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Power training has been used by professional cyclists for 20 years and has proven very effective. Coaches, exercise physiologists, and cyclists themselves rave about the benefits of power.
Power training is seen by cycling experts as extremely important to efficient fitness training for two reasons: First, the exactness of power measurement allows coaches to unequivocally measure fitness and gauge improvement. Second, many experts have seen power-based training actually work more efficiently than other methods, such as heart rate training.
“Power calculation provides an accurate picture of how efficiently your body is performing. You can compare one ride to another using power as the basis. Within any given ride you can easily evaluate performance based on power. At any point in the ride you can know if you are performing at, below, or above previous best performance. You will see significant improvement in performance when you begin training with power.” Hunter Allen, power training expert
The efficiency, precision, and training advantages of power training are compelling: you get a lot of data that can be used not only to help you become more fit, but also to achieve maximum performance on the bike. Power data is instantaneous and power meters allow you to store in “ride files”. These files can then be analyzed on a computer after the ride. A whole industry of advanced power-analysis software and power-based cycling coaches use ride file data to help cyclists get better at every point of their rides. And while the data and coaching is very effective, some power training concepts are pretty esoteric: terms like “normalized power” and “TSS and IF” are now part of the lexicon of the advanced power-based cyclist. For most cyclists, the advanced stuff is much more than what’s needed to improve fitness while enjoying a bike ride.
Moving any object in opposition to a resistance requires power. For example, moving an automobile forward requires a big engine and a common measurement of the engine’s power is its horsepower. Moving a bicycle forward also requires power.
The unit of bicycle power measurement is the “watt”, the same units used for running electrical appliances. Watts are a measurable, objective quantity. In cycling, the watts expended by the cyclist are directly related to the force applied by the cyclist to move the bike and the speed at which the bike is moving.
It’s simple: the more power you produce and the longer the time you can sustain your power output, the better the cyclist you are and the faster you will go. Of course, there’s a lot more that can be done with power measurement (we’ll get to those things later) but the simple moment-to-moment measurement of your body’s power output tells 90% of the story of your cycling fitness. (What’s the other 10%? Your body weight; the less you weigh, the faster you’ll go for a given amount of power)
For example, let’s suppose two cyclists have the same total weight of rider and bike and are just starting a long hill climb. One of the cyclists is a man of average fitness and can generate about 200 watts for 10 minutes, more or less. The other is a pro cyclist: as it turns out, the pro can generate 400 watts for an hour or more. Not only will the pro climb the hill twice as fast as the other guy, he’ll be able to hold that pace for three times as long!
In order to generate watts on the bike a person must burn body energy (often stored as fat), must have a cardiovascular system that can provide sufficient oxygen to burn fat and circulate nutrients as rapidly as the muscles demand, and must have the physical strength needed to climb the hills and fight the wind. A good cycling fitness program will help improve all three of these dimensions.
There are two main types of training programs in use today that don’t require a power meter. They are “perceived exertion” and “heart rate zones”. There are many variants and combinations of these two.
Perceived exertion is your own, subjective perception of how hard you are working. The main drawback of this type of training is that your perception can be highly variable. The longer you cycle the more fatigued you become and the higher your perception of exertion becomes, even though nothing may have changed! There is something called the “Borg scale” that attempts to quantify your perception of exertion but it often takes years of trial and error to consistently evaluate your perceived rate of exertion.
In the 1990s heart rate monitors became a very popular way to measure cycling fitness. The principle is simple: the harder you work the faster your heart beats. Exercise scientists developed relationships between changes in heart rate and body energy (calories) burned, cardio fitness, and more. The problem is that while all of us have a heart in our body, no two hearts are alike, so the beat-beat-beat of different hearts are difficult to quantify precisely into comparative fitness levels.
Let’s look at what heart rate indicates. Primarily it tells you how hard your heart is pumping. As you put greater and greater strain on your heart by riding faster or using greater force, your heart has to pump faster to provide the oxygen for fat burning and blood flow to support those pumping legs. That would be great if those were the only factors that affected heart rate.
