Knowing how many watts you're producing on the bike gives you both insight and control during your training and racing. And with power meters and smart trainers becoming more and more affordable, training with power is more practical than ever. The ability to train with power is undoubtedly one of the most beneficial training investments you can make. In this episode, we discuss the intricacies of training with power meters and smart trainers and the tips and tricks to get the most benefit from using power in your bike training.
TriDot Podcast 016:
The Essentials of Bike Training with Power
This is the TriDot Podcast. TriDot uses your training data and genetic profile combined with predictive analytics and artificial intelligence to optimize your training, giving you better results in less time with fewer injuries. Our podcast is here to educate, inspire, and entertain. We'll talk all things triathlon with expert coaches and special guests. Join the conversation and let's improve together.
Andrew: Welcome to the TriDot Podcast. We've got some great stuff for you today. I have a few TriDot coaches with me to give us the ins and outs of using power in our bike training. With me in studio is coach John Mayfield. John has coached literally hundreds of Ironman finishers in his illustrious coaching career. Did you know that most TriDot coaches also have a coach? That man is John Mayfield. He's the coaches coach and one of my favorite people to sit down and talk triathlon with. John, excited to have you on today.
John: Hey Andrew, how are you?
Andrew: I'm good, man. Thanks. Thanks for asking. You know, this is the first time any coach on this show has asked me how I'm doing. It just means the world to me, John.
John: I'm sorry that it hasn't happened before.
Andrew: Yeah, thanks. Next up is coach Jeff Raines. Jeff has a Masters of Science in Exercise Physiology and was a successful D1 Collegiate Runner. He's qualified for the Boston Marathon multiple times and has raced over 120 triathlons from competitive Sprints to full distance Ironmans. Jeff has been coaching runners and triathletes since 2009. Jeff Raines, welcome back to the podcast.
Jeff: We have a powerful podcast today, and I cannot wait to get started.
John: That's terrible.
Andrew: John, can we throw him out of the studio for that?
Andrew: And who am I? I am Andrew, the average triathlete, voice of the people, and the captain of the middle of the pack. Look, today we're going to warm up by brainstorming some good at triathlon relay team names. Then we'll head to our main set convo about training on the bike with a power meter. Lots of good stuff. Let's get to it.
Time to warm up. Let's get moving.
Andrew: If you're not up for a full on all out swim, bike and run, you can still participate in a triathlon. There's a mighty fun option called a relay. And if you've ever been part of a race day relay, you know that half the fun is naming your relay team. Jeff, John, if you were leading a relay team, what would you choose for the team name? Jeff, we'll start with you.
Jeff: I'm going to take a slightly unique approach to this fun question here.
Andrew: Can you tell me about it?
Jeff: I'm actually a triplet. I have a brother and a sister, we're all the same age, we're all very active. My sister is very-- [crosstalk]
Andrew: Like identical? [crosstalk] Look the same kinda triplet?
Jeff: Two boys and a girl so we are fraternal.
John: Y’all are the same age?
Jeff: Yeah, imagine that. And so I always thought it would be amazing if the three of us could do a triathlon relay together.
Andrew: Do your brother and sister race triathlons?
Jeff: My sister does. She's a very successful athlete, endurance athlete. Ran in college, Boston Marathon, has done half and full Ironmans. So, I would-- she would be up for the game.
Andrew: But your brother would take some convincing?
Jeff: A little bit of convincing. He's very athletic but has never done a triathlon. But I thought it would be amazing if the three of us could do a relay together and we tie in-- [crosstalk]
Andrew: And surely with the right team name your brother would have to jump on board.
Jeff: Whoo, yes, if I put a lot of thought to it that would get him in the game. But you know, something to the effect of tri triathlon, triplets tri, I don't know. Our last name is Raines.
Andrew: The Tri Triplets?
Jeff: Tri Triplets, Raines Tri, squared, cubed.
Andrew: Tri Cubed, Raines Cubed?
Jeff: Something to that effect would be really fun, really different, I think.
