Training with power is rewarding for everyone, whether your goal is health & wellness, fitness, competition or to hone in on your cycling skills. This plan is specifically created as an introduction to training with power for all cyclists. After you complete this 8 week introduction training plan, you will be ready for a more specific program to achieve your specific power based cycling goals.
The first step to training with power is to become familiar with the correlation to the work you do on the bike. For the first weeks, the goal is to spend as much time as you can simply riding your bike and becoming aware of power output in correlation to various terrain, techniques and intensity. This will assist in developing your “power common sense", which is necessary before fine tuning your training. A critical component to this goal is to download every ride. The data collected will begin to create a clear picture of your current physiological systems strengths and weaknesses, which will be used to create training zones and peak power values in future training. Every download contributes to a more precise personal profile of you.
While not stated in each daily log, be sure to warm up at the onset of your ride and cool down at the end of your training, to progressively prepare the body wor work or begin the recovery process. The higher the intensity of your ride, the longer your warm up and cool down should be.
Today, focus on the relationship between watts, heart rate and your perceived effort. You will begin to realize there is a parallel link to increases / decreases in intensity. However, you will also begin to understand how your heart rate and perceived exertion respond to the work you do (or don’t do) on the bike. Your goal for your ride today is to ride a variety of terrain (or simulate on a trainer) and get comfortable with the association of training intensity as it relates to your power output, heart rate and perceived exertion. Also, become aware of the function of the Computer, as you will be utilizing various functions in the future. This is the beginning of developing your power common sense.
Continue to become familiar with the correlation to the work you do on the bike and your power output to develop your power common sense. Be sure to download all rides, as your personal profile is being developed to determine training zones in future weeks and to get a clear picture of your strengths and weaknesses.
Today, continue to become aware of your power output in correlation to various terrain, techniques and intensity. Focus on the relationship between power output at various cadences, when climbing, as you transition out of the saddle and as you shift gears. Take note of your range of power when it feels easy vs the range of power when you are sustaining a race-like pace. Develop insight to staying in a target power range at a lower cadence, compared to staying in the same power range at a higher cadence. Also, continue familiarizing yourself with the functions of the Computer.
Now that you have developed some power common sense, a bit more structure will be incorporated today in preparation for developing your power training zones next week. Don't forget to download all rides and now begin to compare the stats of your ride downloads, paying attention to your average, max and energy expenditure from one ride to the next.
Today's focus is to work with 3 minute periods of effort, to develop your power common sense to sustaining work. After you have achieved a thorough warm up, ride a 3 minute interval of work (use the interval function) at your hardest sustained effort. It will likely take about 30 seconds to progressively find your rhythm to an effort that is the fastest pace you can sustain for the entire duration. If you start to hard, you'll burn out too soon and have to slow down, which is not the goal. At the completion of the 3 minute effort, ride easy for 5 minutes. During that recovery time, make note of your stats from the 3 minute effort. What was your average power? After your recovery time, repeat the 3 minute effort, chasing your average power from the previous 3 minute effort. Use various gear ratios, cadence and positioning to find the most efficient means to achieve your effort goal for the duration. Continue repeating the work/recovery until you are no longer able to stay within 10% of the effort goal. This is a sign that your body has received enough stress on the systems. Make note of how many repetitions you did, as this will be a marker that you can compete against in the future, as you develop your repetitive power ability. Ride all remaining time based on power correlation goals from earlier this week. Don't forget to download your ride!
This will wrap up your initial power common sense week of training. Next week, you will begin determining your power training zones and structured training based on zones. Be sure to download all rides, as the data is critical information to your person profile.
Today ride at a pace that you could hang on to all day. It's efficient, low intensity, yet continuous, even when climbing. Spend alot of time developing your pedal stroke, as this is a critical component in developing overall pedaling power. Use your small chainring alot, to allow a quicker cadence. Throw in some 3-5 minute periods of keeping a high cadence, above 90 rpm, without interruption, with the goal to keep controlled force on the pedals at all times. To get a better understanding of imbalances between your left/right pedal stroke and to assist in cleaning up your pedal stroke, spend some time performing one-leg drills. Unclip one foot and move that leg away from the pedal, using one leg to turn the pedals. Focus on a smooth turnover, eliminating any dead spots or chop. Toss that leg for about 30 seconds - 1 minute and then repeat with the other. Make note of any big power discrepency from one leg to another (assuming cadence/gear ratio is the same), as this can point out imbalances. As you become more fluid in your pedal stroke, you'll note less discrepency from one leg to the other.
Last week you developed basic power common sense. This week you will determine basic power training zones or ranges. Since there are numerous methods of determining zones, discussing and incorporating many of those methods in this program would be overwhelming. Therefore, the RAMP TEST method will be used, as it has a very easy learning curve, can be achieved by all riders and does not require a max effort. This sub-max test is a safe and very effective method to determine your POWER at THRESHOLD. It also makes for an accurate repeated test, so you can compare your training adaptation over time. This will give you a threshold marker that you can create training zones from. First, understand the importance of 'this marker'....
The 'threshold' represents a point at which an effort is of sufficient intensity to begin to produce the effect where your body begins burning primarily sugar for fuel, instead of efficient fat. This 'working threshold' is dynamic, and will increase as your fitness level increases. Meaning, you'll be able to sustain more work, for longer periods of time, if you raise your threshold. Your Threshold Power represents the height of your sustaining aerobic system and cycling efficiency. Once you know this important marker, training below it will assist in aerobic conditioning, training around it will help increase threshold and training above will develop anaerobic conditioning and VO2max. For this reason, training zones will be created surrounding your Threshold Power.