But heart rate is also affected by:
- Air temperature
- Stress in your life
- How rested you are
As your fitness improves, your heart rate often goes down, reflecting the greater efficiency of your cardiovascular system. So sorting out what has affected your heart rate from ride to ride can be difficult to assess. This is not to say that there is no value in heart rate and perceived exertion, but why take the ambiguous route when watts tells you the real story, the whole story in one little number?
PowerPod and AeroPod power meters work with Velocomp’s PowerHouse Bike app to give you great rides and significant fitness and cycling improvement.
So why doesn’t everyone use power measurement for cycling training? Every power-based training program requires the use of a power meter. Traditional power meters have been around for many years and generally perform as advertised. However, their designs create some significant barriers for most cyclists:
- Traditional power meters can cost $1000 or more
- They require special wheels and hubs, crank, or pedals
- They weigh several hundred grams or more
- They are inconvenient to move from bike to bike
So, despite the compelling benefits of power, widespread adoption of power-based fitness training has not occurred: the missing links have been an affordable, easy-to-install and easy-to-use power meter, and simple, easy-to-do workouts that are based on power measurement.
PowerPod, AeroPod and the PowerHouse Bike app fill-in these missing links. PowerHouse includes a fitness test that measures your current level of fitness, provides a customized program to improve your fitness – a program that you can follow on-screen as you cycle.
The amount of power you expend at each instant of a bike ride is dependent on the speed at which you travel and the force you apply to the pedal.
Conventional power meters measure directly the amount of force you APPLY to the pedal. Power meters that measure applied forces are difficult to make, expensive, heavy, and not very flexible.
Velocomp power meters directly the forces that OPPOSE your forward motion: wind, hills, acceleration, and friction. Measurement of opposing forces is much more economical to accomplish and, thanks to Newton’s Third Law:
Applied forces = opposing forces
PowerPod provides a very precise measurement of forces required in the power equation, without all the limitations and cost of conventional power meters.
Power and Calorie Calculations
In bicycling, the power you expend on a bike is the product of two factors: the force on the pedal and the speed of the bike:
P= F x S
where F is the force on the pedals and S is the speed of the bike. By choosing the proper units of F and S, power will be measured in “watts”.
Power is a quantity that varies from instant to instant. For example, if you’re cycling hard at 20 mph and applying lots of force to the pedals you might be producing 300 watts (300W) of power. But, the instant you stop applying force to the pedals, F = 0 and your power drops instantly to zero. So, power can vary considerably throughout a ride and, in fact, even during a single rotation of the pedal crank. That’s why power curves look so jagged.
An important and related measurement to power is “work”. Work is the amount of power you apply at each instant of during ride, multiplied by the time you apply that power, and that product summed up over the entire length of the ride.
Imagine it were possible to pedal with an absolutely smooth pedal stroke, for the entire length of the ride, so that there was no second-to-second variation in power. Then, the amount of work done in the ride would be
W = P xT
where W is the work (in kilojoules) done during the ride, P is the (constant) power expended during the ride, and T is the time length of the ride.
Work and Calories
The work done on a ride is the “output” of the cyclist’s legs and is measured in kilojoules (KJ). If the body is like an engine, then the legs are the pistons, driving the pedals.
Where does the fuel come from to cause the legs to pump? From food, of course; the body must burn food energy and stored fat in order to cause the legs to move the pedals.
Food has energy content and the amount of the energy contained in food is measured in calories. There is a simple conversion factor for converting work energy, measured in kilojoules, into food energy, measured in kilo-calories (Kcal, or most often just calories):
1Kcal = 4.18 KJ, generally expressed as
1 calorie of work = 4.18 KJ
Now, the food that we eat is converted into the force that moves the pedals. The body “burns” the food to cause the pedals to move, but the “combustion” process is not 100% efficient; in fact, it takes about 4 calories of food energy to produce 1 calorie of work energy at the legs. Said in another way, the body converts food energy into work energy with a 25% efficiency. To convert food calories into work calories then, the following relationship applies:
4 food calories = 1 work calorie
Finally, (!) we get to the thing we all want to know: HOW MANY CALORIES DID I BURN ON TODAY’S RIDE?:
Food calories burned = 1⁄4 work calories burned = 4.18 KJ work
Food calories burned = 1.05 x KJ work
Remember, PowerPod uses its power measurement capability to determine the KJ work of the ride; therefore, it also provides a very accurate measurement of the calories burned.
