Adapting to Training With Power

July 27, 2008 at 1:42 pm Leave a comment

A little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing sometimes.  Over the last week or two, I’ve come to realize that this maxim holds true even in the area of training and especially training with power.

The reason I say this is that after I got my power meter I did what I always do–I started to read everything I could get my hands on that had to do with training with power.  This, in retrospect, probably wasn’t the best thing I could have done because I think it discouraged me a bit.  

First, there were the power profiles in the Allen & Coggan book which allow you to rate yourself in different areas based on your power:weight ratio for various time periods.  When I started, I realized that despite the fact that I had been training, I wasn’t even registering on many of these scales.  Granted, I think that these scales might be a little inflated (e.g. I have a hard time believing that a non-trained, non-racer of my weight (175) could put out ~1000 watts for 15 seconds, but that’s where that ratio places you in their book), but still it was a little discouraging.

Even more discouraging was the stuff that I read about how it is very difficult to raise one’s power by 10% or more within a season.  I found this discouraging because when I first got my power meter I couldn’t even hold 200 watts for 30 minutes, let alone over the course of an olympic distance (40K) race.  

I realize now a few things:  

First and foremost, two months biking does not make one “trained” on a bike.  Bicycling endurance is built over years and years–not months.  This was present in various things that I read…I just didn’t catch it the first time around.

Second, in order to improve in an area, you have to focus on that area.  My lactate threshold did not start to improve dramatically until I started to focus on it.  I built up a semi-decent base before I started to work on this, so that helped, but I’m hoping that the base I build during the offseason will allow me to push this even higher.

Finally , I realized that the 10% power maxim does not apply when you are a newbie.  In the past month and a half, I’ve raised my 30 minute threshold power over 25%.  Currently, I’m able to hold about 240 watts over a 30 minute period.  I say “about” because when I started I was initially planning on doing a 60 minute time trial, but decided that I wanted to do 30 about 10 minutes in.  The average was 238 for the full 30 minutes, but I held 247 over the last 20 minutes.  For me, these gains are very inspiring because it seems that every time I set out to do a LT session I’m improving the watts I’m able to hold.

My goal is to get myself at or above a 4:1 power:weight ratio for my functional threshold (or 60 minutes).  In order to do this, I’m trying to drop down to 165 pounds (or about 74.8 kg) and get my average power up to 300 watts.  

I realize that this is a huge jump in power, but I believe that I have the ability to do it.  My legs always have been and always will be far and away the most powerful part of my body.  I squatted 400 pounds as a freshman in high school and have been able to walk into gyms without having touched a weight in years and been able to sets on the leg press machine with 700+ pounds.  I’m not positive, but I’d venture to say that the vast majority of age-groupers (or even road racers) out there can’t say that.  What this means for me is that it’s not simply a matter of building more power in my legs…it’s a matter of adapting that power to powering a bike.

Even though I have four races (yes, I added another sprint) in between now and the end of my season, I’m really looking forward to the offseason because I plan on starting next season as a very strong cyclist.  I’ve come to accept the fact that I’ll probably never be a great runner…it’s just not my body type.  So, if I’m going to be competitive, I need to put up some great bike legs and then be decent on the run.  

Here’s to hoping.  42 hours to go until the bar exam…ugh.

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All things eventually come to an end 24 hours to go…

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