The Advantages of Training and Racing with Power

Looking to go faster in 2007?
The Advantages of Training and Racing with Power

As the 2006 race season comes to a close its time to look back over the year and assess how your season went. Did you meet all of your goals? If not, why not, and if you did how can you get even faster next year. One way to help you get faster on the bike is a power meter and here are some of the advantages of training and racing with power.


Tracking Performance: The old standby of average speed is a very poor judge of changes in fitness. There are too many variables (wind, temperature, hills, cars, lights etc) that make it unable to determine all but the biggest changes in fitness. Power however allows you to track your performance from day to day, week to week, month to month and year to year. For everything else being equal (aerodynamics, conditions etc) a higher power output means a faster bike split. This will help you to adjust your training accordingly, if your numbers are not getting better over a long period of time (ie 6-12 weeks) then you know that your current training program isn�t providing the progression you need and you can make changes. While on a daily basis you will be able to see how your performance stacks up to previous workouts.

Execution of Workouts: Power gives you instantaneous feedback which allows you to quickly adjust your intensity levels to fit the goals of your workouts. Heart rate has a lag in its response time to changes in intensity and you may spend 5+ min of a 10 min interval in the wrong zone before your heart rate accurately reflects your effort level (and depending on your level of fatigue it may never accurately reflect it). While if you train with power you will know right away if your numbers are where they should be. Power is also very useful on the road with climbing. You will see right at the bottom of a hill if your power numbers are at an appropriate level for that hill and the workout you are trying to execute, as opposed to being half way up and realizing that you have gone too hard! You will also be able to judge days that you are too tired to do a specific workout. For example if you have been doing your lactate threshold workouts at 175 watts and in your next workout you are only able to hold 155 watts you know that your body is tired and that it is better to call it a day and recover than force a workout that your body isn�t ready to perform properly.

Makes Indoor Training more Fun: The unfortunate reality for those of us who live in Southern Ontario is a long winter that isn�t always conducive to riding outside. We therefore spend a significant amount of time riding indoors. A power meter instantly turns any regular indoor trainer into a scientific one and gives you feedback on your performance on a daily basis. This provides a great deal of motivation as you know exactly what power you have been able to hold previously and gives you something to shoot for in your next workout.


Proper Pacing: Pacing in races is one of the key aspects of reaching your full potential on race day. Whether it be a sprint tri or an Ironman, pacing is crucial across all race distances. Power gives you the feedback you need to most accurately pace yourself on the bike. Heading out on the bike, be it a triathlon or duathlon your heart rate is going to be high and that makes it hard to use heart rate as a gauge for pacing, while power will tell you right away if its too hard or too easy. Hills are also another great example, you want to ride harder on hills than you do on the flats, but most athletes go too hard on the hills and at the top are forced to sit up and coast for a while to recover. Their power spikes very high on the climb and then drops very quickly once they crest the top. With a power meter you can better control your effort up the hill so you don�t spike as high but at the top, as your watts start fall, you will have the energy to change gears and accelerate and get your speed/power back up and catch the athlete that has attacked the hill and is now recovering. This will be done with a lower total energy cost, and will pay dividends later in the ride and on the run.

Post Race Analysis: One of the biggest features of power is the ability to download it and see what you actually did in a race (and training). Many athletes tend to have a skewed perceived exertion, so they think they are pacing properly, but this is not always the case when you examine their power file. Many athletes have a downward sloping power curve, power starts high and slowly fades over the course of the ride, and this is sub optimal, especially in multi sport races when you need to run well off the bike. Being able to actually see this really helps to hit home the importance of pacing. In terms of goal setting for future races, you can focus on increased power numbers, as this takes away some of the variability that conditions have on your time. So from one year to the next you know that is you held 10watts higher average over the same race course, you had a better ride, but your time may or may not reflect this do to changes in the weather, but by tracking power you are eliminating some variables that are outside of your control.

These are just a few of the benefits that training and racing with power can provide. For those of you who like numbers riding with power is a lot of fun and can help take you to the next level!

Good luck with your training and see you at the races!