Training and racing with a power meter in 2019 with Hunter Allen | EP#184
Hunter Allen, is head coach and founder of Peaks Coaching Group. He is also the co-author (together with Dr. Andrew Coggan and Dr. Stephen McGregor) of arguably the most widely recognised cycling training book in the world: "Training and Racing with a Power Meter". Hunter and colleagues have now released the third edition of this book to keep it up to date with recent developments, and he joins us to discuss training and racing with a power meter in 2019.
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In this Episode you'll learn about:
- What's new about training and racing with a power meter (in general, and the book) in 2019 compared to the previous edition of the book?
- What's in training and racing with a power meter for more beginner cyclists/triathletes and very advanced athletes, respectively?
- How to use power AND heart rate together.
- How to do a proper FTP-test, and where people get it wrong.
- Training strategies, typical weekly structures, workout progressions and more for the cycling part of triathlon training.
Hunter Allen's previous episode
About Hunter Allen
- I'm the co-author of Training and Racing with a Power Meter (along with Andrew Coggan and Stephen McGregor).
- I was also the co-developer of WKO software and co-founder of Training Peaks software.
- I own Peaks Coaching Group, and have been coaching athletes now for over 20 years.
- I've been at the forefront of cycling training with a power metre since we launched Cycling Peaks software - which was the original for Training Peaks WKO back in 2003.
- I sold all my equity out of Training Peaks a couple of years ago so now focus solely on Peaks Coaching Group.
We have 50 coaches now, and we do 6-7 camps around the country and world.
We also coach athletes fall the way from beginners, to riders in the Tour de France, to World Champs, Ironman Kona, etc.
About Training and Racing with a Power Meter
- It's been 10 years since we came out with the second edition, but things haven't changed a tremendous amount since then.
- There have been some key changes, for example some new software (WKO) which means we can create some new metrics, providing advances in power training.
- We also have new power meters which now independently measure left and right.
- We also have a new revised chapter on triathlon and a new training plan for triathletes.
- There's also a new training plan and case study for masters riders (riders over 35-40).
- There's also a bunch of new workouts! Which people also seemed to enjoy having in the appendix.
Beginners to power based training
- The book really is made for all levels, so if you've just bought a power meter or you're thinking about buying one, it's the perfect book for you.
- The first four chapters, into the fifth chapter, are really about 'I just bought a power meter, now what do I do with it?!'
It goes through the steps you have to take in order to use it, and the basic core principles of power training.
E.g. Finding your training zones, what is your FTP, what are your strength and weaknesses, how to go out and do some training using the power meter and analyse the data.
- After using the power meter for a little while, you move onto what to do with all the information.
This is what the next chapters are about - understanding how to analyse this data and build a training plan which means you peak when you want to peak.
- Each chapter builds on itself, taking you through from a beginner.
- For the advanced user, we have some really
Advanced users of power meters
- For the advanced user we have some really good concepts.
- For people who have been using power meters for years will even appreciate these advanced concepts.
- Looking at things like gross power released on the left leg compared to the right leg if you're using a bilateral power meter.
- For the advanced users, WKO4 really allows you to dig deeper.
There are new metrics such as functional reserve capacity which looks at all the work you do above your FTP.
There are also great stuff for left/right pedalling data, and scientific information about stamina.
- We have a mean maximal power curve once we've collected enough data which is a curve of your bests (e.g. best for 5 seconds, 2 minutes, 20 minutes etc).
We then came up with a curve that fits that, called the power duration curve.
It looks at all the points along what you actually did and works out where you could do more, to find the optimal place for you to train.
It looks at the change in the slope of the curve at different areas.
- Stamina is the ability to continually produce power after an hour.
An hour is functional threshold power, but we want to know how fast your power degrades after this.
The faster your power degrades, the lower your stamina is.
If you had no degredation (which is impossible), your stamina would be 100 - as if you never fatigued.
So stamina in this software looks at every hour after your first hour, how much does your power decline and what does that slope look like.
- Most of us are in the 60-80 range.
Someone with incredible stamina, whose power doesn't decrease from 1 hour to 5 hours, they may be in the 87 range.
Testing threshold for different durations
- I really like the normal power profile test, which has stood the test of time and remains valid.
- It is best to do the one minute test first.
This is your anaerobic ability, the ability to go as fast as you can for a short period of time.
