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Coach's Column: How to Start Your Plan for Training with a Power Meter

Posted by: Shannon Boffeli |February 20, 2014 3:33 AM
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Coach's Column with Drew Edsall: How to Start Your Plan for Training with a Power Meter

Question: How does one establish baseline power numbers to work with and structure basic training workouts using power?


Answer: One of the first keys to training with power is to see where you are at. What are your strengths/weaknesses? How do you compare to your competition? Where is your fitness level at? What do you need to work on to get to the next level or "race fitness”? And how do you train; i.e. what are your training zones?

The best way to do this is to establish your baseline measures with two power tests.

Here are a few of the tests I highly recommend you perform within the first week or two of getting your power meter:

Go out and do a 20 minute, 5 minute, 1 minute and 15 second maximal efforts. Typically these are best done split into two workouts:

-Test #1: Perform a 20 min time trial. Recover with easy spinning for 10 minutes, and then perform a 5 minute time trial.

-Test #2: Perform 2 x 1 minute maximal efforts with 5 minutes rest between each. Take 6 minutes rest, then perform 5 x 15 second maximal effort sprints out of the saddle with 1 minute rest between efforts.

A few things to remember for these tests:

-Always warm up well. Research shows that a good warm up can increase your power by 5-7%, so don’t neglect a solid warm up! A good example of a warm up is 30 minutes of easy spinning. First 10 minutes are easy spinning. After that include 5-10 minutes at a Zone 3, or moderate effort. Take a 1 minute rest, and then perform 3 x 90 second accelerations slowly building up to your 20 minute time trial power. Take 1 minute rest between efforts. Use these efforts not only as a warm up, but as a way to estimate what power you can hold for the entire 20 minute Time Trial or for the shorter 1 minute efforts. After the last 90 second acceleration, take 5-10 minutes easy spinning.

-Pace yourself: you are aiming for the highest average power over the entire period of time. Best way to do this is to keep the same power the entire time. Your graph should look like a "table top” when done properly. Check out (Fig 1.1 above) for an example of a great paced efforts for 6 x 10 minute efforts.

-Pacing example: 6 x 10 minute efforts set at 260 watts. "Table top” graphs such as those above are examples of good pacing.

-Coming into these hard days, you should give yourself 2-3 days recovery. This varies from athlete to athlete, but for the best results make sure you have plenty of rest to give your best performance. Your legs should feel strong with very little soreness, and your heart rate should respond fast.

 -Plan to do these same tests about every 4-6 weeks. These first efforts are known as setting your "baseline”. Use these to see where you are at now and set up your training zones. Test 4-6 weeks from now so you can see how you are progressing and also adjust your zones as needed.

The next step from this is to setup your Power Training Levels. Your training levels will help guide you during your workouts, and make sure you are getting the most out of your training regime.

Here’s how to set those up:

Multiply your 20 minute maximal power effort (the first test) by 95%, or .95. So if you had a 20 minute maximal power of 200 watts, then multiple 200 x .95 = 190 watts. This new number is called your Functional Threshold Power, or FTP. In a perfect world you would be able to hold your FTP for an entire 60 minutes time trial. It’s your 60 min maximal power essentially.

Plug that FTP, or 190 watts, into the following formula under the "% of threshold power” taken from Andy Coggan’s training levels (Fig 1.2 above). 

So when you get your power meter, make sure you take these early measures to get your baseline measures and levels setup. This is a very important process of using a power meter to help get you on the podium in 2014.

After all this is done your next step would be to establish your goals, determine your strengths/weaknesses, determine your race schedule, and then figure out how you will go about accomplishing your goals and continue to improve as a cyclist.

Thanks for reading and have fun riding!

Drew Edsall is a Pro level coach at Studio 92Fifty. He has been coaching mountain bike athletes for 8 years. In addition to coaching, Drew is an accomplished Pro mountain bike racer specializing in Marathon, Stage racing, 50 mile, and 100 mile mountain bike races. He is currently racing for the Kenda/Felt Pro Mountain Bike Team. You can find more info about him at   or

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