Using your power data to find the right training approach for you

In this video FasCat coach Isaiah Newkirk, walks us through using your power data to find the right training approach for your upcoming goals through three key steps. Full Transcript with graphics below.

Hello everyone, my name is Isaiah Newkirk and I am a coach here with FasCat coaching. Welcome to the first video of our training video series. These videos are to showcase high level coaching strategies and how you can use these to benefit your own training.

With the 2021 season pretty much here it's the time of year where athletes are coming to us with the big question of “what training approach is right for me?”

While there are plenty of great training plans to guide you out there, including the ones we offer. It's hard to know exactly which one to choose and how to piece them together correctly to set you up for your season. What I’m about to go through, will help you make sure that you have the right training approach for you by using your past data. This is also a great tool for coaches and self coached athletes alike. This is something that I use with each and everyone one of my athletes.

Before we get started I want to make one point. A good coach will always be learning about how particular training stress can either work or not work for individual athletes. I like to think of all my athletes as puzzles, and the goal is to help find the best training approach for both their goals and their athlete makeup, or their strengths or weaknesses.

You might try one approach and then need to pivot to try another, so don’t be afraid to keep a watchful eye on your data and be open to new training stressors and switching gears. There is not always one answer to a problem but data gives us a pretty high level place to start.

WKO is a very good platform to find these data points, but as most athletes use TrainingPeaks I am going to stick to that platform in these examples.

To find the right approach we will go through three key steps.

Learning your schedule and training Volume
Learning who you are as an athlete through
Peak Metrics in two charts
And learning the Demands of your goals

From these three steps the plan comes into play by filling in the holes and allowing you to know what training will be effective and to the point.

There is one key thing to do before diving in. When an athlete comes to me I spend a few hours sorting through data and making sure the data is clean. What I mean by that is removing power spikes and or bad files. So for example, recently an athlete of mine had their power meter go crazy and they set a new FTP of 800watts. This will obviously skew your data in a non accurate way, so you should remove these bad files or clean them up.

Next let's start figuring out who you are as an athlete and get into the three steps.

First volume, look back over the last year to see what your average duration was. This gives us insight into how much time you were able to devote to training. A simple spot to pull this from is in TrainingPeaks in the dashboard “duration by week” chart. Set it to bike and the last period of time you spent building for your event. This will show you your average duration. Now ask yourself if you have more time to give in your current schedule. Be honest with yourself because a one hour ride is more often than not more like a two hour ride all said and done. From this, you can pull what your average training time can be, and should be, in order to make gains on the previous year. The importance of knowing average training time is not because volume is everything, it's for making the best use of the time you do have. For example, if you are an athlete that is training for a 100mile gravel race that will take you 8 hours to complete and you only have 8 hours a week to train, this means you have to get creative with your training as you start to boost out your simulation rides for that event. It’s not impossible, but it means using your training time correctly.

Now we know what volume you have to work with. Let's find what areas you need to focus on. In order to do this we need to get to know who you are as an athlete (so what your strengths and weaknesses are) and then compare that to what your goals are.

First write down your A races or goals, once you have those listed out. Find out what the demands are of those events. If you have done the event in the past then go back through that file and pull out the “key moments” in the race. Look for the biggest demand and biggest sections of raw power. So if your main event is the Leadville mountain bike race, the key demands to pull out are the key climbs, the fact that it's over a long duration, and it’s at altitude. But if it's a criterium it could be that you need to hit 900watts 30 times in a 1 hour duration.

LT100Mountain bike race Criterium example If you have not done the event, then do some digging. With technology nowadays you can find a past athletes activity of a race on Strava, review what rough power they had to do and or look for photo’s/ask athletes who have done the event for intel into what conditions are like. All of these will give you what demands you need to prep yourself for. Finding these is key to success on race day.