This is the greatest when you are fresh so you should do this as soon as you've warmed up.
- Once you've got rid of some of your anaerobic ability, you want to do some sprints.
Short, small ring sprints, and slightly longer big ring sprints, and we then see your neuromuscular power.
In our new book we call this P max.
- Then you do the 5-minute test, which is your VO2max.
This helps us understand how much power can you produce at your VO2max.
- Finally, you then do your FTP test.
- Now the purpose of doing the shorter tests first is partly because you're fresh for those, but also to pre-fatigue you a little for the FTP.
We know an hour is the gold standard for the FTP, but it's hard to do this on a regular basis, so we cut it down to 20 minutes.
- If you do the 20 minutes and don't do at least a 5 minute test before hand, then you're 20 minutes will be really inflated - possibly as much as 10%.
- If you've done the other tests directly before it, the 20 minute test may still need to be reduced by 5% but it's a much more accurate number, closer to what you'll actually be able to maintain for an hour.
- If you just want to do the FTP, at least do the 5 minute test first and then minus 5%, it'll be more accurate than without it.
- The recovery for the testing protocol varies.
You'll need at least 10 minute after the 1 minute, easy pedalling. You want the phospho-creatine system to recover.
I recommend usually 2-3 sprints with 5 minutes between each.
Then 5 minutes between the sprints and the 5 minute interval.
Once you've done the 5 minute interval you're well warmed up and you're probably in a good rhythm, so don't take more than 5 minutes recovery before starting the 20 minute test.
How to use power and heart rate together
- I still think heart rate is an important metric.
It conveys the intensity of your intention - or how hard you're trying.
- If somebody emails me a power file and the wattage goes up to 250 watts and stays there for an hour and then comes down, I don't know if that was their FTP, endurance pace etc.
If they send me the same power file, but I can see their heart rate is 180 and stays there for the entire hour I know they were probably riding at their FTP - they were trying really hard.
- It is also a good indicator of how the body is reacting to the training stimulus.
Power is the training dose and heart rate is the training response.
- If your heart rate isn't coming up well it may indicate fatigue or poor sleep, or generally other things in the environment might be going on.
- There is a metric that you can use called heart rate decoupling which looks at the first half of the ride and the relationship between power and heart rate, and compares this to the relationship during the second half of the ride.
If the number is 20%, this would mean the heart rate has come up 20% in the second half as it relates to power than it did in the first half.
You may still be doing 250 watts for the full hour but in the second half you had to ride with your heart rate much higher to do the same power.
This could indicate fatigue, dehydration, lack of aerobic fitness etc.
- With heart rate decoupling I look at it particularly at the beginning of the season when athletes are building their fitness.
It helps to tell me when they should start training more intensely - when their aerobic base is built enough.
- You can't really use this metric on anything shorter than a 2.5 hour ride, and it's got to include some tempo efforts at 80% - maybe even an hour at tempo.
- When I see the number over 5%, I know the athlete can still gain further aerobic fitness.
- I want it to be less than 10% because I know they're ready for more intervals, they can ride at FTP and do VO2max and anaerobic work.
I still want it down to 5% or less because you're then really maximising your aerobic system.
Cycling training for masters triathletes vs cyclists
- We always focus more on recovery because when we age we don't recover as well.
- Depending on age, we want to consider how many effective workouts you can do a week, and have you got enough time between them to recover.
- I also want to make sure I'm giving them a rest week after 3 weeks, sometimes 2 and sometimes 4.
This is built into the training plan.
- For triathletes, who are training 3 different sports, it's more difficult to ensure they're getting enough rest in.
We will plan the intensity at the start of the week when you're most fresh, and then taper this off throughout the week.
- The acute training load is the training you have done in the past 7 days - it represents your fatigue.
We can adjust that to take into account your fatigue, and we have guidelines in the book on how to do this.
- The constant can be changed directly in Training Peaks so masters athletes can follow the acute training load chart in the same way, but it will now be scaled to their different recovery needs
- During the week I like to do key workouts usually Tuesday, Thursday and weekends as people generally have more time here.
- The type of sessions will depend on the athlete.
For a triathlete it may be about improving their FTP, but for someone else it might be focusing on their sprint.
- There are different times in the season when you do different sorts of workouts to improve your FTP.
- Early on we get a tremendous training benefit from riding just below your FTP.
