FTP…. Only Half the Story!

Cycling it littered with TLAs (3 letter acronyms), of them all FTP is the one that draws cyclists and triathletes focus the most; to improve, to passively love and hate, to pretend to ignore and to generally obsess over! As a reminder FTP or Functional Threshold Power is defined by Andy Coggan as;

“FTP is the highest power that a rider can maintain in a quasi-steady state without fatiguing for approximately one hour. When power exceeds FTP, fatigue will occur much sooner, whereas power just below FTP can be maintained considerably longer”.

A more holistic acronym to pay attention to is W/Kg (watts / kilograms). Put simply W/Kg is you Power to Weight Ratio.

The benefits of reviewing this metric allow you to identify strengths and weaknesses across your Power Profile. Typically, your W/Kg are calculated for the following durations; 20 minutes, 5 minutes, 1 minute and 5 seconds.  A hill climber or triathlete would have more focus on their longer durations vs. a track or crit racer whose focus would be on the shorter durations. Knowing these numbers provides an important insight into your data which you can relate to your cycling discipline and future events.  

From a coaching perspective W/Kg lets coaches compare riders with different body compositions. For example:

Rider 1 who is 120lb with an FTP of 175 has a W/Kg 3.14
Rider 2 who is 175lb with an FTP of 260 has a W/Kg 3.38
Rider 3 who is 220lb with an FTP of 325 FTP W/Kg W/Kg 3.25

There are only three ways in which you can change in your W/kg:

  1. An increase in power output with a constant weight
  2. A decrease in weight with a constant power output
  3. An increase in power output and a decreased weight

There is a priority, depending on the athlete, on which way is the best way. At face value the low hanging fruit is to lose weight however particularly lean athletes should be cautioned as a loss in weight can also result in a loss in power. An alternative is to improve muscular strength, not through more cycling, but by focused gym/weight work  

An increase in lean muscle and reduction in body fat will improve your strength to weight ratio. A tertiary benefit is the increase in water retention. Muscles retain 7X the volume of water compared to fat. This is a huge number when you factor in that a 3% loss in weight due to dehydration can have an 8% loss in performance! If you have ever weighed yourself before a long ride and then weighed yourself when you have finished, you may have seen that number change significantly.

To continue with our rider examples

Rider 1 who is 120lb would drop to 116.4lbs a 3.6lb loss
Rider 2 who is 175lb would drop to 119.7lbs a 5.3lb loss
Rider 3 who is 220lb would drop to 213.4lbs a 6.6lb loss

This is something that is easily done on a 3-4 hour ride in June and is why Tour de France riders get through two bidons an hour!

These change in your body’s composition also has additional cellular adaptations. As you improve your Power Profile through sprints, intervals, hill repeats and strength training you’re also changing the way your body consumes oxygen and processes lactate.  Your uptake of oxygen also known as VO2Max increases as you build strength and aerobic capacity. This increase lets you hold a VO2 effort for longer…or put another way, go harder for longer! Now you see why we sprinkle in those 125 and 150% FTP efforts!

So you may ask how does this translate to the road…literally? Well, if your focus is on flat Time Trials, then FTP should be your metric of choice.  If you are riding anything that goes up or down using W/Kg allows you to highlight your strengths and identify your weaknesses over a complete Power Profile vs. a static pin on the Profile and lets you compare yourself to others on an apples to apples basis

FTP is really on part of the equation and only tells half the story. Using W/kg normalizes different athletes’ sizes and strengths. It provides an outline of the athlete, a charcoal sketch if you like…

Looks a bit sketchy!

If you’re looking for more detail with color, texture and depth that really creates a complete picture then W/Kg should be your metric of choice!

The full picture!

Hello Off Season!

With Ironman Arizona and Cozumel behind us you have probably started your off season.

The weather on Thanksgiving and the following weeks and weekends in Westlake Village and surround seems determined to reinforce that!

While typically it seems a bit of an anathema, when you look out the window and see clear blue skies and dry roads, such as we (usually) have in Southern California! Having an off season is important. We are firm believers that you need to have some downtime. Adaptation and improvement are not linear and mentally and physically you need to switch off. Having an off season allows you to:

  • Reflect; how did things go on the last race, the season or year?
  • Recharge; your batteries both mentally and physically
  • Regenerate; spend some time fixing that nagging niggle
  • Restock; spend some time with the family and add some deposits into the goodwill bank
  • Road Map; what’s next? Plan out your next season!

How long does an off season last, well that depends on you, if you have been putting in 15 hour training weeks you may want to take a month off. If your training is significantly less a smaller amount of time may be needed. It’s important to listen to your mind and body. If you’re raring to go, you’re probably good to go. Whereas, and we all do, have days when we really don’t feel like it and they are becoming the norm then you’re probably not ready. The truth probably is somewhere in between!

