Saturday, January 12, 2013

Pithy Power Proverbs

The Wattage Google Group is an invaluable resource for information on training with power. In some cases, the posts can be quite lengthy, detailed, and informative. But every so often, someone will post some concise yet meaningful phrase and it "catches on". Recently, Alex Simmons started a thread that resurrects some of these pithy proverbs. I've copied the best of them here. Enjoy!

"It's an aerobic sport, dammit!" - Andy Coggan

"Training is testing, testing is training." - Andy Coggan

"The best predictor of performance is performance itself." - Andy Coggan

"The more you train, the more you can train." - Andy Coggan

"FTP = how fast you can go. CTL = how long you can go fast." - Rick Murphy

"The Anaerobic Threshold is neither." - unknown

"Hmmm." - Robert Chung :)

"Alls you can do is alls you can do." - Andy Coggan

"Cadence is a red herring." - Robert Chung

"If your on the bike and the wheels are turning, you're riding" - Andy Coggan

"Specificity, specificity, specificity . . ."-Andy Coggan

"Lydiard got it right"... -Andy Coggan

"All watts are not created equal." - Dave Harris

"The body responds like a swiss watch. You just have to figure out how to wind it." - Dave Harris

"Toss that HR monitor strap!" - Charles Howe

"Power calibrates PE (perceived exertion), PE modulates power." - Charles Howe

"It's all about the pedal force." - Tom Anhalt

"Training with a Power Meter, does it work? No, you work!" - Hunter Allen

"more is more ... until it isn't" - Rick Murphy

"The best thing about a power-meter? It tells you where you are. The worst thing about a power-meter? It tells you where you are" - Bob Tobin?

"Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power." Abraham Lincoln

"Fitness is an integral" - Rick Murphy

"For riders of every level, power is limited but speed is precious" - John E Cobb

"The less power you have the more gearing you need" - Steve Davidson

"In God we trust, all others bring data" - Ric Stern

"The plural of 'anecdote' is not 'data.'" - Andy Coggan

"(The) most successful riders spend the most time at zero cadence during races." - Andy Birko

"If it *feels* hard, it *is* hard" - Andy Coggan

"At some point, you have to increase the power" - Andy Coggan

"Train, don't strain" - Arthur Lydiard

"The PowerTap is a tool, not a bolt on motor :) " - Chris Mayhew

"The PM (Performance Manager) chart is a one picture summary of the truth, as useful and brutal as honesty can be." - Alex Simmons

"Wow, I need to train more!" - Frank Overton (after looking at his previous season's Performance Manager chart)

"!!!" - Hunter Allen

"There are no free watts." - unknown

"Pain is temporary, accomplishment is forever" - Hunter Allen

Crap training is crap training no matter how you record it. -- Alex Simmons

"The most important consideration when choosing a power meter is the quality of data. Everything else is a feature." - unknown

"What's important is how hard you ride rather than how you ride hard." - Alex Simmons

It is called "training stress score" and not "training performance score" for a reason. - Andy Coggan

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Winter Bike Training - Key Workouts

This blog was supposed to be about measuring progress but I thought I'd throw in this more practical blog on various power-based workouts. The following are among my favourites acquired from the Google Wattage Group.

20 x 2 FTP Test

Estimate Functional Threshold Power (FTP) and determine your training zones using this test. I discuss the test in more detail here.

StepDurationTraining Level
warm up10'1-2
set 120'4
recovery 5'1-2
set 220'4
cool down5'1

Both main sets should be done as hard as you can manage for both intervals. FTP is estimated as 95% of the average power from both Sets 1 and 2. Once you have your FTP, use the chart below to determine your training levels. If you don't have a power meter, use average heart rate (HR) instead of FTP.

LevelDescription%FTPAvg HRTypical workout
1Active Recovery<=55%<=68%30-75 min
2Endurance56-75%69-83%2-5 hrs
Tempo76-90%84-94%1.5-3 hrs
Threshold90-105%95-105%20 min
VO2 Max106-120%>106%3-8 min
6Anaerobic power>121%n/a30 s -2 min
7Neuromuscular powern/an/a<=20 sec

More detail on Coggan's training levels can be found here here.

20 x 2 Workout

So, how far do you think a steady diet of 20 x 2 training would take a person? How about a win in the U.S. National Road Race and a 2nd place in the Time Trial. That's what Kevin Metcalf accomplished 4 weeks after breaking his collar bone. Metcalf does his daily 20 x 2 workouts at about 85-90 % of FTP which is right in the sweet spot range (see sweet spot training below).

Sweet spot training (SST)

The sweet spot, discussed here, ranges from about 85-100% of FTP. What people have found is that you can gain close to the same benefit by training a bit lower than L4 (i.e. high L3 or Tempo) at less metabolic cost. The advantage of this is that you can do more frequent quality workouts because they don't tire you out as much as a pure L4 workout would. A simple, proven way to raise FTP is to progressively increase the time spent training in the sweet spot. Although the chart in the link suggests that the sweet spot ranges from 70-100% of FTP, a more generally accepted range is between 88-92%.