Your legs apply force (power) through the left and right crank arms. Every cyclist is different in how each leg applies power as the crank is turned.
PowerPod measures opposing acceleration forces, 800 times per second. If you ride at a 60 cadence (one full crank revolution per second), then every second PowerPod takes 400 force measurements of each leg, providing “high definition”, both-leg precision.
Compare PowerPod’s high definition force measurement to one-leg power meters, which measure the forces produced only by one of your legs (generally the left leg). Your other leg? One-leg power meters are guessing, not measuring…
There are three simple and important dimensions to cycling fitness:
- Strength: the maximum amount of effort your body can expend in short bursts to accelerate the bike in a sprint or climb a short, steep hill at high speed
- Endurance: the ability of your body to work hard for ever-longer periods of time
- Energy: the amount of calories you burn during a ride. The longer you ride and the harder you ride the more energy you will burn
The simplicity and elegance of power measurement is that each dimension of cycling fitness relates to a corresponding power measurement:
- Strength: the maximum power in watts measured by your PowerPod/AeroPod
- Endurance: the average power in watts measured by your PowerPod/AeroPod
- Energy: the calories burned during your ride, measured by your PowerPod/AeroPod
Use your PowerPod with your bike computer to find your maximum watts, average watts, and calories, right from your bike computer screen, for each and every ride!
As you pedal your bike you are producing power (measured in watts) and you are using your body’s energy (measured in calories or kilojoules) to do this. As you pedal your watts will fluctuate a great deal based on changes in pedaling speed, hill slope and even minor changes in the road, wind, etc. You will see these wattage changes almost immediately on the screen of your bike computer. Because of these moment-to-moment fluctuations a good overall measure of your fitness is taken over a period of time, say 10 minutes, when you can get a repeatable reading of average watts.
PowerPod and AeroPod work with the PowerHouse Bike app. PowerHouse includes a fitness test that lasts 20 minutes. At the end of this test PowerHouse reports your Fitness Score, and automatically customizes all PowerHouse plans and workouts to your score.
Of course, measuring your fitness is one thing, but improving your fitness is quite another!
Before we dive in to this question we have to introduce a concept that defines cycling fitness, not just in terms of raw power output but also in terms of body weight.
It’s easy to understand why weight is needed. Imagine a 220-pound cyclist is riding next to another cyclist weighing 110 pounds (for the moment we’ll ignore the weight of their bikes). Suppose they are both riding up a hill at the same pace. Because the first cyclist is twice as heavy as second, twice as much power must be produced to hold the same pace!
Now, if the heavy cyclist could lose a few pounds but hold the same power output the hill climb would be faster. So, weight clearly must be a factor in assessing cycling fitness, especially if you want to go fast! In fact, this is where the important metric of “watts per kilogram” comes in (the original power meter was made in Germany, so metric units are used in many power-based measurements). Let’s say the first cyclist averaged 200 watts during the hill climb, and body weight is 220 pounds. Converting that weight to kilograms we get 100 kg, so the watts per kilogram ratio would be 2.00 (200W / 100KG).
For the second cyclist to hold the same pace, only 100W is required (Why? There only has 1⁄2 the weight to move up the hill!). Note that, if the second cyclist rides up the hill at the slower bike speed of the first cyclist the watts per kilogram ratio is also 2.0.
As you’ll learn once you start riding with your AeroPod/PowerPod, for most cyclists it is EXTREMELY EASY for to produce 100W of power. In fact, when riding next to the first cyclist, the second cyclist is being kind, by holding way back on power output. In fact, if the second cyclist could also produce 200W on the uphill, the Watts/KG ratio would be 4.0 and the pace would be twice as fast!