Andrew: That would be super fun. John, you are not a triplet so a little bit different answer for you. What would be your go-to Team relay name?
John: I am just not creative. I got nothing. I've only done two relays in my entire triathlon career. Both of those, the name was set by Cindy, everyone's favorite at TriDot. So, I was running with her husband and her family a couple times.
Andrew: If you've ever had a question for TriDot support, chances are Cindy was the person who solved your problem and answered your question
John: Exactly. So, I would probably rely on her to solve that problem for me. I would have to go back and ask her again. Or-- [crosstalk]
Andrew: You would send a support ticket to Cindy for your team name?
John: Yeah, I think that would be it.
Andrew: Okay. I think we need to crowdsource this one because I think John, for you, I kinda want to hear what the people think would be a good team name. So, if you're out there and you're listening, we're actually-- Let's do this. A little podcast audible, instead of the cooldown that I had planned, when we get to the cooldown of today's podcast episode, we are going to share some of your triathlon relay team names. So, right now as you're listening, we're going to post on social media and we're gonna throw out on our Facebook, we're gonna throw out on Instagram, “Hey, if you were going to do a team relay with John Mayfield, what would you want the team relay name to be?” And guys, we're going to do this a little bit different. We're going to circle back around, record the cool down later and share some of the team relay names that people suggested. That sound good?
John: This will be great.
On to the main set. Going in 3, 2, 1.
Andrew: Our main set today is brought to you by our friends at Garmin in the fitness and multi-sport market. Garmin products are the gold standard, known for their compelling design, superior quality, and best value. As a triathlete, Garmin can be and should be your very best friend. They offer best in class GPS watches that can track your every swim, bike, and run with ease. When you are out on the bike, Garmin’s Vector Power Pedals can measure those all-important watts, while their edge cycling computers conveniently display all your data in real-time as you ride. You can also bring Garmin into your pain cave with their tax indoor trainers and accessories. I tell everyone who will listen that my tax flux indoor smart trainer is the best investment I have made in my own triathlon training. The best part is, Garmin is fully integrated with TriDot. So, your Garmin Connect and Garmin health data seamlessly streams to TriDot and your training is continually optimized. So, head to Garmin.com and check out all the cool tech they have to offer.
There is no doubt that knowing the amount of watts you are producing can give you more insight into your cycling. And with the quality power meters becoming more and more affordable, a greater number of triathletes are using them in their training. But even once you get a power meter on the bike, sync it to your watch and start riding with that fun little watts number, how can we best leverage tracking our power during our training? Jeff, John, I know both of you guys train with power in your bike sessions. Take me back to the beginning. When did you first get a power meter, and how did it change your training? John?
John: So, mine goes way back. I've been using power for probably 10 plus years.
Andrew: So, you were an early adopter?
John: Yeah. And it's kind of a funny story that I actually remember quite vividly. I was still relatively young in my racing career. I had some money burning a hole in my pocket. And this was back when Coach Boo was still coaching. He was my coach, that was in the early days--
Andrew: Coach Boo being Jeff Booher, Founder of TriDot?
John: Jeff Booher, yeah. And that was kind of how I got into-- [crosstalk]
Andrew: Do you guys call him Coach Boo?
John: Yeah, he was Coach Boo.
Andrew: I gotta bring that out in like our next staff meeting.
John: So, I said, “Hey, Coach Boo, I got this money burning a hole in my pocket. Do I buy a power meter or do I get the sexy race wheels?” And he said, “No question, it's the power meter.” And so I did. So, once I got the power meter, it did change training. Previously, I'd used exclusively heart rate and rate of perceived effort. So, there are several benefits to adding power. So, yeah, the training improved, racing improved, all from integrating that power meter in. So, it was really in making the training better, it made me better. And that's something I've been able to continue throughout my triathlon career. Whereas the race wheels would have been a one time thing. They were worth what they were worth as far as speed and time, and that's all they were ever going to be. And I was able to add those later, so I did get those but it definitely was the right advice to invest in the power meter.