I've used SST in my Winter training with great success. It's appeal is that there is a huge difference in perceived effort between a low threshold workout done at, say, 92% of FTP and an all out 100% FTP workout which makes extending the workout length and/or increasing more workouts (i.e. increasing time spent at sweet spot) much more palatable. My approach has been to start with 20 x 2 workouts done in the sweet spot range and progressively increase the duration of the main sets. The table below shows one way to progressively increase the duration of the workout. Using this approach in 2009, I did 4 workouts of 30' x 6 over a 4 week span which worked out to 3 hours of time spent at sweet spot and 3 hours 45 minutes (115 km) on the trainer at one sitting, not something I'd recommend. Rather, these days I would recommend keeping workouts on the trainer between 1-2 hours. There will be plenty of time come Spring to get more saddle time.

WorkoutTotal Duration at SS
20' x 240 min
25' x 250 min
20' x 360 min
30' x 260 min
35' x 21 hr 10 min
25' x 31 hr 15 min
20' x 41 hr 20 min
40' x 21 hr 20 min
30' x 31 hr 30 min
20' x 51 hr 40 min
25' x 41 hr 40 min
35' x 31 hr 45 min
20' x 62 hr
30' x 42 hr
In addition to increasing the amount of time spent at sweet spot in each workout, you could simply increase the number of workouts. In general, your workouts will trend towards the lower end of the sweet spot range as the duration of the workout gets longer.

General training model 

This general training model by Charles Howe is based on Lydiard in that it advocates building a large base. But whereas Lydiard advocates the build up of a huge base of long, slow, distance (LSD) during base training, Howe's approach has you doing most of your base training at Sweet Spot. And while SS workouts are easier than Threshold workouts, I wouldn't call them easy. But it is possible to get a large base of time spent at SS whereas that might be more difficult with a more high intensity training (HIT) approach. I've included Howe's model here due to its popularity in the Google Wattage Group.

The 90/90/90 Workout (Coggan)

Andy Coggan, one of the author's of Training and Racing With a Power Meter, coined the 90/90/90 workout. It's basically a HIT workout in that it hits all systems; it's not meant to be done every day. The workout is comprised of sets done at 90% of Level 4, 90% of Level 5, and 90% if Level 6. Hence, 90/90/90. Coggan posted on the Google Wattage Group that a steady diet of 90/90/90's done every other day one Winter enabled him to carry his Fall bike fitness through to Spring.

warm up5 min1-2
L4 set20 min90% L4 Max
recovery5 min1-2
L5 set5 min90% L5 Max
recovery5 min1-2
L5 set5 min90% L5 Max
recovery5 min1-2
L6 set30 sec90% L6 Max
recovery2 min1-2
L6 set30 sec90% L6 Max
recovery2 min1-2
L6 set30 sec90% L6 Max
recovery2 min1-2
L6 set30 sec90% L6 Max
recovery2 min1-2
TOTAL60 min

Hour of power (Bill Black)

Bill Black, another esteemed poster on the Google Wattage Group, coined the hour of power (HOP) workout (see the Recovery on the Edge article about halfway down the page using this link). The main set of the workout is comprised of one hour at about sub-Threshold (88-92% of FTP) but with the addition of a 15-20 second sprint every 2-3 minutes. The hard part of this workout is the return to sub-Threshold after the 20 second sprint. The thing I like about this workout is that it's extremely race-specific to Road Racing. It teaches your body to recover from frequent anaerobic efforts while still riding at Threshold.

The next level (Allen)

Hunter Allen is the other author of Training and Racing With a Power Meter. His "next level" workouts are sort of a variation of the HOP workouts only longer. Allen's contention is that to get to that "next level" requires hard work. If you've been doing 20 x 2 workouts for awhile and you no longer seem to be progressing then you need to do something that will take you to the next level. The more race-specific that something is, the better.

warm up10 min1-2
Set 130-60 minlow L4 with 15-20 sec surge every 3 minutes
recovery5 min1-2
Set 25 minlow L4
5 minL5
5 minlow L4
5 minL5
10 minover/under at L4
recovery5 min1-2
TOTAL1 hour 20-50 min

The above workout isn't something you would jump into. Rather, it's a workout to be done after you've built up a reasonable base of sweet spot training (see General Training Model above). Alternatively, you could make this one of your key weekly workouts and build up to it progressively (see my discussion of progressive overload in this blog).

In my next blog, I will discuss how to know whether you're making progress (I think).


Coggan Training Levels by Andrew Coggan
61 Metcalfe Continues to Improve With Age
Sweet Spot Training
General training model by Charles Howe
Recovery on the Edge by Bill Black
The Next Level by Hunter Allen

Winter bike training - 20 x 2's and Functional Threshold Power
Winter Bike Training - Getting Through the Workout
Winter Bike Training - Planning a Season

Google Wattage Group - join this group and do a search on any of the following keywords: FTP, 20 x 2, Sweet Spot, SST, 90/90/90, Hour of Power, HOP, next level, Coggan, Metcalf, Howe, Bill Black, Hunter Allen, A Coggan, Alex Simmons, DaveRyan