Strava for race information Next is step two, Learning who you are as an athlete through Peak metrics in two charts. We learn this by piecing together what is known as your power curve. The first graph is the "Power Profile" chart. There’s a lot here, and ignore where your eye naturally wants to go- the ranking chart on the left. There are better uses of this chart. What this chart does for us is give us basic data points to look at with w/kg included. So if you are an athlete that doesn’t produce high power, but let's say for example your 5min w/kg is pretty good, then this graph will pinpoint that and tell us that this is something that you can use to your advantage and label as a strength.

Power Profile ChartThe second chart is the "Peak Power" chart. This chart I use as a glimpse into the athlete at their best, strictly from a data point of view. By looking at this we can see what your peaks are on a really large scale. So 1second all the way up to three hours and beyond if you want. You can also compare this chart to custom time selections to compare year to year.

Peak Power Chart So after all of this you have in front of you, the time you have to train, the demands of your event or your goal, and your power profile viewed from several lenses through the two charts. Now you are looking for holes in your training by comparing everything and from that can create a plan forward. This is when the puzzle part comes into play. Your volume gives you how much time you have to work with. Who you are as an athlete and your peak metrics tells you your strengths and weaknesses. And the Demands of your goals tells you if you need to continue to work on those strengths or work on the weaknesses. This sounds simple but really dig deep into those three steps and I bet some small things will start to jump out that you need to work on. While I can’t tell you exactly what will work for you, here are a few examples of my athletes that I went through this process with. We will call them athlete 1, 2, and 3.

Athlete 1 : was focusing on time trials but was missing sustained power that matched the power they were looking to compete with. They had been doing regular 10-20min climbs but with the state TT as a goal it was simple to see in their power curve that they were missing these efforts and it would take work to really build that out. So we started by slowly working on control in TT position and pushing out their long range power. Athlete 2 : started working with me recently and he is training for a 1400km A event. Now this is a great example of where his available training volume and long range power profile gave me huge insight in his plan of action. He was actually missing 3-5 hour rides and instead up to that point had either been doing 14 hour rides OR 1-2 hour rides. For him it’s important to focus on consistency in the middle range and be able to make the most of it by staying on the pedals so that his training time transfers really well out to ultra events. Athlete 3 : A professional road racer, she was a threshold monster and crushed TT’s. But the problem is that racing professionally on the road she needed to boost her top end to make the break aways and win races at the top level. Both her Peak Power chart and power profile very clearly showed that she had spent most of her time working on her strengths but was missing the required pop she needed to win. This took a pretty drastic training change but it paid off big time after a couple of months of changing focus. So, let's recap Find your volume to know how much time you have to work with. Figure out who you are as an athlete through your peak metrics to know your strengths and weaknesses. And find the Demands of your goals to know if you need to continue to boost out strengths or work on weaknesses. After you know what holes you need to fill, or what demands you need to focus on, then you can put together the right training approach for you.

Thanks for watching everyone. Let us know what you think in the comments below but I hope this helps you achieve your goals this year. See you next time.

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About Isaiah Newkirk

Isaiah has been coaching for 12+ years and a FasCat Coach for 6. He came to us as a graduate of collegiate cycling powerhouse Marian University competing in Track, Road, and Cross. Isaiah raced Professionally on the Road for years, racing all over the world, and doing iconic US races such as Tour of Utah and Tour of Colorado. Since "retiring" he has shifted focus to doing races to the likes of LT100, Unbound, and other endurance events. Isaiah started coaching in 2008 when he was asked to coach a little 500 team in his home town of Bloomington, IN. Since then coaching has become a passion for Isaiah and he is eager to help any rider achieve their goals and potential. Isaiah has coached athletes to National titles, World Titles, and to the professional ranks. Isaiah is a USA Cycling Level 1 coach, TrainingPeaks Level 1, Certified Skills Instructor, and was a speaker at the USA Cycling Coaching Summit 2020. Isaiah is also director and performance manager for Domestic Elite Team : Project Echelon.

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