Andrew: Race wheels just look so much better in the post-race pictures, right. Jeff, how about you? When was your introduction to getting a power meter in your training?
Jeff: Well, unlike John, I did not have money just burning a hole in my pocket and I wish that was the case.
John: It’s been a long time since that’s happened. Not since then
Jeff: I've been using power, probably seven to eight years, and I'm a little bit of a unique story. I have been coaching for 10 plus years, actually 11 now and facilities at which I have been a part of, have had power. So, for me, personally, I had always done FTP test. Even in grad school, I did a bunch of VO2 Max testing, blood lactate, kind of ramp testing you using power. But actually owning and having my own power meter because our facility was one of the first in the State of Texas to have full class automated sessions where 10-15 people can get on a, you know, maybe kicker and we automated our workouts using PerfPRO, cool big screen TV and all that cool stuff. So, our facility had power, so I just use that for years and--
Andrew: --Well before all of us could do that in our living rooms. Yeah.
Jeff: Exactly. This is before the new age of Zwift and all that fun stuff. And so my team probably four or five years ago all got together and bought me a Rotor 2INpower Dual Crank-Based Power Meter as a Christmas gift. They all came in, did that and that was the-- [crosstalk]
Andrew: John, have your athletes ever bought you something like that before?
Jeff: Oh, man, it was an amazing surprise. Love the team, love that group. But they all got together and bought me a Rotor, a very high-end power meter. And so that was the first time I had actually owned power-- [crosstalk]
Andrew: What a way to treat your coach.
Jeff: I know. Gosh, I'm indebted to them tremendously. But that's the first time I had it on my bike. Very high-end, very cool, and we'll talk a little bit more about that later and how that works. But then I eventually bought my own Wahoo Kickr and now using the whole Zwift. So, now I own them on my bike and on a smart trainer as well.
Andrew: Well, very cool. So, guys, there are different types of power meters. So, let's just start here. There's the power pedals, there's wheels that have power built into the hubs, there's crank-based systems. Is one of these better for triathletes than the others or is a power meter a power meter?
Jeff: I would say a number of years ago a power meter was not just a power meter. You could argue that crank-based might be a little bit more accurate than hub-based or something like that. I think kind of as an industry rule is that the standard error of estimate or how accurate, you know, actual power being produced versus measured power, there's a differential and there's a lag where there's a little bit of an error. And so it's kind of understood, at least, when power kind of first came out that the furthest away from the crank or from the foot, let's say that the human body, the furthest entity away, would be slightly less accurate. So, if you're measuring power from-- [crosstalk]
Andrew: So, if it’s in the wheel, if it's in the hub of the wheel, that's farther away from your foot than a power pedal?
Jeff: Yes, so power is being produced. And there's a time delay and a power measurement delay versus actual. And so I would say that the industry now has closed that gap. And I'd say that that kind of one and a half to-- 1.5% differential there or less would be kind of considered a more accurate or better kind of new-age power meter. So, now, you could almost argue that a power meter is a power meter because they're that accurate now.
Andrew: So, it's less about one being better than the other and it's more what suits your needs when you're looking to purchase a power meter?
Jeff: Yes. So, kind of to each their own. If you travel a lot and you want access to power, you might want a pedal-based power meter because they're portable. Take them off travel, you know not a lot of space, not a lot of weight-- [crosstalk]
Andrew: Having a road bike and a tri bike that's why I went with a pedal one is so I can switch between the bikes. And no matter which bike I take out, I have the power meter available.
Jeff: Exactly. There's a lot of different ways to measure power, there's a lot of ways to make them more portable and not. So, a lot of it kind of depends on your story. But for now, the industry is getting to a point where those different entities and ways to measure it is becoming more and more accurate.
Andrew: So, John, if someone doesn't have a power meter, and they're interested in making that investment, is there a certain-- brand or type of power meter that you would recommend? And what else do people actually need to get started training with power?
