What are watts? We explain why you should train with power.
Training with power isn’t anything new in cycling. Pro road cyclists have been using power meters to target their training since the 80s. But only during the last few years have power meters really broken through. Now they're used by amateurs and pros in all disciplines from road to triathlon and mountain bike to BMX.
There are more and more tools to measure power and to analyze it. Power can be measured, for example, in the bike’s rear hub, crank arms or the spider of the cranks. Then the data is sent wirelessly to the watch or cycling computer using ANT+ connection. The standard connection makes it possible to use Suunto Ambit2 or Ambit2 S with any ANT+ compatible power meter.
But what’s the point in training with power? Isn’t perceived exertion, heart rate and speed giving us enough feedback on our performance? The main advantage gained with power meter is precision. The power meter reveals exactly how hard you really work and how much power you produce on the pedals. It is also easy to see progress when analyzing the watts.
Speed and heart rate are only indications of the workload. They are affected by temperature, wind, sleep, hydration and other variables. Another drawback of heart rate is its delayed response to the workload, which is something to consider especially when doing intervals.
The base for training with power is FTP, the cyclist’s functional threshold power. FTP is the training intensity at which lactate begins to accumulate in the athlete's blood. FTP is roughly the power level a cyclist can hold for an hour.
FTP can be calculated using various tests. The simplest – and probably most brutal – being an all out effort for an hour. Ride as hard as you can for 60 minutes and read the average power – that is your FTP. It provides the basis for different power levels. And let's be honest, it also provides a great excuse for a lung busting session on the bike!