Here are my “3 ways” to make the most out of your new powermeter (originally appeared on , January 2016)

  1. Perform a 20 minute field test to establish a baseline and your wattage based training zones
  2. Open up a TrainingPeaks account
  3. Follow a Power-Based Training Plan

wattage based training zones including sweet spot

# 1 Determining your threshold power with a field test is the most important thing you can do with your new powermeter. A simple 20-minute field test can determine your power at threshold, which is the best starting point for a power-based training plan. Your threshold wattage determines your training zones, pacing, and lets you analyze training data using software such as Training Peaks.

A field test is a real-world, scientifically supported method for cyclists to determine threshold power. Essentially, you ride as hard as you can for 20 minutes, like a time trial. The average wattage from the test is used to determine the rider’s power at threshold.

Ideally, the test is conducted on an uninterrupted stretch of road that will take 20 minutes to complete, like a climb that averages 3-8% or an out-and-back road to avoid wind from the same direction. Pick a course that you can repeat throughout the year to retest your threshold.

Even though this is a full-gas effort, you need to pace yourself. You may feel great for the first few minutes, but the effort will catch up to you. Try to start and finish at the same wattage.

If you hit the lap button on your head unit, you can see your average lap power, once you download your data. On the graph above, you can see the 20-minute field test highlighted. This athlete averaged 350 watts, but they did start off a bit hard, as their power faded 10 watts from start to finish.

Now that you have that 20-minute power, how do you apply that to your Functional Threshold Power (FTP)? Since the test is a 20-minute snapshot for your true 60-minute FTP, you will use 90-95% of your 20-minute power average.

#2 A TrainingPeaks account is the easiest way to plan, track and analyze your training.  Enter your FTP into TrainingPeaks to calculate your training zones and open up a plethora of power based metrics like Training Stress Score, Intensity Factor and Chronic Training Load — all calculated off of your FTP.  You can sign up for a free, basic account, which works well for beginners, or spring for the premium version to get more training analysis features.

#3  Now that you have a power meter, power-based training zones, and a TrainingPeaks account, you can start following a training plan. Because what is the point of buying and using a power meter without a solid plan to reach your goals? It would be like baking without measuring your ingredients —Your cookies may be good, but they won’t make Phil Gaimon’s top-10 list!

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