Power-Based Training: Where to Begin?

The “Watts up with Power?” ride is likely the slowest group ride you’ll find on Zwift, because it focuses on learning the basics of power based training while riding together on Zwift. Each ride is streamed to Zwift LIVE by ODZ on Facebook, and focuses on teaching specific principles of power-based training. For viewers that are unable to attend live, the teaching is made available for all to review afterwards.

Here is the summary for August 2nd from ride leader Taylor Thomas.

The ultimate reason for training and racing with power is to be able to more effectively and accurately reach your goals. Knowing how to use your meter, how to understand the data it provides, and how best to utilize the software will help you to get the most out of your power meter.

1: Data Collection and FTP

Once you have your new power meter installed, the first step is to simply ride. Familiarize yourself with the data and how to set up and operate your cycling computer. Begin to understand what different wattages feel like in relation to heart rate, cadence and speed.

Next you’ll want to establish your Functional Threshold Power. This will provide the baseline number needed to begin to interpret your data and calculate your training zones.

What is threshold? The word “threshold” gets used a lot, and often serves to further confuse and intimidate riders. Terms like lactate threshold, anaerobic capacity, maximal lactate steady state and onset blood lactate are referencing the same general concept. The important thing to know is that FTP is by definition, “The highest power a rider can maintain in a quasi-steady state for approximately one hour.”

2: Determining FTP

As many definitions and understandings of threshold that exist, there are equally as many approaches to calculating and estimating one’s Functional Threshold Power.

There are several ways to estimate your FTP using your existing data without performing a dedicated field test. Power frequency distribution charts, routine steady power, and normalized power are all methods used to get an idea of your FTP.

More dedicated and complex methods include performing a 1 hour time trial, or calculating your critical power. While these methods enable a deeper understanding of your threshold, they do require more effort and knowhow.

The testing protocol, or “field test” is the linchpin of a sound and accurate FTP. After a series of warm up efforts that prepare the body, perform an all out 20 minute time trial. The average wattage for this effort minus 5% is your approximate FTP. 5% is subtracted due to the fact that “true” threshold is a rider’s maximal effort for 1 hour.

3: Power-Based Training Levels

For athletes to take full advantage of their power meter and their newly established FTP they need to calculate their individualized training levels. The basis for these levels is an athlete’s Functional Threshold Power.

Understand that power levels are not black and white. While they’re based on average power consideration must be given to the type of effort that is performed. The average power may very well be the same for a race and a tempo workout, but due to the surges and variability of a race it will be more physically taxing.

To determine your training levels take the results from your field test and use it to calculate the percent of your FTP for each zone. There are up to seven zones, each of which has a range corresponding to certain percentages of your established FTP.

Once you know your zones you can begin training using specific wattages to hone in on the areas in your fitness that need work.

4: Collect More Data

After you’ve started to understand the data your meter is producing, established your FTP, and calculated your training levels, it’s time to keep riding. Producing more data with each ride will help to provide further insights into your training.

Use the data to apply meaning to your favorite routes, group rides or hill climbs. Beginning to understand what type of power it takes to complete different types of rides will only help to further clarify the data that your meter produces.

Use the continual collection of data to further understand your strengths and weaknesses. This will help you to apply insights from the examination of your ride data to your training.

Taylor Thomas
Taylor Thomashttp://www.thomasendurancecoaching.com
Taylor Thomas is the owner and founder of Thomas Endurance Coaching. He has more than a decade of experience in the bicycle industry as an athlete, coach, race promoter, and team organizer. As a USAC and TrainingPeaks Level 2 Certified coach he's helped athletes at every level prepare for and reach their goals in road, mountain, and cyclocross. Browse his pre-built training plans on TrainingPeaks, or for more information on personal coaching and custom training plans visit www.thomasendurancecoaching.com.
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