The conclusion is simple: the higher the ratio of your “watts per kilogram”, the better (and faster) the cyclist you are. In our example the second cyclist is certainly more fit than the first, even through it takes only ½ as much power to climb at the same pace.
Now you know why, in pro races, the climbers all look very small…
If you’re curious, the conversion of pounds to kilograms is very simple:
2.2 pounds = 1.0 kilogram
We know that as your fitness improves, you will be cycling faster, harder, and longer. There are three specific things the body has to do to support this increased effort.
- Efficient Fat Burning – To get the energy your body needs to support an increase in activity, your body must be trained to burn fat more efficiently. This will lead to an increase in your body’s endurance.
- Increased Cardio Capacity – To get energy to the working muscles means your heart has to build strong pumping action and your veins and arteries need to increase their capacity. Your cardiovascular system needs to rise to the challenge that cycling harder and harder demands.
- Build Stronger “Cycling Muscles” – All this efficient energy you are creating is supporting your cycling muscles to produce high levels of power for long periods of time. Building stronger and stronger cycling muscles will allow your body to produce even higher levels of energy that will result in higher wattage output for longer periods of time – to get you over a steep hill or to zoom by your competitors in a race. Obviously, your muscles can only become more powerful if the systems that support those muscles become more powerful – your fat burning increases, your cardiovascular systems becomes stronger, waste removal efficiency increases, etc. So the whole body in concert becomes more powerful.
By looking at your Fitness level score and your w/kg ratio you can zero-in on the fitness improvement strategy that will work best for you:
Average watts measurements of 200 are not unusual. So, if your fitness level is low but your average watts are typical, then concentrating on weight loss is going to be a great way to improve your fitness.
If your body weight is reasonable but your watts are low then concentrating on strength improvement will help improve your fitness.
If you just feel kind of crummy and out of energy, then a cardio approach will help you get your overall fitness up to better levels. Isaac’s power-training workouts can help you lose weight, improve your cardiovascular fitness, and body strength. Based on your fitness score and your fitness objectives you can choose any of these three alternatives for a workout. Depending on your fitness improvement objectives, you’ll probably want to do a cardio workout some days and either fat burning or strength building on the other days. That’s a good way to start.
As is the case with any fitness improvement program, your body will respond favorably to exercise workouts. The trick is to design workouts that are effective, efficient, and fun. PowerPod and AeroPod work with the PowerHouse® Bike app.
PowerHouse Bike includes six different plans, with over 300 different workouts, that let you pick your fitness objective and customize your power training.
The Newton® Power Cycling Computer includes three types of workouts that will improve your overall cycling fitness in a very efficient manner: fat burning (to lose weight and make it easier to go faster); cardio (to improve the efficiency of your cardiovascular system and make it easier to ride for longer periods of time); and strength (to increase the maximum level of effort that you can expend for short durations).
As you get fitter by working on all three components – fat, cardio, and strength – you’ll be able to apply greater force to the pedals, for example, allowing you to take a steep hill with ease. As your leg strength improves, your maximum sustainable watts will improve.
Your endurance will increase, too, and the best measure of endurance is not power but total energy applied, that is, calories. The longer your rides, the more calories you will expend.
Since PowerHouse Bike workouts are based on the result of your fitness test, it is important to be rested and to concentrate on maintaining an all out effort during your fitness test. Though an all-out effort is the goal you’re aiming for in the fitness test, in real life it’s never that easy. Maybe you’ve done your fitness test after a hard day of work, or the day after completing a big bike ride, or maybe you didn’t sleep so well. Obviously, PowerHouse doesn’t know any of this but when you start to do fitness improvement workouts you’ll be able to tell quickly if the recommended workout levels are too easy or too hard for your current level of fitness.
When you are first starting out with a PowerHouse plan program, your workout intensity will be determined strictly from the result of your Fitness Test.