John: So, it really comes back to what Jeff was just saying is find the one that works for you. So, what are your needs? What are your unique circumstances? And the good news is there are lots of options now that really fit everyone. And the price has come down significantly in the past several years. So, it was-- power meters are half what my first power meter cost, which is great. So, it's more affordable for everyone. So, more and more people are using it. That financial barrier has been somewhat removed or at least reduced. So, my recommendation is to do it as soon as possible simply because it really is that powerful of a tool. It’s going to make your training that much better. So, find the one that works for you, what's within your budget, what are your needs, but I would definitely recommend prioritizing that on your list. So, when you have your wish list, Christmas, birthday coming up, whatever, maybe bump that to the top-- [crosstalk]
Andrew: We all know what toy we want next, and so if you-- [crosstalk]
John: Exactly. My recommendation is the power meter. So, from there, it's as simple as getting it set up, adding a power data field to your watch or cycling computer. You'll need to complete a power test and we'll talk about that here in a little bit. But from there, you're basically establishing your training zones and TriDot will take care of the rest, know exactly-- [crosstalk]
Andrew: You buy it, you install it, you sync it to your Garmin, your polar whatever you got, and you're ready to rock and roll.
John: Absolutely. From there, it's just following those prescribed intensities. And it's-- for a long time, I think there's kind of been a mysterious cloud around training with power, racing with power, but it's really not that complicated. And yeah, we'll get you taken care of.
Jeff: I would even add one more little tidbit here in that there are different types of power. meters, right, we addressed that, and we're going to dive I think a little bit more deeper into that. And we've kind of talked about that the industry is now getting more and more accurate versus actual power versus measured power. But the convenience factor is one. So, like we said if you're moving power from device to device, and yes, kind of in this age power is power, power meters are power meters, but I would stress also take it a step further. In whatever method or entity or device type that you use to collect power, I would make sure that strain gauges are what are being used to directly measure that deflection caused by the applied force that you're giving. So, it's an exact measurement, they're much more precise. Strain gauges are kind of the industry leader of being as accurate as possible and delivering consistency through each device. So, you could argue that one device might be .5% different hub-based versus crank-based, but strain gauges are always constant in how they deliver that differential. So, in a month from now, you wouldn't want something to be more percent or not as constant. So, constant power throughout each type of workout, whether it's a stamina or an intensive workout. So, we want that constant, same deliverable standard error of estimate, and strain gauges give that more accurate. So, whatever, one kind of narrow down, do I want to wheel-based hub-based, crank-based? Do I want dual power? Do I want it on the left and right pedal? So, once you kind of find your price point and which one you want, you can do some research amongst brands to see kind of how they're delivering or measuring that power.
Andrew: So, I'm an athlete, I'm looking at different power meters, I'm considering which one I want to buy; I'm on Garmin’s website, I'm on Stages’ website, I'm on whoever, whatever brand I'm looking at, in the description for that power meter, it should say it's a strain-based power meter?
Jeff: Yes. And--
Andrew: Is that what I'm looking for?
Jeff: And some people are like, “Why is this one $600, and this $1,600?” The amount of strain gauges inside the actual apparatus means something as well. So, all that stuff will be in the description. And getting with a coach or even talking with customer service in those brands to have somebody explain a little bit of that, they'll be able to dive much deeper into that. And so that's kind of why there's such a big cost differential there.
Andrew: So, there's some folks out there that have a power meter on their bike, and they have a smart trainer in their pain cave, which Jeff, you said that's the case for you. That's certainly the case for me. And some of those smart trainers also have a power meter built in. So, when we're training indoors, which power meters should we reference; the one on our bike or the one on our smart trainer?
Jeff: Consistency is key. If you have access to both, I like to measure both, collect both compare them. But a lot of it depends on the time of season that you're in. Let's say that it's winter, and you probably aren't going to be riding outside for the next four months, at least. So, automating those workouts is key. And so I would say that your indoor smart trainer would be-- maybe you do your next FTP test on that and use that smart trainer’s readings over the one that's on your bike. But tracking gains and losses is what's key, and being consistent in that method is key. So, once you start getting outside more and maybe as the season starts, you could switch that over and start using your bike’s actual power reading while riding on the smart trainer if you want to kind of start watching heart rate versus power inside of that.