However, while the sharpest of knives goes dull at some point you don’t want to neglect things completely. You can easily find your trying to ramp up too quickly when you start again or not having enough runway for your next event. As you can see it’s a fine balance!

One thing to bear in mind is that the off season is exactly that a season and like all seasons they change. But what should off season look like? There are plenty of schools of thought and suggestions on this, but here are three we like;

  1. 3 Steps to Starting your Off-Season Training
  2. Two Concepts to Guide Your Off-season Training
  3. Off Season Maintenance

One thing that they all agree on (and so do we) is that it’s not a good idea to go “cold Turkey”…well apart from, perhaps, the day after Thanksgiving!

Our suggestion is to reduce your overall volume but retain some intensity. Several workouts that address Zone 2/Endurance and one hard Zone 3/Tempo with a little Zone 4/Threshold work during the week will keep you ticking over until you start training in earnest.  

2020’s Season will come around fast once we get through the Holidays. Here are a few events you may have on your radar…the furthest of which is distant 26 weeks away and the closest a short 62 days!

  • 0-70 days
    • The Rock Cobbler
  • 71-100 days
    • The Desert Tri
    • The Solvang Century
    • Redlands Strada Rossa
    • Malibu Gran Fondo
  • 101-130 days
    • Oceanside 70.3
    • The Mulholland Challenge
  • 130 – 160 days
    • Belgian Waffle Ride
  • 160-190 days
    • Orange County Tri

Whatever your plans for 2020 we hope we see you soon!

The Wind Tunnel

Winter is here! Finally, well, at least for this week! It makes the mornings and evenings cold. Stripping down to your lycra glad self and planting yourself in front of a gale blowing fan, may seem counter intuitive and it probably is for the first 5 minutes!

The reality is our bodies are not very efficient! We would all like to think with our laser like focus our best efforts are pouring power into the pedals. Unfortunately, this is not the case! The reality is that our bodies are turning 75% of the output into heat and only 25% into the pedals!

The body controls our temperature and in the case of cycling heat is dissipated though the evaporation; sweating. Outside we have the benefit of moving which obviously creates a breeze. Clearly inside, this is not the case!

We’ve all seen sweat on the mat under our bikes. Some people view this pool of water as a badge of honor. What they fail to realize is that overheating like this is potentially impacting our workout. Your body is working overtime to cool down, you’re becoming dehydrated and you are pouring corrosive, salty, sweat on delicate bike parts!

Just no!

To compensate for the lack of movement we use fans…oh boy do we!

We have 4 Vornado Heavy Duty Shop Fans and 2 Large Circulator Fans. Combined these are moving nearly 4000 cubic feet a minute. To put that into perspective there are 1600 cubic feet in a room that is 10’x20’ with a 9’ ceiling, which happens to be a pretty close facsimile of our space. So, in summary we’re moving twice the volume of air every minute!

Now I have completely spaced you out! What does this really mean?

The bottom line is with this controlled environment we are allowing you to maximize the benefit of your workout by letting your body effectively evaporate the sweat!

That’s not to say you’re not working, trust me you are!

Leveling Up!

We’re back and have leveled up!

No, I am not referring to our Pokemon Go status…although I may have added a Shiny Melotic to my deck!

After 10 days in Hawaii chasing around after some amazing Ironman athletes in Kona we zipped down to the Elite Athlete Training Center in Chula Vista. We were there for a combined USA Cycling/Training Peaks four-day immersion into the world of Training Peaks and to put the ground work into our Level 2 coaching qualification.

We’re firm believers in constant learning and that having these certifications shows a demonstrable knowledge of the elements that going into being a coach; exercise physiology, workout and training plan design, periodization, teaching handling skills were just a few of the lessons we had.

A week later we took the test and we were delighted to see that we had passed. Passing elevates us into a cadre of 13 Level 2 Coaches within a 50 mile radius of Westlake Village!

We’ve some way to go until we can move up to Level 1, a pre-requisite is 5 years as a Level 2, but now the clock has started ticking! Moving on from here we’re working on our USAC Power Based Coaching Certificate along with the Training Peaks Power Based certification. These combined allow us to further bolsters our knowledge about training with Power Meter which we can directly implement into our training classes at Watts Up. It also underlines our decision to “lead” classes rather than simply set you up and fire and forget and let you work through the workout!

With all that said, we understand that this can be confusing, what is the difference between average power vs normalized power, what are training zones, what are my training zones and how do I find them out and WTF is FTP?

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We’re here to help and to keep it simple!

The bottom line is come train with us; you will get stronger and faster!