come in all sorts of shapes and forms: You can attach them to your pedal, to your cranks, they can be in the wheel hub, in the bottom bracket etc. A good overview of the different varieties can be found here. And while they have become more affordable over the past years, all of them still have quite the price tag.
Using a power meter is a very effective way to enhance your training by measuring results and progress. They are also a wonderful tool to keep your enthusiasm in check while time trailing and might have saved me from bonking in races a few times. While they are not cheap, they are a great investment if you follow a consecutive, smart training plan and will most likely take your understanding of your strength as a rider to a new level.
Jasmin is a Moxie Cycling Ambassador and blog contributor. Check out her bio here!