At the end of a good workout you should feel tired but not exhausted, stressed but not severely weakened. If you can barely ride the bike then the workout is too hard. If after the workout you hardly feel as if you’ve been on a bike, then the workout is too easy. For this reason, PowerHouse asks you to rate the perceived effort of each of your workouts. Your rating is fine-tuned to your rating, so that your next ride will be even more precisely customized to your fitness. And after approximately a week of training, you’ll do another fitness test.
Assuming that you follow the recommended schedule of your PowerHouse plan, you will do a Fitness Test about once each two weeks.
And remember: you are helping your body with the PowerHouse workouts, so weigh yourself prior to every fitness test. With any luck you’ll find that you have lost some weight1 Make sure you put the correct body weight into the PowerPod prior to each new test.
Over time, you’ll see that your wattage will go up and your weight will go down. Your watts per kilogram ratio will increase and along with it, your fitness score.
So, by following the PowerHouse workout regimen, your body will be stronger, you’ll have more energy and your weight will drop. How can cycling get better than that?
Fat is a great energy source. Each gram of fat contains 9 Kilocalories of energy, whereas carbs contain 4 Kilocalories of energy per gram. This is why foods high in fat have much more calories.
If your body can use fat as an energy source, you will be using a more efficient fuel . . . and one with a greater supply. For example, a 150 pound male with 10% body fat has enough stored fat to provide 62,000 calories worth of energy. And as you already know by now, you can store a maximum of 1,500 calories of carbohydrates (which at in intense ride can be burned through in as little as two hours). As you get better at optimizing fat as an energy source, you will able to ride at more intense levels while still burning fat. It is possible to have a race type effort still be within the fat burning range.
A common misconception in cycling is that if you want to get faster, you always have to ride fast. While fast intense rides are a crucial part to cycling improvement, the slower fat burning rides can be just as important. Why is this?
When you exercise, blood moves to your muscles. The more intensely you exercise, the faster your heart will pump and the more blood will circulate through your body. Oxygen is carried in the blood and is the energy source for active muscles. When you are riding easy, your body has no problem delivering oxygen to your muscles: you are aerobic (with oxygen).
As your workout intensity goes up, your heart rate will go up. Your muscles are working harder and are demanding more oxygen. The problem is your body cannot process that much oxygen to feed the increased demand. Your muscles start going into an oxygen debt, and you become anaerobic (without oxygen).
So, why is it important for my muscles to have oxygen?
When your muscles have a good supply of oxygen they don’t need to draw energy from other sources (Carbohydrates: that pasta you had last night). They are getting all the energy from stored fat in your body. As the intensity increases, the amount your body can burn from stored fat decreases and the amount of carbohydrate based fuel increases. This means when you go to the gym and ride a very intense one hour spin class, you actually did not burn any fat.
Obviously burning fat is important for weight loss, but it’s also very important for endurance. Fat is a great energy source. Your body wants to burn fat as a fuel, but you have to teach it to do so. This is where the “fat burning” intervals used in the iSlim® plan of the PowerHouse® app come in to play.
The intervals in “fat burning” are all around 50-65% of your PowerHouse Fitness Score. At this level, you will be aerobic (with oxygen) and you will be burning fat. As you do iSlim workouts, you are feeding your body oxygen and telling it that it’s ok to burn fat. You should also notice that as the fitness levels increase, the intensity at which your body can burn fat will also increase. This means that at a higher intensity (and heart rate), you are still delivering oxygen to your muscles and your body is still burning fat. Since you are still storing the carbohydrates in your body for use at a higher intensity, your overall endurance will dramatically increase. You won’t feel like bonking (collapsing) after a 2 hour ride, and you won’t have to constantly be eating on the bike to keep fueling your body.
