At the end of the day, philosophies come and go, but it’s the results that will endure. Training for improved power levels is the same as improving any other aspect of your sport. You must train specifically for the improvements you desire.
Probably the most frequently offered advice to those wanting to improve their power is to reduce the impact of limiters (VO2, Lactate Threshold, etc.). This again will point riders back to solid heart zone training. Steady State and Tempo heart zone workouts will be the prescription, with some minimum power generation numbers to keep the rider on track. Some groups will make this exercise about power, but if heart zone training helps raise these limiters better than power generation, then the result will be improved power. It doesn’t matter HOW a rider raises those limiters, only matters that they must be increased in order to see higher performance.
The best and most personal illustration of this was a race/event I rode in that required the most power of any race or ride I would ever attempt – the Pittsburgh Dirty Dozen race up the thirteen steepest hills in and around the city of Pittsburgh. Figure 18.1 shows my heart rate responses on the first training rides of each hill compared to my final ride during the race. As a point of reference, my T2 started at around 150 on the first day of training, and ultimately got to about 157 by the time race day came around (three months later).
Manage Training Load
In order to show solid improvement in key metrics (such as limiters), any system of training must have some method to measure training load. If you recall way back in Chapter X, the basic underlying principle of training is Stress and Adptation. Consequently, the training load should be able to measure volume (time), frequency (times/wk) and intensity (how hard you train), so that from one number you can manage your training objectives for increasing, decreasing or simply analyzing your training load in the face of different power results or goals.
Many systems have been developed over the years for measuring training load. Early on, TRIMPS (Training Impulse Score, by Eric Banister) and Heart Zones® (developed by Sally Edwards) were developed to manage and monitor metabolic training load. Later came systems for measuring mechanical training load by both Andrew Coggan (Performance Manager) and then separately and independently one called BikeScore by Philip Skiba, for those working with power meters on their bikes. All of these systems will work if the athlete follows them along with their creator’s recommended training plans and protocols.
However, for Cycling Fusion Power Training, we have selected the Heart Zones® system for measuring metabolic stress, and combined it with the basic periodization principle of Training Specificity in order to improve power. This might seem odd at first, since the Heart Zones® system for measuring training load is metabolic and not derived from any power readings. However, one only has to research advice by most experts in the cycling power field to see the consistent recommendations for doing ‘Lactate Threshold’ training and raising VO2. As discussed in Chapter X, your VO2 and LT are your principle limiters or ‘governors’ to what power generation is available to you, and so this course of action is no surprise.
Since both LT and VO2 are clearly trainable metrics with a heart rate monitor, we can use a much more affordable training tool, easily accessible both indoors and out, to accomplish our power improvement objectives.
Consequently, once we have established our baselines, we will focus first on making improvements to our VO2 and our LT through our heart monitors, and then we will begin to incorporate specific power zone work according to the type of power we wish to improve. Once again, we see that Heart Zones® and Power Training are both needed to work in unison to achieve higher levels of performance.
As a key component of the Heart Zones® system, Sally Edwards has developed the perfect method for measuring your training load from a metabolic perspective. This system simply multiplies the minutes you spent in a given heart rate zone by the number of that zone, until you get above your high threshold or T2, and then additional weighting is added to reflect the additional metabolic stress your body is under when it is above threshold. As simple as it seems, it is still the best way to measure the training load as it relates to stress on the body. Your heart rate is essentially your body’s reflection of the stress that it’s under. It represents your body’s response to the work you are doing.
In Table 18.1 you will see the weighting factor that should be multiplied by the number of minutes a rider spends in each of these respective zones. The total of all points earned in each zone becomes the training load score for a particular ride or workout.
A full discussion of how to use training load points and design a training plan that specifies how much time or percentage of your week’s workout should be spent in each zone is beyond the scope of this book. However, in general, more time is spent in Zones 1 through 3 during the ‘Base Building’ period of training, while Zones 4 and 5 are visited at increasing frequency and volume as the riding or racing season approaches, and a solid aerobic foundation has been well established. This is why we start with heart rate training; we need to be strong enough to spend increasing episodes and volume of time in Zones 4 and 5 as the season progresses.
In fact, there is little doubt that a rider will improve their power until they are strong enough to reach at least Zone 5, and stay there for several minutes at a time. So to begin testing and pushing past a rider’s power baselines right after they are established, he or she may do very little to build an aerobic base, and thus the ability to work out in Zone 5 will be significantly diminished.