If you're just getting started with a power meter, follow these 5 keys to get going fast.
If your a cyclist or triathlete who just purchased a power meter, you’re probably looking to take advantage of the power of “the hive mind”, by asking others who have been training or riding with power how to best use it.
Inevitably, terms like FTP, w/kg, kiloJoules, and TSS are thrown out there, along with a bajillion tests that those new power training (AKA you) “Must do if you want to see results”. Your head is overfilled with all this new information, and perhaps you’re even really overwhelmed.
While all the information is certainly something to be aware of and those giving you these answers mean well, there are actually a few far simpler rules to getting started training and building fitness with a power meter. . . surprisingly, most of them, are super simple.
#1 For the next 20-30 rides or runs, just go
No tests needed. In fact, tests can be counterproductive if you have no idea what different levels of efforts already feel like!
Even if you have been riding for a while, you’ll need to just ride/run and see what numbers correspond to those different effort levels.
I still remember my first 30 rides with a power meter, learning what efforts (not heart rate, or mph) produced what numbers- on both good days and bad.
You’ll learn far more about yourself- your pacing strategies, your abilities, and how to make those numbers work for you- if you just go out, ride/run, and collect the data first, while focusing on learning about yourself and how you like to pace.
#2 Basing Your Training Only Off of FTP is a Sham
Oh, thy holy coveted 20-60 min FTP!
We’re not worthy!
Actually, basing all of your work off of a 20-60 min FTP test is almost like calculating your Marathon time based off of how long it takes you to climb the hill from your house to the grocery store.
Sure, it’s a number and it can tell you your aerobic energy systems work capacity, but it does absolutely nothing to help you understand more about the other 5 parts of performance via energy production and utilization, let alone the other energy systems and their abilities and contributions.
Performance in endurance sport takes far more than aerobic capacity, as all the energy systems work together. There is a huge benefit to training the other energy systems along the way, as it will help the aerobic system perform far better.
Not to mention your ability to move well, which can be addressed with intelligently designed strength training (No, you do not need nor should you do a 1RM test!).
FTP doesn’t give you an idea of your energy systems and how they relate to one another, nor their relative ability to resist fatigue within that given energy system.
You can disagree all you want, but….physiology and sports performance says you’re wrong.
If you’ve read this, and want to send your negative feedback, feel free to email:
Want to learn about the 4 pillars that have to be built in order to see athletic progression?
Watch this Video.
#3 Use Your Power Meter to Improve Your Performance and Get More Efficient
Staying within point #1 above, while going out and “just riding”, do the same ride 1x each week, seeing if you can ride your bike with much smoother power output with fewer spikes.
Forget the numbers.
Does the graph look smoother (without increasing the smoothness through a filter)?
Focusing on just this one aspect of riding, being able to ride smoothly, and you’ll be handsomely rewarded with far better capabilities on the bike, usually much quicker than those who are doing these fancy convoluted FTP based power programs.
This is actually one of the fastest ways to move towards becoming a pro, as the ability to ride smooth no matter the terrain, is a SKILL that needs to be practiced and refined.
Yeah, you’ll need to have some variation in there with some short 5-8 second sprints, and some climbs, but if you focus on just riding smoother, you’ll see fantastic results.
Get more insight as to what Pro’s actually do, in part 2 of my interview with Trevor Connor on my podcast.
#4 Pay a Coach to Teach You How to Corner, Brake, Use Your Gears, Bump, Climb, Sprint, & Ride
Or don’t pay a coach, but pay a highly experienced rider who is able to teach these well.
You can have all the fancy toys and gadgets you want, but if you don’t learn how to actually ride your bike well, it’s an exercise of spinning your wheels in mud, and wasting tons of effort, time, and energy.
Learning how to ride a bike, and how to hold great positions on the bike have a huge impact on your ability to perform. Take a listen to The Strong Savvy Cyclist and Triathletes Podcast episode 59 with Sebastian Weber, where we talk about exactly this.
#5 Learn How to Relax
This has nothing to do with riding with a power meter!
Well, that’s not really true.
You can train with a power meter or any other measuring device, but if you don’t learn how to relax and de-stress, you’ll only be slowing or retarding your own progress.
Iny my nearly 20 years of being in and around endurance sports, I’ve known hundreds of individuals with power meters and tons of other fancy gadgets. And of those, there are a handful that stick out, as they were ALWAYS so stressed about their power numbers and where they were, that they were never able to relax and actually see much progress. . . Despite having top of the line $6,000 compression boots, and doing Yoga 3x a week. . .
Fast is loose, and loose is fast.
Being stressed over your power numbers to the point you’re losing sleep or feeling stressed, is going to keep you from seeing the very progress you’re after.
You cannot out-train poor time management, poor “recovery”. or low amounts of quality sleep.
Power meters can serve a great role in helping you gain fitness or get faster. . . But the key here is the word serve.
Many slave themselves to their power meters by completely forgoing the skills of riding and running and developing the feel needed to quickly adapt and grow on the bike, or the run.
Starting by simply riding, learning what different effort levels mean, and learning the skill of how to ride your bike, or how to run better, will serve you far more, than jumping into the numbers.
Keep it simple, and remember the importance of down-time and doing the things outside of sport, that will help your recover and adapt.