Quarq Power Coach Gord Fraser gets you started with Power and the initial step - the Field Test. -
New bikes these days are incredible pieces of engineering. They really are incredibly fun and fast to ride. Many riders are opting to install a power meter and you’re wondering if you should too. Building and monitoring your fitness will prove much easier and more importantly, incredibly fun with today’s technology.
Before beginning to lay the foundation in your house of fitness, your blueprint will need to know just aerobically fit you are. There are a couple of options on finding this initial ceiling height. The first is to visit a lab and undergo a lactate threshold test where the technician will increase the workload while incrementally taking a small blood sample. This method is somewhat accurate, but is expensive and invasive.
The second option, using your new power meter will get you in the neighborhood. Find your favorite stretch of road that is not hindered with any stoppages, preferably on a false flat or shallow climb and hammer out a Field Test effort. The duration will largely depend on your level of fitness. For novice riders, 8-10 minutes will suffice but elite level and pro riders will need a much longer test. It’s not uncommon for top pros requiring up to an hour to get a realistic ceiling value. Whatever the duration, the advantage of a power meter is clear; you’ll have an actual number to quantify your ceiling height.
It’s tempting to procrastinate finding this value until you feel you’re fit enough to record a high number. Maybe your ceiling height is a scene out of the movie Being John Malkovich and that’s perfectly fine. In fact I’d argue the most rewarding aspect of working with power is finding exactly how unfit you are and watch the progress and ceiling rise during your fitness construction.
Here in Tucson, we have a perfect stadium for field testing, Mount Lemmon. Its 4% gradient gives just enough impetus to generate good power while leaving the onus on the athlete to achieve and hold the exertion. If there’s no such terrain in your area, a false flat will work or a flat road ending with a short climb. You will revisit your course throughout the season to gauge fitness gains and monitor progress.
Your average power for this test will yield your initial ceiling value. Perhaps you’ll need a second rep if tactically you felt you erred on the first go round and that’s not uncommon. Many coaches will use your ceiling value to calculate power zones that will define the intensities of interval based training. The earlier you get started using power and building towards a goal event, the longer you can visit progressing intensities of training. Your foundation and walls of your power house will withstand even the harshest of storms.
Most pro athletes will know verbatim their incremental power numbers. They can recite their 1 minute, 2 minute, 5 minute power values both fresh and at the end of long hard training rides. By using your power meter, you too will benefit from the knowledge of where you stand and where you’re building to. Your ceiling needs a value. Go find out how high it stands.
Look for the next article this week, and regular updates to follow.