Training with a power meter enables you to perform structured and gainful workouts like never before. With great power meters comes great opportunity. An opportunity for you to improve as a cyclist.
Unlike a heart rate monitor, watts are the result of an immediate feedback of your efforts in the saddle, regardless of external factors like wind, slope and fatigue. This means that you can target your racing-efforts and workouts with utmost precision. That also means you should do more structured training. A study from the British Journal of Health Psychology found that you are more than twice as likely to achieve your exercise goals when you follow a detailed plan.
Whatever your goals may be, it’s important to follow a plan that incorporates the right type of workouts. Here are three essential and purposeful types of workouts that you can and should perform to improve your fitness level. The zones described below are based on Dr. Andrew Coggan’s power training zones.
Athletes entering their late base-training should spend more and more days focusing on longer zone 3 and 4 workouts. These workouts are key to building muscle endurance and power. Zone 3 efforts (76-90%) are especially useful on longer endurance rides, where you should challenge yourself to stay in the zone for long periods of time.
People might forget that endurance can be improved by exercising at high intensities too, and Zone 4 (91-105%) is one of the best zones for improving muscular endurance. But it’s not a zone you should spend most of your training in. Incorporate zone 4 workouts in your training like 5×8 minutes or 3×15 minutes to effectively improve your endurance and sustained power.
Working on muscular endurance is ideal for athletes needing to perform for longer than an hour. Triathletes and endurance cyclists can benefit a lot by spending more time in these zones. Performing these efforts outdoors might be challenging due to changing terrain, so try and perform them on long flat roads with little traffic.
The main purpose of working on your anaerobic endurance is to increase the time you can work at an intensity where your body cannot meet its demand for oxygen. It also increases short-term recovery, which is particularly useful in road racing. Working on your anaerobic endurance is HARD. Zone 5 and 6 workouts increases the anaerobic endurance, but they can only be performed for shorter periods of time with 1,5x recovery duration. These types of workouts are ideal for road racers as they simulate the stresses and discomforts during a race, like closing a gap.
Zone 5 efforts are usually 3-8 minutes intended to improve your ability to consume oxygen at a high level of intensity (VO2Max).
Zone 6 is pure suffering as you’re performing far above your lactate threshold. The interval durations are typically between 30s – 3 minutes, depending on what you need to achieve. At this point, a heart-monitor might be pretty useless, as it lags behind the immediate feedback of a power meter. The intervals are simply too short to give you an accurate indication of the effort level.
Working on your sprint power means working at absolute maximum power, the power you produce when you are going all-out on a very short sprint. Zone 7 is called the neuromuscular power because it improves the neural connection between brain and muscles. The neuromuscular system includes all the muscles and nerves in the body. It is directly responsible for the recruitment of muscle fibers and the coordination between your brain and muscles. You train the neuromuscular coordination to get the muscles up and firing at a faster rate.
These drills are very short bursts of maximum effort. Do 8-16 pedal revolutions (count one leg) at high gear and cadence. You really burn some matches on these drills, so be sure to recover for a couple of minutes between each repetition. Repeat until your power averages start to significantly decline.
Working on muscular endurance, anaerobic capacity and sprint power is key to most cyclists who wants to get faster, depending on what type events they race. Long-course triathletes and ultracyclists probably shouldn’t do too much sprinting, while track sprinters generally stay away from too many endurance rides.