This table explains how an athlete with optimized aerobic system has an obvious advantage:
|Fat burning Not-Optimized||Fat burning Optimized|
|Calories per hour at HR of 150bpm||650 calories (example)||650 calories (example)|
|% of those calories from fat||35%||65%|
|Calories per hour from carbs||422||227|
Now, your body can store a maximum of 1500 calories in stored carbohydrates. Once this is depleted you will start to burn muscles for fuel and you are well on your way to the dreaded “bonk”. As you can see, in just about 3 hours the cyclist with the fat burning system NOT optimized will be hitting the wall unless they are constantly eating on the bike. The cyclist on the right can ride for about 6 hours before burning through the stored carbohydrates, and more importantly, can eat a couple energy bars during the ride and feel great at the end. Endurance has GREATLY improved.
Many cyclists hop on the bike go out and try to set a new Personal Best every time. Or they might do the same type of ride every ride. When you use PowerHouse Bike app with your PowerPod/AeroPod, you’ll get a different workout on every training ride!
Mixing up your workouts will result in better overall cycling performance, better physical fitness, and more fun on the bike.
PowerPod transmits its power readings during your ride. But PowerPod has internal memory that records much more than your power! You access all this information through Isaac software, in your “.ibr power file”.
Your power file can tell you how you’re fatiguing during intervals of different intensities, which in turn reveals specific areas within your cycling fitness that need attention.
For instance, you might have great average power for five-minute efforts but low power numbers for 30-minute efforts (as a triathlete, you want the opposite scenario). Looking at your ride file in Isaac can save you a tremendous amount of time and energy, by telling you when you’ve done enough work and when it’s time to rest or focus on your swim or run, but if the data never makes it out of the power meter it’s only marginally useful.
No matter how you are using your power – to survive a triathlon, win a race, or complete a long touring ride – you need to manage your power. To manage your power you need to know what power your body is capable of. There is a measurement called Functional Threshold Power, or FTP, which is a measure of the maximum power your body can sustain for one hour.
A triathlete needs to have energy left over after the cycling leg to complete the run so riding at 75% of FTP is about as far as they should push the limit. A racer doesn’t need energy at the end of the race so they can ride closer to 100% of FTP. An endurance ride should run at well below 75%.
PowerPod, working in combination with the PowerHouse® Bike app, has a fitness test lasting 5 or 20 minutes (you get to choose which one you take) that gives you a very good approximation of your Fitness Score (FTP). Your FTP will be reported in watts. So let’s say your FTP is 200 watts. If you are competing in a 20 mile road race (about 1 hour at this wattage), you can ride pretty close to 200 watts for the entire the race. As a triathlete, you’d want to keep your watts to about 150 watts, to allow you to go as fast as possible with enough energy to complete the last leg. Of course, if you a doing a 100 mile tour across country, you’d want to keep your pace at about 120 watts.
So, PowerPod will guide you with how hard you can push!
Speaking of push, you can exceed 100% of FTP (this happens all the time), but whenever you do you’re “burning matches”–that is, reducing your body’s overall capacity to work at anaerobic levels of effort. Some forms of interval training are based on exceeding 100% FTP, but then pulling back to a recovery mode. Pushing your limit but allowing your body to recover is how you get better.
One skill you’ll need to develop which will help you in all your riding is “cruise control” — keeping steady watts. The terrain can change and the wind can change but you should be able to keep a steady watt pace. This means adjusting your speed, cadence, and gearing to keep that steady watt output.
Keep in mind that as you get better your FTP will increase. If you’re training actively, you will want to retest your Fitness Score every four weeks.
If you want to use your power to go faster or stay on the bike longer, you want to minimize the power you use to overcome aerodynamic drag.
AeroPod can measure your aerodynamic drag, technically referred to as CdA (Coefficient of drag x frontal surface area).
The lower your CdA, the less resistance the wind will present to you.So, the trick is to reduce your CdA.
You can spend a fortune on “aero” bike frames, wheels, helmets, and more. But how much good do they do?
Also, your ride position has a HUGE effect on CdA. What’s the best position for you?
Use AeroPod to experiment with your equipment and your ride position. Find out how “aero” you are, and quantify the improvements you can make.
As a cyclist you want to use your power efficiently. Producing a high level of speed with low watt expenditure can husband your energy for a long ride–or the final break-away.