Andrew: Because if I do a lot of my training indoors, which I do. I do a lot of my training on Zwift indoors, keeps me off the roads. On the weekends, I'll go out and ride. But if I'm only looking and for at, and for a long time I did this. And actually, just recently, I've started looking at both because for a long time, I was just looking at the power reading from my tax flux, and not looking at my pedals. And then you go outside to do your assessment, or you go outside on race day and suddenly, you're trying to hold a certain power zone, on the pedals that I'm basing off of my training on the indoor trainer. And that-- so that can lead to you kind of having an inaccurate idea of how many watts you should be holding on race day, right?
Jeff: Yeah, and a lot of it depends on kind of like what you were referring to, the device at which is collecting that data. So, if you don't have like a wearable device, like a watch, or a head unit that collects power from your indoor smart trainer, but when you race, you're going to have to use a different entity, then that would definitely affect the power differential, which you're using. So, let's just say that you have one brand’s highest in crank-based power meter, then you have another brand’s exact same model, right, their version of the other. Well, they could be reading 10 or 15 watts different from brand to brand. They're getting much narrower in that, I guess, bell curve now. But I would say consistency is key, and making sure that the device you're using to collect the power--
Andrew: Is what you're always going to.
Andrew: Okay. No, that's super helpful. I think that's great to hear. So, cyclists and triathletes that train with power, they all know that the watts you can put out is the number that's important. The more watt you put out, the greater the power you produce, and the faster you can go. So, talk to me about what watts actually are. It's more than just a number on your screen, right, John?
John: Yeah. So, wattage is a quantification of your output. It's a quantification of the work that you're doing, the effort that you're putting in. And really, why and how it makes a difference in your training, it's simply a better quantification of that effort level. So, that's what we're doing. We prescribed training as a certain time and a certain intensity. So, our basic levels are perceived effort, which is very subjective, it's hard to quantify. Our next metric is heart rate, which there are a lot of things that can influence heart rate that are outside influences. There's also a delay, heart rate is a delayed response to stimulus. So, it's going to take a certain amount of time for your heart rate to raise to match the intensity level.
Andrew: You start pedaling harder and you start producing more watts and 15-20 seconds later, your heart rates like “Oh, we're working harder,” and it starts rising.
John: It starts to rise, but it may take several minutes for the heart rate to truly match the intensity level that you’re putting out. And in fact, as your fitness increases, it's going to take longer for your heart rate to truly reflect intensity. So, that's one of the advantages of power is its objective, your power is your power. Watts one day are the watts the same and the next day, they're not influenced by all these other things that can influence heart rate, and it's largely instantaneous. So, almost as soon as you begin to increase that output it’s going to be reflected in the wattage that you put out. So, there is no delay, its immediate feedback so you know exactly how hard that you're working and in turn, now you're able to execute your training sessions better and you're able to execute on race day better as well because you have that instant feedback, and that feedback isn't clouded by some of the things that can influence heart rate or even the subjectivity of perceived effort. Even athlete to athlete, your rate of perceived effort can vary on a day to day basis simply by how you're feeling, and things like that. So, it provides that objective, instant feedback that allows you to train and race more effectively.
Andrew: Yeah, on race day you hit a hill, and it's a short hill. You hit a little bit of a headwind and you're working harder, but not quite long enough for your heart rate to spike for you to realize you're working harder. And if you don't have that power meter, you can burn through some candles a little early in a race erase not realize it.
Andrew: Yeah, no that's super-- [crosstalk]
John: And if you're feeling great on race day, you're excited, you're amped up, you’re like maybe you pushed [crosstalk] much harder than you should have. But yeah, that power meter is going to be there, it’s going to tell you when you have that properly prescribed race plan, you know exactly what you need to do, and you simply go execute.
