Power 101: Key Workouts using a Power Meter

Computrainer computer on the handle bars of a triathlon bike
September 26, 2016

D3 Staff



In crafting a plan for the upcoming season, identifying your goal races serves as the initial step. Subsequently, planning for proper base, build, taper, and peak phases becomes crucial. Among these phases, the base and build phases hold particular significance. The period ranging from 10 to 6 weeks out from your A priority race marks a pivotal juncture in your training. It's the phase where you transition from the base phase into the build phase. During the base phase, the focus lies on accumulating miles at a more aerobic effort and enhancing endurance. Conversely, the build phase entails introducing more time in the tempo and functional threshold zones. Accurately monitoring your time in these zones is paramount, and this is where your power meter becomes invaluable.

To begin, you'll need to conduct a test to establish your power zones. I advocate for the CP 12, or Critical Power 12 test. This entails a 12-minute steady time trial, yielding CP values for various intervals from 5 seconds to 1 hour. Utilizing this data, you can determine your recovery, endurance, tempo, lactate threshold (LT), VO2 max, and anaerobic capacity power zones. It's imperative to ensure the test is repeatable since you'll want to re-test yourself every 4 to 6 weeks to gauge your progress and adjust your zones accordingly. Armed with this data, you can fine-tune each bike workout to ensure you're spending the right amount of time in the appropriate zones.

Let's start with long-course athletes. Around 10 weeks out from a long-course event (half Ironman or longer), focus shifts towards longer miles on the bike. For a half, your weekend ride should span 60-75 miles, while for an Ironman, aim for 80-100 miles or more. The key here is to incorporate some intensity but keep it moderate. You can gauge the intensity of your ride using the Intensity Factor (IF), aiming for around .65 to .75 for a base-oriented ride. During these rides, strive to maintain a steady pace and allocate most of your time to your endurance wattage zone. You can incorporate some steady intervals, but no more than 20% of your total ride time should be spent in the tempo zone.

As you transition into the build phase approximately 8 weeks out, begin integrating more intensity into your rides, including your long weekly ride. Again, use the IF to monitor your effort, aiming for .75 to .85 at this stage. Incorporate periods of riding at various wattages, gradually increasing the intensity. For short-course athletes, similar principles apply, but adjustments to the numbers are necessary. Long base-oriented miles will be shorter but slightly more intense, with an IF of .7 to .8 on longer rides spanning 50-60 miles.

Approaching race day, simulate the high-intensity demands of a hard 40k time trial approximately 8 weeks out from your goal race. During this phase, aim for a higher IF, ideally ranging from .85 to .95. Design your rides to include hard intervals that replicate the physiological demands of shorter but intense races.

In conclusion, a power meter is an invaluable tool at your disposal. Take the time to familiarize yourself with all its functions to unlock its full potential. By doing so, you'll optimize your training and enhance your performance potential. Power UP!

Coach AJ Johnson is a USAT Certified Coach and can be contacted for personal coaching at AJ@D3Multisport.com.

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