It's much more doable for a longer period of time and we call it the 'sweet spot'. It's usually 88-95% of FTP.
For this type of workout I'm trying to build up to at least 3 x 20, if not 4 x 20 minutes at sweet spot.
This should be doable, with a little break in between.
- There are times when you need to do intervals at your FTP or above (105%), usually once you've built this nice foundation of sweet spot work.
These are shorter intervals, with 10 minutes minimum at FTP.
This is as you get closer to the athletes peak.
When doing FTP work, we aim for nothing longer than 60 minutes at FTP.
This may be 4 x 10 minutes, or 3 x 15, 3 x 20 minutes etc.
- You can also go and do 60 minutes at FTP, but there's a significant mental component to this.
To build up to this you may need to start at 2 x 15 minutes of sweet spot.
Then go to 2 x 20 minutes, then move to 2 x 30 - you're now doing the 60 minutes.
From there you'd then move on to doing work at your FTP, and then extending to 30-40 minutes (3 x 10 minutes, 4 x 10 minutes, then 3 x 15 minutes).
- I then start to pull it up from the top by doing VO2max work.
This is another place that triathletes sometimes forget about, but it absolutely can improve your FTP.
- We have a guideline in the book that helps us understand when we should stop doing intervals.
If you do 3 x 15 minutes and you do the first in 2:50, the next 2:46, and the third 2:30 - you've failed on the third one which means you really shouldn't have done it, or maybe you should reduce to 3 x 10 minutes.
Science behind power training metrics
- The power duration curve tells us about your individual abilities.
- Early on Dr Coggan and I recognised that classic power training zones don't always fit everybody, especially above FTP.
- If you take VO2max Level 5, it's generally 106-120% of FTP.
For the average this would be doing a 5 minute interval at 115% of FTP.
We found some athletes who can do 150% for 5 minutes - which blows away what we had set with the training levels.
This was a clear indicator that we needed to revise them and look at individual differences between the athletes, and this is where the power duration curve came from.
- From this we were able to start figuring out the differences. Once you got those figured out, then you can start playing with new metrics.
- One metric called functional reserve capacity refers to all the work you can do above FTP.
It includes a bit of VO2max, aerobic ability and neuromuscular power.
There is also stamina involved and P max.
- Power meters and software are both better now so you can see P max more accurately, which is your best wattage for one pedal revolution of left and right legs.
- The individual levels are called 'i levels' in WKO.
- WKO4 is also a one time purchase, rather than a monthly subscription!
Hunter's new book
- To get a copy of Training and Racing with a Power Meter (third edition) signed by all three co-authors, visit shoppeaks.com!
Using the LEOMO Type-R in coaching
- The Type-R is a great new device that measures the motion of your foot angular range, which measures how the foot moves and can look at your dead spots.
It also looks at your leg angular range, as well as your torso and pelvis movement.
- I use this data to help understand where an athletes dead spots are within their pedal stroke.
A lot of athletes don't start producing power soon enough on the stroke - maybe they start producing it at 2:30, rather than 1 o clock on the pedal stroke.
Once we know this we can adjust for it, as well as identify some fit issues.
- From the pelvic and torso data I can see how much rocking is going on - if they're rotating or if their hips are moving back and forth for example.
This helps me then quite that and reduce some of that wasted energy.
- Just bringing awareness to the athlete of these issues can help to change it.
- If we can get an athlete to start producing power earlier, you need to do 5 minute focused practice sessions.
I have the athlete start to visualise and use their intention to drive their knee to the handlebar - trying to hit your knee to it almost.
This gets the intention of hitting on the pedal stroke sooner rather than later.
This could be do during a 2 hour ride with 5 x 5 minute practice sessions incorporated.
- For body movement you can look at the metrics, and through biofeedback you can start to prevent the pelvic rock and rotation and start to stabilise the movement.
Links, resources and contact
Links and resources mentioned
Connect with Hunter Allen
- On his blog - the Hunter Allen Power blog
Connect with host Mikael Eriksson
Hi! I'm your host Mikael,
I am a full-time triathlon coach and an ambitious age-group triathlete. My goal is podium at the Finnish national championships within the next few years.
I first started the website Scientific Triathlon in autumn 2015 as a passion project to share my learnings with a larger triathlon audience. Later on, in early 2017 I started the podcast That Triathlon Show.
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