Andrew: And your heart can't fool you. The heart wants what it wants. All right. Selena Gomez reference on the podcast, that's a first.
John: And it won’t be the last.
Andrew: So, guys, when people start looking into training with power, they are bound to come across some folks talking about FTP or your Functional Threshold Power. So, tell me what even is FTP? And is knowing your FTP as important as the cycling world seems to suggest?
Jeff: Well, first of all, everyone has probably seen or heard of FTP, what's your FTP?
Andrew: It's like bragging rights, it's like flexing your how much can you bench?
Jeff: Well, even to refer back to what you just asked John, the more watts the better, yes and no. The more watts you can produce is a good thing. The higher your FTP or the higher your threshold is, essentially the fitter and perceivably or projectedly you could do better on race day. But there's a watt per kilogram of body weight. Someone who's 300 pounds versus someone who's 150 pounds can both score the same amount of watts in an FTP test or more is better and all that. And you could essentially argue, “Oh he averaged 300 watts, good for him. He's way, way, way fast.” But if he's pushing a lot of weight inside of that, then essentially you could argue that the lighter individual is fitter because they're pushing more watts per kilogram of their body weight. And then you could take it even a step further, I know that's not super deep into this actual kind of podcast here. But if there's a big hill, someone who's pushing less weight at the same wattage as somebody who's heavier, would essentially get to the top of the hill sooner or more efficiently with less heart rate-- [crosstalk].
Andrew: Yeah, and people that train on Zwift are going to be familiar with that concept somewhat because on Zwift, it's showing you your power, but it's also showing you your power per kilogram in that 2.1, 3.5, 1.7. Like that number is that ratio and that's kind of generating what your speed is at that power.
Jeff: Exactly, right. So, many people are so caught up in the amount of watts they see someone producing on that screen, but I would argue that more serious cyclists that watt per kilogram number is a tiny little number. On PerfPRO systems, on Zwift, even on the screen next to their name, you can almost barely read it. But that's probably one of the most important numbers if you are comparing yourself to somebody else. Knowing your FTP, your Functional Threshold Power, that is understood as one hour power. It's hard to go out and test and try to kind of see what your FTP is by sitting down and hammering one hour. There's a pacing aspect. A lot of beginners don't know how to pace for a 60-minute hard effort. And so it's kind of understood that the majority are doing either a 15-mile outdoor bike test for time if they don't have access to power, you can still predict your threshold without having power by doing that 15-mile test for time. And then that would-- there are conversions, let's say that would predict your FTP based on that time trial, again, not having access to power. But if you have access to power, most do the 20-minute test. Your threshold is an anaerobic effort for the most part, arguably. And 20 minutes all out, you can use those same conversion factors to predict what your FTP would be. So, the highest attainable watt average achieved attain in that 20 minute time period can be converted out into what your FTP one hour power would be. So, this FTP is used to predict your projected bike split, right, in a given race for a given distance. And this, in turn, plays into your training. It determines how long your long sessions, so the durations of your long sessions need to be. And then the intensity at which those sessions should be performed at can also be derived by utilizing this threshold FTP value.
Andrew: Yeah. John, I've noticed in my TriDot workouts it'll prescribe intervals based on, you know, it’ll tell me hold this amount of watts for this amount of time. My TriDot workout today is called power builder. I've got to do it in a few hours and I'm supposed to hold zone five, one minute of zone five power, so 100, which for me, 190 watts for one minute, and then I get a one-minute little break and then one minute back on. So, we're all familiar with TriDot giving us workouts that say hold this power for this amount of time. So, how are those power zones in our workouts, how is that determined?
John: So, those zones are created as a percentage of that functional threshold power. So, as Jeff mentioned, FTP, Functional Threshold Power, 60 minutes max effort. So, that actually becomes your-- that establishes your threshold power and that is one of the zones, what is your threshold? From there, you have above threshold, and you have below threshold. And training at each one of these different intensities will produce a different training adaptation. So, for example, your Power Builder is a high intensity session.