So knowing where you will get the greatest speed for the least amount of energy is very important. Because of its instantaneous response to environmental conditions, the PowerPod/AeroPod, in combination with the AeroPod ConnectIQ app, can show you where the drafting sweet spot is. By varying the location of your bike and maintaining bike speed, watch for the position where your tailwind is greatest–that is your drafting sweet-spot.
Maximizing cycling efficiency while minimizing energy consumption is an important skill for any cyclist. Whether you want to ride for 100 miles or win a 20 mile race, you want your energy to be used for propulsion–not wobbling around the bike! You’ll ride longer or faster if you aren’t wasting your watts.
There are three critical ways watts are wasted: Uneven pedal stroke, excessive motion of the body on the bike, and braking. PowerPod can help you maximize your efficiency in each of these.
Uneven pedal stroke does lots of nasty things: it makes it harder to hold steady watts, it moves your body in unbalanced ways, etc. There is an ideal stroke which maximizes the power at each angle of the stroke. Isaac software will tell you what your ideal pedal stroke looks like and what your actual pedal stroke is like. This will give you the consciousness you need to work on the stroke.
Body motion on the bike is inevitable. As you accelerate your body needs to catch up with the bike. If you don’t hold a line well you’ll have undesirable body and handlebar motion. Isaac software shows you how your body is moving on the bike. Once again, awareness of this motion will help train your body to minimize wasted motion and wasted watts.
Braking on turns, curves, and downhills are necessary but braking on turns and curves can be improved. By knowing how much braking you are doing on turns, you can train yourself to be more efficient and reduce wasted watts.
For many years coaches have taught cyclists that a fast, efficient and productive way to improve cycling fitness is by the use of “intervals.” An interval is really a very simple thing: You simply cycle at a pace that is based on a targeted amount of power output.
In the interval the cyclist holds the target wattage for the prescribed time. At the end of the interval you back off to catch your breath and let your body recover. Both the time that you work hard and the time that you rest are predetermined. Work intervals can last anywhere from a few seconds all the way to ten minutes and more. After each interval there is a rest period and then the work interval is repeated.
Sometimes you’ll hold the same target wattage again in successive intervals and sometimes the interval might be lower or higher in watts or longer or shorter in time. It depends on the workout you’ve selected. A typical workout will consist of seven to twenty intervals and will last about an hour in total length.
A very important difference between power based workouts and old-fashioned cycling workouts is that neither speed nor cadence is key in power based workouts. Instead, what you do is to hold the target wattage for the prescribed work interval.
Let’s see how this works on the road.
If you live in a place that is flat you might need to bicycle at twenty miles and hour or more to hit and hold your target wattage. Conversely, if you live in the hills, climbing a steep hill at seven miles an hour could easily cause you to hit the same target wattage.
PowerHouse Bike app, used with the PowerPod BLE power meter, uses interval workouts. PowerHouse gives you a great training workout, because it will show you how to adjust your pace to keep your watts constant, even when you’re encountering changing hill slope, bike speed, and wind conditions. Using target watts as a guide you’ll be able to improve quickly with the Newton.
The central principle of a PowerHouse workout is pedaling at a rate sufficient to hit and hold a “target wattage” for a specified amount of time. How does PowerHouse determine what your target wattage should be? The answer is determined by the results of your fitness test. The fitness test lasts about twenty minutes, long enough to determine both your body’s overall level of fitness and to determine how much power your body is capable of sustaining for an extended period of time. Exercise scientists and cycling coaches have determined that “intervals” expressed as a percentage of this twenty-minute result (average power) provide an excellent means to safely improve your fitness and to do so in the most productive manner.
An interval is an extremely thing to understand: you pedal with sufficient effort to hit and hold a target wattage. You then hold that target wattage for a specific amount of time—a time interval. After the work interval you rest a bit by backing off your rate of pedaling to rest. Then, you work hard again—another interval. You repeat the pattern of work, rest, work, rest, etc. until the workout is over. That’s all there is to it!