Power-based training: Where to begin
The first three steps to take when you get a power meter.
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Training with a power meter is not difficult, and certainly anyone can install one on a bike. But actually using the equipment, and especially the software, in the way that they are intended to be used will take some work on your part. Look at it this way: If you were the proud owner of a new Ferrari sports car, would you need to take lessons at the local race car driving school to enjoy it? No, of course not. But doing so would certainly enhance the experience of owning the car. In the same way, you’ll get the most out of owning a power meter when you learn how to take advantage of all the features that it offers.
Power meters give you access to complex information that has the potential to help you reach your goals and achieve your potential in cycling. Such cutting-edge tools have traditionally been reserved for exercise physiologists studying the biomechanics of movement and human physiological limits in a lab. Experimenting with new tech and gear is always fun, but your power meter is more than just a bike geek’s toy—it’s one of the best ways to get to know yourself as cyclist.
Once you have installed the hardware on your bike, start riding with your power meter and downloading the data. Your power meter creates a second-by-second record, or diary, of your ride in graph format. Before you dig into the data, simply get a sense of what different wattage numbers mean in the real world—check out what happens to your power output when you ride in a crosswind, when you take on a particularly long climb or a set of short, difficult hills, and before and after you stop for a drink at the convenience store. Then look at the graph to see how a 300-watt effort affects your heart rate, cadence, and speed. Take note of how hard (or easy) producing a certain power actually feels, both when you do so only briefly and when you attempt to sustain the effort. These associations will help you to better understand your cycling.
Adapted from Training and Racing with a Power Meter, 3rd edition, by Andrew Coggan, Ph.D.; Hunter Allen; and Stephen McGregor, Ph.D.; with permission of VeloPress.