Andrew: I'm not looking forward to it, John.
John: Oh, they're fun.
Andrew: It's gonna be ugly.
John: You're gonna love it when it's over.
Andrew: Quote, “Fun”. My wife's gonna hear some words coming from the pain cave this evening.
John: Just turn up the fan and turn up the TV, and send the children outside. So, yeah, these sessions are prescribed, again with the intent of producing a specific adaptation, whether it be increasing the threshold, whether it be recovery or stamina, whatever the case may be. So, the intensities are based on a percentage of that functional threshold. But what's important to consider and what was-- is often the collected is adjusting the functional threshold for the environment in which it's done it. So, this is a huge gap in cycling and triathlon. That functional threshold is not a static number. It's often believed to be and often understood to be but it's absolutely not. So, this is something that TriDot adjust for and takes into consideration. So, as temperature, humidity, elevation, all increase, it becomes more difficult to achieve that higher number of power.
Andrew: So, if my FTP, my one hour of power is 186 inside on my trainer, it might not be 186 outside and 80 degrees riding on the actual roads?
John: Right. So, assuming it's 75 degrees in the house, your FTP is 186. What that’s saying is you can maintain 186 watts for 60 minutes. That's the max power you can sustain for 60 minutes if it's 90 degrees and 90% humidity outdoors, you cannot sustain that same amount of power for 60 minutes. And that's often understood. But again, how do you account for that? So-- [crosstalk]
Andrew: And as an athlete, without somebody telling you how to account for that, you're going to go out and guess and your workout may or may not be as helpful as it could be accordingly.
John: Right. So, as I mentioned before, every session is prescribed to achieve a certain desired training adaptation. And if your training intensities are not adjusted or normalized for the environment that you're doing it in, you're not going to achieve the purpose of that session. You may be going harder, you may be going easier, but again, when we have a very specific adaptation that we're looking for, more isn't better, less isn’t better, we're looking to do, again, the right training, right, something that we always say. So, we have that functional threshold, we divide that into zones based on percentages of that functional threshold. But then from there, it's also important to normalize or adjust those zones based on the conditions that the session is going to be in.
So, again, if you're indoors and it's 70 degrees, you're at sea level, you need to accommodate for that. If you're going outdoors, and it's 90 degrees, 90% humidity, and you're at 5,000 feet of elevation, that's going to have a vastly different look to it. Those zones are going to be different based on that environmental factor. So, the great thing is TriDot takes care of all this, all you have to do is pull it up, see what your zone is, see what your target power is for the day. Same thing on race day. As you have those, you have your race execution guide, the elevation of the course is obviously known and that's fixed. So, if you're racing at sea level or at elevation, that's known beforehand. But as the forecast is known, you'll have-- your pacing for the race will be adjusted and then as the forecast gets closer to race day, it will adjust as that forecast becomes more and more accurate. The closer to race day, obviously the more accurate the forecast will be. So, those race execution guidelines will adjust for the forecast. So, again, it's important that you train according to the environment that you're training in, and also very important that you race according to the environment that you're racing in.
Andrew: Yeah. No, that's all super, super cool and something that your average athlete wouldn't be able to do on their own. Jeff, do you have anything to add to that?
Jeff: I do. TriDot does all of these amazing things that John was just mentioning. So, TriDot knows your results in your test. And again, it normalizes that data to accommodate real environmental conditions. And then like John said, it does-- it takes it a step further, and TriDot knows your race, that you're training for; the elevation gains and profiles and weather and all that cool stuff and it normalizes your normalized assessment to make it even more accurate. So, for example, the gap I would say even error in the sport in the coaching world and as being an athlete is that there are formulas. So, let's just throw out an example here. You go do a 20-minute test, and you average 200 watts for 20 minutes. Okay. Well, Google will say, let's take 95% of that 20-minute test, and there's your FTP. Okay.
Andrew: But I know internally, if I'm hanging on for dear life to produce 200 watts for 20 minutes, there's no way I'm holding, so what, 95% of that would be 190 watts. There's no way I could hold 190 watts for an hour if I barely hung on for dear life to do those 200 watts for 20 minutes.
