Always read the instructions

My first instinct is usually to tear open the packaging, switch on/build etc and start playing immediately. In hindsight this may not have been the best approach to power training. But when the instruction manual is this thick, who can blame me?

10906073_10152827627179270_916049177405175111_nI did read the first half of Training with power but my god it’s heavy going. I’m usually all for geekery but this really was too much. Which is why it has taken me six months and a beach holiday to finish the other half. Well, almost finish the other half. Based on the half I bothered to read I’ve been using power to measure two key aspects of my riding for the first half of the year. Measuring training load and tracking improvements in critical power.

The first is pretty straightforward, based on the intensity of a given ride you can plot the training load it creates. This creates a long term improvement in fitness and a short term increase in fatigue. Balancing the two allows you to manage form. Critical power is a compilation of best efforts over every time duration from 1 second out to 4 hours plus. Each ride is plotted against the existing graph so that improvements can be measured.

The foundation to power training is determining functional threshold power (FTP), ideally by performing a threshold test (similar to a 20 minute interval). An hour crit also gives a fair indication though and I’ve been using this to keep an eye on FTP. A 10 mile time trial happens to be pretty similar to British Cycling’s threshold test protocol so I thought I’d complete a specific threshold test to see where I’m at. Enter the Langham 10 course which happens to be on my way home from work. The problem with threshold tests is that you know they are going to be unpleasant, much like 2 x 20s.

https://www.strava.com/activities/326198055

Anyway, the result was a good improvement in FTP and a big step towards my target of a 300 watt 10. Two days later though I went back to Trinity Park and realised that FTP means nothing if you are not training specifically. Dropped again, bugger! Whilst I’m stronger and lighter than last year I’ve clearly neglected core strength and power over short durations.

https://www.strava.com/activities/327580562

A beach holiday gave me the chance to look at my power and fatigue profiles and plot out where I need to improve. I’d mistakenly thought that being stronger this year would see me get round Trinity Park ok. Errrrr no. Not quite! So then, the new focus will be my anaerobic and neuromuscular systems (short duration power, 1 second out to 2-3 minutes). Right now I think I could be outsprinted by just about any Sky clad MAMIL. Not cool. Core strength also needs some work, seems my back is made of jelly. I keep hearing that Pilates is pretty awesome. Maybe I’ll give that a try.

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New toys

I decided a few months ago that heart rate wasn’t quite enough to help me structure my training, especially given the limited time I had available. Since then I’ve been looking down the sides of the sofas and under the seats in the VX for loose change. After a favourable grant from the wedding fund, and negotiation of mutually acceptable interest terms, I was good to go! As I was also planning to change from a compact (50/34) to a pro compact (52/36) Stages wasn’t really the cheaper option despite already having the 6800 crankset. Replacement 6800 chain rings, it seems, are priced at pretty much the discounted price most retailers are selling the complete crankset for. Sneaky Shimano, sneaky! Effectively Shimano’s 110 bcd standard is only helpful to them as manufacturers and not us as consumers.

For the money I also wanted a true 360 degree power reading rather than half a reading doubled (This one could run and run…). I did my research and settled on Power 2 Max as the power meter for me. Unfortunately about a month after they discontinued the classic model range and about a week before the Euro took a dive…..

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Two and a half weeks later, voila! It arrives. Hurrah! The noQ aero chain rings are likely excessive but just look the outer ring, It’s like an aerodynamic ninja throwing star! A Rotor 3D24 (what was the 3D) crankset completes the package. As I’m running Shimano cranks (and more importantly bottom brackets) on both bikes I can swap the power meter (complete with chainrings) from one bike to the other.

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At the moment these are just expensive paperweights until I’ve made sense of this beast. Enter Mr Coggan and the power training bible. It may look heavy going, but it was this or study for my next exam, helpful research based power training, or the regulation of pension schemes and retail investment advice? Tough choice….

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Adding lightness

Krypton Exige

It’s easy to focus on power but I’ve been learning of late that there is far more to cycling than how many watts your legs can put out. Weight is the other obvious area for improvement but I’ve picked out a few others areas to work on in the early part of the year.

Weight wise I’ve managed to shed the aftermath of the obligatory Christmas binge and get back to a respectable 75 kgs. I reckon another two kgs can be lost before the season kicks off properly. ‘Add lightness’ as Colin Chapman once said. Saying that I’ll never be the cycling equivalent of a Lotus 7. A Lotus Exige perhaps….

My flexibility is pretty rubbish so I’ll keep working on stretching exercises and strengthening my core muscle groups to achieve that ever lower body position. I’m still a little too ‘more tea vicar’ for my liking.

Pedalling efficiency was something that Russell at Marginal Gains picked up on during my ramp test. Whilst I’m fairly smooth there are still improvements to be made in using the full pedal stroke. I’ve been doing a lot of sessions on the rollers which have improved this no end. Improving core strength should also help with stability whilst at higher cadences.

Last but by no means least, skills! I found last year that my bunch riding skills were woeful. My cornering was shoddy, I lacked confidence in the bunch and generally wasted energy by braking too much. This one should be the most fun to improve as it will only improve by entering races.