Power threshold training, for the purpose of this blog post, is the training done on the bike in order to increase your Functional Threshold Power (FTP). FTP is the maximum sustainable power one can hold for a given amount of time. Increasing your FTP is perhaps the most important thing you can do for your cycling.
An athlete with a higher FTP will be able to hold a faster pace more comfortably than an athlete with a lower FTP. For example, if Tim’s FTP is 225 watts and he’s holding 85% of that power for the bike leg of an IRONMAN, then Bill who weighs the same as Tim and has an FTP of 200 watts must hold a higher percentage of his FTP in order to keep up with Tim. Who’s going to have fresher legs for the marathon run?
Therefore, power threshold training is incredibly vital because this is the only way to increase your FTP. Here are three key points to remember about power threshold training in triathlon:
1. Use a Consistent Benchmark Course
Finding your FTP will prove challenging if you’re performing your field tests on a new and different course or in unwieldy conditions for each assessment. The best way to collect your FTP data is by performing each test on the same course – preferably one with little to no climbing, a loop so that the elevation gain/loss and headwind/tailwind equals out, and of course little to no traffic stops.
Conditions are always unpredictable but as long as the weather isn’t at a new extreme for each time trial then you should have fairly consistent data. If the weather is extreme on the day of your field test, then talk to your coach and try to work something out. It would be more beneficial to move your test to another day in order to keep the benchmark consistent rather than force the schedule and wind up with numbers that are unreliable.
2. Evaluate Heart Rate and Cadence
Heart rate will go up as you increase power. Cadence may also vary depending on how hard you’re working on the bike. When power threshold training, it’s important to note where your heart rate and cadence numbers are depending on each zone.
Your Functional Threshold Heart Rate (FTHR), or your average heart rate during the FTP test time, is unique to each individual. Don’t worry if your FTHR is higher than someone else’s. Your FTHR is dependent on your physiological factors. TriDot automatically evaluates your FTHR and respective heart rate zones based on this data and your TriDot Score.
However, you may want to note the difference in heart rate from the beginning of a workout to the end. Cardiac drift will probably come into effect. This is the natural increase in heart rate, or the “drift” upward, over a period of time with little to no change in pace. In other words, your heart rate will usually need to “catch up” during threshold workouts (or even on easy days) usually within the first 10 to 30 minutes.
You can evaluate whether you’re hitting your actual FTHR by occasionally creating a split after about 10 minutes into a long threshold interval and comparing the difference in average heart rate before and after.
It’s also important to note the difference in cadence you are exhibiting depending on which zone you’re working in. Note the differences your body is naturally gravitating toward between easy and hard zones. The cadence you pedal at to obtain your FTP will most likely be the cadence you want to average on race day.
3. Recover Effectively
Power threshold training will be worthless if you’re not recovered properly. Attempting a new FTP test on dead legs will produce unreliable data. This is another reason it’s great to have a TriDot coach by your side. If recovery isn’t happening the way it should, discuss with your coach alternatives in order to not waste field tests or workouts and bury yourself into a deeper hole.
Moreover, remember that recovery is an active process. It’s on you to make yourself rest when you need to be resting, elevating your legs, eating the right kinds of food, massage, sleep, etc. Most of us are not in a situation where we can do all of these things after every workout every single day, but the more effort you give to active recovery the better off you will be on your power threshold training days.
Knowing your FTP is essential to improving on the bike and power threshold training is the key to increasing this metric. The TriDot System is dedicated to this truth, but you’ll also want to remember to keep your field test course consistent, note differences in heart rate and cadence, and place great value on effective recovery.
TALK WITH TRIDOT:
A number of details go into power threshold training. These are only three key points to remember. What other points would you recommend keeping in mind when power threshold training?
JARED MILAM is a professional triathlete, TriDot coach, and member of the Tri4Him Pro Team. He has 16 years of competitive running experience and 11 years of competitive triathlon experience with a half Iron PR of 3:59 and a full Iron PR of 8:30. Coaching under the TriDot system since 2011, Jared loves working with aspiring triathletes of all ages and performance levels.