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!

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?

Image result for dont panic

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

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

Five Minute Fixes!

Some days are complex; Mounting Tubeless Tires, manipulating .gpx files, pairing Ant+ devices and the like can soak up hours! So here are five easy fixes that you apply in five minutes or less

  1. Squeaky Cleats: do you have new or old cleats and do they squeak? A quick squirt of Pam and a wipe down will remove that in a flash! Remember to wipe of any excess before attempting to walk or you could be mistaken for being a rejected try-out for the escapades
  2. Split Tire Wall: a tire boot is the best course of action, but you can usually fix it with an empty gel or bar wrapper or even a dollar bill folded up, it’s not perfect but it will get you home!
  3. Brakes Rubbing or wheel feels out of alignment: did you have your bike on a stand and then mount a wheel? With the bike on the floor undo and redo your Skewer to make sure it’s seated properly in the dropout. You could spend 30 minutes realigning everything and then find out it was all for naught!
  4. Did you tire mysteriously go soft over night; did you have a flat on the last ride and use a Co2 to re-inflate your tire on the side of the road? The issue some is weird scientific thing where the rubber attracts the Co2 molecules more than good ol’ fashioned air “02” molecules! When you get home deflate your tire and use a pump to re-inflate.
  5. Forget to stop your Garmin; did you crush that KOM and then load your bike in the car and drive home only to ruin your file! Pay a visit to fitfiles.com and you can edit your file and reupload to Garmin, Strava and so on with the correct data!

In other news:

Watts Up Training has partnered with the Nosco Ride to provide signed up riders a discounted FTP test and a discount on a 10 Session Pass.

In preparation of the event have created a 5 week hill climbing specific training block that leads into the weekend of the Nosco ride on November 3rd.

Per our normal format we will break the week into two distinct work loads. Monday and Tuesday will focus on Threshold efforts and Wednesday and Thursday on longer Tempo based intervals.

You may not be a grimpeur yet but you will be by the time November rolls around 

The five-week block starts with a FTP test on September 29th and the classes start on Monday the 30th

While these will have a focus on hill climbing if you’re training for Ironman Arizona they will certainly help with those 112 miles!

Four Things to Know about training with Power!

A long time ago I was told that I should learn something new everyday! As Monday was a holiday and today is Thursday I have a bit of catching up to do so here are Four things your should know about training with Power!

When you are training with power it can get complex and it can get complex fast. It’s a bit like an onion where you can find yourself peeling back more and more layers. For this week’s Newsletter we wanted to roll back one or two layers and hopefully not reduce you to tears!

If you want the TL/DR Version skip to the end. If you’re interested in more details, here we go…

#1 What is Functional Threshold Power (FTP)?
 “FTP is the highest power that a rider can maintain in quasi steady-state without fatiguing. When power exceeds FTP, fatigue will occur much sooner (generally after approximately one hour in a well-trained cyclist), whereas power just below FTP can be maintained much longer.” (Training and Racing with a Power Meter (3rd Edition 2019), Allen, Coggam, McGregor)

In simple terms it is the consistent level of intensity can you ride at for 60 minutes. 

#2 Training Zones 
A big benefit of knowing your FTP is that it allows you to set your Training Zones. Having the right Zones set up ensures that your training is:

  • Effective; successful in producing a desired or intended result and 
  • Efficient; achieving maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort or expense.

We’re all busy people so using our time in the most productive manner to get the desired result is a no brainer!

There are several Zone scales that can be used but for the sake of simplicity Watts Up uses the following one:

Zone 1 Active Recovery <55% FTP
Zone 2 Endurance 56 – 75% FTP
Zone 3 Tempo 76 – 90% FTP
Zone 4 Threshold 91 – 105% FTP
Zone 5 VO2 Max 106 – 120% FTP
Zone 6 Anaerobic Capacity >121% FTP
Zone 7 Neuromuscular Power FTP >

Having your Zones set up in your Device (Garmin, Wahoo, Suunto etc.) and Software (Training Peaks, Garmin Connect, Golden Cheetah, Strava etc) ensures that:

  1. When you are riding you can see what you are doing. (In a future Newsletter we will have some suggestion on screens on your Device).
  2. Your post ride analysis is correct. Did you blow up during a race; did you get spat out the back on a group ride or did you end up in with the common triathlete result of Swim-(over)Bike-Walk?

#3 Training in Zones
Knowing your Zones also allows you to train in the correct Zones. Watts Up structured sessions are primarily in Zones 3, 4 and 5. 

  • Monday/Tuesdays are Zones 4 and 5. These days focus on shorter harder efforts at or above Threshold
  • Wednesday/Thursday are Zones 3 and 4. These days focus on longer easier (easier is relative) just below or at Threshold

There’s no point coming to class for a Zone 1 Recovery Ride or Zone 2 Endurance Ride. These can be completed at home on the Trainer or on a Group Ride. 

Overall knowing your Zones and the having the ability to operate within them is key in ensuring that you are doing what you should be doing when you should be doing it. It also provides you a consistent framework to understand what went right and wrong when you are off the bike!

#4 Scheduling your Training 
Having two structured sessions across the week has multiple benefits. It allows Cyclists a recovery or endurance day and Triathletes the ability to have a run and/or swim in between. It also gives everyone the flexibility to mix and match their Watts Up sessions and fit them into their existing Training Plan…or life in general! 

  • An example of the best schedule is: Monday morning and Wednesday morning. 
  • An example of the worst schedule is: Tuesday night and Wednesday Morning. 

This schedule also allows Watts Up to create training blocks using a Fatigue Training Model. I’ll not get into that in any more detail than to say that the intensity of the workouts tapers through the week, so you do your hardest workouts when you are the most recovered and the easier when you are more fatigued.

So, there you have it, the definition of FTP, Training Zones and Scheduling. Hopefully you got to the end of this and you’re not in tears!

Oh the TL/DR Version…it’s simple “come to class twice a week, get stronger, ride faster”!