To ensure repeatability, the Ramp Test is best achieved on a trainer.
Warm up easy for about 10 minutes. Throw in a couple of 10 second hard efforts during that 10 minutes. Then perform this Ramp Test:
Begin a RAMP of effort, starting very, very easy and progressively increasing the effort every 3 minutes. Keep your cadence around 80-85 (adjust as needed though) and stay seated during the whole test. Think of a RPE CR-10 Scale, with 1 being the easiest and 10 being the hardest. Begin easy at an effort of 1-2 on the RPE scale. Sustain for 3 minutes. After 3 minutes, change gears or add resistance to the trainer if applicable. The change should move your RPE up the scale to an intensity of 2-3. Again, hold for 3 minutes. Try to keep your cadence consistent, but realize it is normal for it to drop a little with some loads. Continue with the process until you get to a point where you can no longer manage holding on to the effort; a point where the effort causes an effect of losing your ability to sustain the work. At that point, the test is done. Spin the legs out very easy for at least 10 minutes and repeat the test if necessary, otherwise ride all remaining time at an intensity range BELOW Threshold, as defined in the next paragraph.
Make note of that final sustained 3 minute stage, and the average power output and correlating heart rate of that stage. This will be noted as your Threshold Power and Heart Rate for this plan and training zone purposes.
Manually add your threshold power into 'zones' in your Training Peaks account and into your Cycling Computer. For this plan, the Andy Coggan Zone default is used. After your 8 week Intro program, you will be ready to utilize other methods of determining your threshold power and utilize various training zones methods.
Today begins some structured training with the focus on understanding the training zones. This will fine tune your power common sense, by understanding the connection between the work you do and the systems your body uses to perform that work.
After a good warm up, incorporate into your ride the following. Begin in the Zone 1 Training Zone range. This will feel easy and since there is minimal strain on the body, is an active recovery range. Here you are dependent on aerobic metabolism of primarily fat and you would be able to ride here for an indefinite period of time. Hang out in this range for about 5 minutes.
Now move up to Zone 2 and ride in this range for about 5 minutes. Make note of this moderate intensity. Here there is some strain on the body, moreso at the higher end of this range. This workload is dependent on the aerobic metabolism of both fat and carbohydrate and can be held as long as carbohydrate intake is sufficient. You will likely rack up alot of time in this training zone, as this is where you build endurance and stamina while getting those miles of saddle time in.
Spend a few minutes back in Zone 1 and then progress to the Zone 3 range for about 5 minutes. This is a harder intensity zone marked by a sudden increase in breathing rate. This workload begins a slight inflection or rise in
the blood lactate over a resting baseline and a border between aerobic metabolism to a mix of anaerobic and aerobic metabolism. While you will likely feel fatigue when sustaining a tempo at this effort, you will be able to keep the pace moving depending on the availability of stored carbohydrate or glycogen within the body. You may need a recovery day after Zone 3 focused training rides, and will definately need recovery during Zone 3 intervals.
Spend about 5 minutes in Zone 1-2 and then make your way to Zone 4. Torque out this effort for about 3-5 minutes, backing off sooner if needed. This range of intensity is hard, some would say extremely hard, as it is dependent primarilty on the aerobic and anaerobic metabolism of carbohydrate. Known as a race pace, the intensity will cause fatigue, deep breathing and be mentally taxing. While you may be able to sustain this range for 10-30 minutes, duration will be specific to fuel expended, fitness level and how rested your body is from prior training. Recovery between Zone 4 intervals is needed and a recovery day(s) is necessary after focusing on working at this effort.
Repeat any/all of the above as time permits, getting a good understanding of Power Training Zones 1, 2, 3, 4. Your next training will introduce you to Zone 5 and 6.
After a good warm up, progressively make your way from Zone 1 to the high end of Zone 3, over a period of 10minutes. Take your time as you push up the effort, gradually waking up the legs and systems that progressively put out more work. Then progressively make your way back down to Zone 1 for another 10 minute period of time. Now you're ready to work in Zone 5 and 6.
Since Zone 5 is a maximal intensity zone, it's going to feel really, really hard. This workload causes the body to reach its maximal capacity to consume oxygen, increasing VO2max and can be held for about 2-8 minutes, depending upon your fitness level. You will experience alot of fatigue and labored breathing and require long recovery periods between intervals and recovery day(s) afterwards. It is best to be well rested prior to Zone 5 training sessions. For today's session, get an idea as to the strength of your anaerobic system by timing how long you can stay in the Zone 5 range. Do 3-5 efforts, with 3-5 minutes of recovery in between, battling to hang on for the same duration as the first effort.
Afterwards, ride easy for at least 10 minutes and finish the ride experiencing Zone 6. Realize from the start that these will be very short, all out efforts that exceeds the power output associated with VO2 max or a person’s max zone. This intensity will be almost entirely dependent on the anaerobic metabolism of stored ATP, Phosphagens and carbohydrates, lasting 1 second to 2 minutes. NOTE: Heart rate in this zone is not useful as a guide to intensity due to effort. You will experience major fatigue from this effort, and it will likely require movements (jumps, standing, sprints) that place alot of strain on the musculoskeletal system, so only practice if you have a good fitness base. Alot of recovery between efforts and days is required when training at this intensity. Complete 2-5 all out 10-15sec efforts, aiming for Zone 6, with 3-5 minutes of recovery in between. Spend all remaining time riding based on freedom. You now have completed a taste of effort in all training zones, developing your power training zone common sense. Next week structured training with power will begin.