Go-to Power Workouts for the Time Crunched Cyclist
Training with power is the best way to ensure that your training is as individualized and targeted as possible.
It allows you to hone in on your strengths and weaknesses as well as identify when to go hard and when to recover.
However, after you’ve made the shift to training with power, how do you know what workouts are best for helping you reach your goals?
With all of the available data it’s important to focus on key sessions that allow you maximize your available training time and ensure that every pedal stroke has a purpose.
Establish Your Zones
Training with power is only as effective as your ability to properly establish your power zones. Before you begin it’s vital that you perform an FTP (Functional Threshold Power) test where you’ll calculate your threshold and set your zones. Your FTP is the benchmark on which all of your training is based, so get familiar with your number. The most popular field test is the 20-minute test in which you go as hard as you can for 20 minutes. After you’ve completed the test take 95% of the average power for the 20-minute effort and that’s your approximate FTP. You will use that number to establish your correct training zones before you begin structured riding. Because an athlete’s FTP is always changing it’s also important to re-test every 6-8 weeks to ensure you’re maintaining proper zones.
Don’t Neglect Zone 2
One of the greatest attributes of training with power is knowing exactly how hard not to go. When you’re working training into your life like most cyclists, it’s a huge advantage to know what the purpose of each ride should be. The majority of every cyclist’s training should be performed in zone 2. It can be tempting once you’ve starting training with power to try and make every ride about producing big power numbers, but don’t fall victim to that. Approximately 80% of an athlete’s overall training volume should be spent below zone 3. That means that even if you’re performing a more focused workout in which you’re targeting higher zones (zone 3 and above), a proper warm up and cool down in zone 2 or below is important. It also means that you shouldn’t neglect your long endurance ride. Again, the beauty of a power meter is the real time feedback it gives you, thus allowing you to ride just hard enough to see aerobic gains, but not so hard that you accumulate unwanted training stress. Always keep your zone 2 volume high.
Sweet Spot Training
Other than zone 2, your “sweet spot” is where you should be spending most of your time. Your “sweet spot” is approximately 85%-95% of your established FTP and is a fantastic tool for the time crunched rider. Sweet spot intervals can serve as stand alone intervals in a dedicated session, or as segments of a longer endurance based ride. They can also be applied to longer climbs or sustained flat sections. In practice they can range from 10 minutes to 50 minutes and are a phenomenal way to improve your FTP. The purpose of sweet spot efforts is that they allow you to stress your aerobic system and increase your FTP without the added training stress of more intense anaerobic efforts. That means that you can spend more time in this zone, and see bigger gains, than you would if you only performed sprints for every workout. Rides including time in this zone should be a go-to for every cyclist.
Super Threshold Sessions
There’s no denying that most every cyclist who trains with power wants to produce big power numbers. However, there’s a reason that athletes should spend time above their threshold. While endurance rides are important, an athlete’s body is made of complex systems that deliver energy differently to different types of muscle. If you want to be well rounded then you need to train the top end just as you do the lower end. These workouts look like the more “traditional” interval sessions, and range from 30 seconds to 5 minutes. They are performed at a percentage above your established FTP, and should make up a small amount of your overall training volume. These intervals allow you to build leg strength, speed, and the power necessary for everything from climbing to your Saturday morning group ride. Every cyclist is different when it comes to the execution of these workouts, so you’ll have to see where your strengths and weaknesses lie and then fine-tune these intervals. Typically incorporating this type of work into your training 1-2 times per week is all that’s needed to see gains and prevent burn out or injury.
Power is the most effective way to train and track the gains associated with your training. It’s a powerful tool in the cyclist’s arsenal, and can help the novice or the pro take their training to the next level. However, it’s only effective if you’re vigilant in maintaining proper training zones. If you’re short on time, and wanting to get the most out of your power meter, then knowing where to spend your time is critical. Remember that zone 2 is your go-to zone and that everything else should be layered in accordingly. If you made the step to training with power you’re well on your way to accessing insights that may very well revolutionize your training. Spend what time you do have properly and work these sessions into your next training block.