For the past month that I have been "riding with power" my CycleOps PowerTap 2.4 SL is has been a great tool. After the first few weeks of getting familiar with the functions of the PowerTap system and learning what it takes to produce and sustain the different levels of power it was time to setup my training plan and establish a few goals.
Setting up a training plan
My current goals are to gain more fitness and not get dropped on the local Wednesday night group rides. Weight loss is always a motivating factor as well and usually means that I can climb better when the road goes up. I figure that I will loose the weight as I follow the plan to improve my fitness. In the past I have been able to ride for a few weeks consistently until I get burned out and end up taking a day or two off the bike that turns into a week or more. So nothing has been too regular or consistent. The training plan that I have been following has rest days and recovery days. I have been able to better monitor these recovery days with the PowerTap power meter. I can now see that my recovery days in the past were not at the recovery pace and it is understandable why I would burn out after a few weeks.
Regardless of what my goals are I needed to determine my Functional Threshold Power (FTP) and set up my power zones. This is no different from the zones that riders will set when training with a heart rate monitor. The rider's FTP is the power output that the rider could sustain over the course of an hour. Both the FTP and the power zones are critical in setting up and following a training plan.
From my FTP I determined the appropriate power zones for active recovery (less than 75% of my FTP), endurance rides (75-85% of my FTP), riding at tempo (85-95% of my FTP), riding at my lactate threshold (95-105% of my FTP), and going beyond my lactate threshold (105-115%). These zones have been very helpful to keep my rides within the prescribed outline of my training plan.
Determining Functional Threshold Power
There are a few different methods that can be used to determine a rider's FTP. Saris has a great tutorial on their web site from Allen Lim and Robbie Ventura. The CycleOps Power Test takes about 20 min. and consists of warming up for 5 min. and then starting the test at a very easy intensity of around 100 watts. Every three minutes I increased my power output 20-30 watts and recorded my average power output, average heart rate, and my rate of perceived effort (RPE) from 1- 10 on the Borg Scale. I warmed up and increased my wattage every three minutes until I was giving a hard effort, level 5 or 6 on the Borg Scale, and then went one step beyond to a really hard effort before stopping the test.
Saris has posted the test and the full instructions here- www.saris.com/PTC/PowerTest.pdf
I did my test on my CycleOps Fluid Trainer so that I could better control the environment for my monthly FTP retests.
Riding with a plan
The three functions of my PowerTap 2.4 SL that I have come to use the most are the average power display, interval settings, and the stopwatch. After warming up for 10-15 minutes of easy pedaling and keeping my watts in a certain range I start a new interval and begin following the prescribed workout for the day. The average power for each interval is displayed until a new interval is started. This has really helped me to stay within my warm-up power range and not jump into the training for the day until it is time. Once I download the ride I can then see each segment and review how I responded to each interval of the ride. Did my average power for each interval drop as I finished the last two or three sets, or was I using the appropriate gearing to achieve the desired cadence and wattage output? Following my average power has been a great way to ride and train within the correct zones for the entire ride and resist the urge to ride hard all of the time. By following the workouts for each day that are based on my FTP I have been able to ride consistently for many weeks without feeling the burnout that comes from riding too hard all of the time or not riding hard enough to impact my fitness.
Diabetes and power
Diabetes affects different people in different ways. Regular exercise and a proper diet are critical in managing Diabetes. Maintaining my blood sugar while riding has been a problem in the past. Either I am eating too much while riding and my blood sugar is really high, or I am not eating enough to keep my blood sugar from going low. Low blood sugar leads to low energy and for me a rather lethargic feeling, real similar to bonking.
By testing my blood sugar every 45 minutes to an hour during my rides I have been able to notice trends in how my body responds to the different intensities of riding. I can better control my blood sugar by watching my average power for the ride and the number of calories that I have burned. I can see when I need to eat to increase my blood sugar when my average power starts to drop, when I cannot hold a certain power output for any length of time, or when it is difficult to maintain a steady cadence. All of the indicators (power, average power, and cadence) are traceable with the PowerTap 2.4 SL.
It has been very helpful to have a doctor that is interested in finding different ways to help manage my diabetes and improve my cycling as well. Based on the data that I have collected with the PowerTap 2.4 SL Dr. Abrahamson has suggested different types of insulin to use while I am riding along with the number of carbohydrates that I need to maintain my power and strength. Dr. Abrahamson is a USA Cycling Coach with AC Coaching in Fort Collins, CO and works with many different types of cyclists from elite racers to recreational riders just getting started with a training plan. He can be reached at [email protected] for questions about starting a training plan and using power meter technology to improve fitness and strength.
Continue to stay tuned for upcoming posts in this multi-part series by Russ as he chronicles his progress under the watchful eye of his Doctor and USA Cycling Coach...