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Coach's Column with Lynda Wallenfels

Posted by: Shannon Boffeli |December 22, 2010 7:50 AM

Lynda Wallenfels is a USA Cycling Cat 1 certified cycling coach and pro mountain bike racer. She is owner of She always trains and often races with a power meter.

It is Christmas! Most racers are thinking about how to get a notch faster next year and Christmas is prezzie time right? Christmas lies at a time of year when training volume is low and is the best time to introduce new equipment into your life. How convenient! By now you must have heard the buzz about power meters and owners raving about them. It is the best training tool you can invest in after hiring a coach of course!

If you have checked them out, you know they are a big investment so here are:

10 Reasons Santa Should Bring You a Power Meter for Christmas!

#1 Motivation 
The only thing more motivating than seeing a weekly climb in mean maximal power output is seeing yourself climb up the race results rankings.  Motivation feeds performance.


#2 Effective Intervals 
With a power meter you can dial in on exactly the power level you want to train. During an interval if you slack off for even a second your power numbers will drop.  If you ease off during a power interval there will be a dip in the power graph and your coach will be asking you what happened! Pacing intervals by heart rate allows soft pedaling and surging during an interval due to the slow time lag of heart rate response resulting in a less effective workout.


#3 Training Specificity 
Do you train like you race or are you just riding around. Compare your race power files with your training power files. This can be a big eye opener to some cyclists and a key aspect that can bring a big performance improvement when optimized. The hard data may often not look like what perceived exertion tells you it will.


#4 Racing Specificity 
Race with your power meter and you have a blueprint of what you need to do at that race to be better next time Ė or if you had the race of your life you have the manual of how it is done. Power files are gold mines of information. Break down your race and examine the key parts. Did you pace well, did you finish strong, did you have the power needed to make the moves at the crucial time. Did you fade? When and where? How much power did you need to stay in the lead?


#5 Accurate Performance Assessment 
If you put out more watts over a given time then you became stronger.  Watts are a direct measure of performance; speed and heart rate are not.  If you produced more watts, you improved.  You need to be able to accurately gauge your performance progress to know if the training plan you are following is working for you. 


#6 Communicate with your coach 
As a coach I get a huge amount of information from a power file. The combination of seeing watts, speed, heart rate and cadence over time is invaluable. It answers many questions. I can work closely with my athletes to hone in their riding, racing and pacing skills.


 #7 Quick Training Schedule Adjustments 
With a power meter on board it is clear when you are in peak form and putting out big watts. It is equally clear with a power meter when your legs are puny and the watts are nowhere to be found. Power meters donít lie! Armed with this information you can immediately adjust your training schedule to optimize training benefits. Heart rate only, can be a difficult metric to examine your training effectiveness and use to make training decisions. When you are superbly fit your heart rate gets sticky at threshold. When you are tremendously fatigued it does similar things by becoming sluggish.


#8 Track Training Load 
Every athlete has an optimal training load at which they perform best. Less than optimal will not maximize performance and more than optimal is an over-training disaster. With a power meter you can track training load and take much of the guesswork out of peaking for a specific event on a specific date. There are several power based metrics you can use to track training load. The best power based metric to use is Training Stress Score (TSS). Tally up your total TSS produced during a given period, season, month or week. Then identify your optimal load and track TSS produced in training to be sure you stay on target.


#9 Use Performance Manager Analytical Tool 
When using TSS as your training load metric you can use the Performance Manager Chart to compare your season long chronic training load (CTL) with your recent or acute training load (ATL). To peak for a top priority race, a high CTL and low ATL is desirable. With power data and TSS scores you can manipulate ATL and CTL to time your peak perfectly. Again much of the guesswork is removed.


#10 Pace Races
 In mountain bike races it is crucial to pace yourself accurately from the start. Often there is no pack to sit in and recover from early mistakes. A power meter is a huge advantage at the start of these types of events where you can have a cap set on the watts to ensure you start at a pace you can maintain for the duration. In long distance events such as 100 miler or 24-hour mountain bike races all pacing mistakes are in the first several hours. Those mistakes are paid for many times over in the final several hours of the race. I bet you have never, ever heard anybody mention they went too fast in those final two hours. I am sure everybody has gone out too fast at sometime in some race. Unless you are ignoring your data, a power meter will prevent you from being this mistake ever again.

Tell Santa it is time you started training with power!


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