Jeff: For some, absolutely. I would say for most. I'm a decent cyclist. I've put this theory to the test. And so I-- let's just say my test was 200 watts and 95% of it, which is the norm. Everyone out there says okay, take 95% of your 20-minute test and that is your FTP. That is what you should be able to hold for 60 minutes. Well, let's just say I tested at 200 and I typed in 190 and I tried to hold up for 60 minutes, and I'm a pretty strong cyclist I made it 46 or 47 minutes, and I was toast. There was no way I could hold that.
Andrew: So, you still had 25% of that hour left and you were toasted?
Jeff: Yeah, I mean, and so-- [crosstalk]
Andrew: Jeff, thank you for going out and putting that to the test so we all don't have to.
Jeff: And so there's a pacing element, there's a grit factor I call it. Some people just test better at higher intensities and can hold that for longer. And so anyways, how is everyone in the world exactly 95% of that? But anyways, what I like-- let's take it one tiny step further. So, now we know how to guess or somewhat establish somewhat of a true FTP. You do the 20 minutes, you take 95%, that's what you can hold for an hour. But then there are more formulas. So, let's say you're training for a Half Ironman. Half Ironman is a 56-mile bike portion of the race. So, let's just say Google or the kind of the understood rule, let's say, is that okay, we know your FTP, you did your 20-minute test, you took 95% of it. Well, then Google or let's just say the leading rule is for a Half Ironman, you race about 80% of your FTP, for a Half Ironman. That's kind of understood, it's just a go-to, quote, “safe number.”
Andrew: And for some people, that number might work out great. For other people, that number might not work out so great. But I mean, to your point, as an average athlete before I started training with TriDot, that's exactly what you would do. [crosstalk]
Jeff: I did it too. Yeah, as a coach, I would-- [crosstalk]
Andrew: You’re looking for some form of guidance on how should I execute on race day based on my FTP supposedly being this number.
Jeff: Yeah. And then you would take approximately 80% of it and that's a starting point. Okay. So, here's a goal 80% of your FTP is what we're going to at least start to shoot for, for your race. Well, then there's a little bit of guesswork. Okay. Now coaches can narrow this down decently based on athletes they've seen and coached and trends they've seen before. But TriDot takes it a much step further with millions of millions of data files and trends. But what if your course has 5,000 feet of climbing, but someone else's course is flat as a pancake? What if somebody’s 56-mile bike ride is at 100 degrees, whereas another athlete it's at a 40-degree temperature on that day? And so kind of just to take a tiny step further on what John-- [crosstalk]
Andrew: To John's point he said earlier, yeah--
Jeff: Yes. So, TriDot normalizes your data, when you do the test, to establish much more accurate FTP numbers. But then, we don't just apply the 80% rule. We know the course you are trading for, we know how you are projected to do on that race day, and we can prescribe much more accurate race day prescriptions, let's say on will you do better off after swimming holding 78%? And will that yield a better runoff? Maybe you're a strong cyclist and so you can hold 82 and still-- So, there's a little bit of guesswork in that okay, well, not with TriDot but the gap in training is that there's a little bit of guesswork. Okay, you have a hilly course so maybe we add 10 minutes to that race day split, okay, we still have a run off the bike. So, anyways, TriDot normalizes that data and prescribes much, much more accurate and precise FTP numbers.
Andrew: So, with that FTP number, you know, John, you talked about how that helps us establish how we train and what powers we hold in our training sessions. So, my training plan has a couple different types of bike sessions that I've seen, right. There's some bike sessions that are more focused on just zone two power and keeping that lower power amount for a longer duration. There's some stuff that makes me hold zone three and four hard efforts. For different periods of time. And others, like the one I'm not looking forward to tonight, have just excruciating zone five and zone six bursts of power. What is the purpose of some of these very different types of workouts, Jeff?
Jeff: Well, first, I would refer to our power versus stamina podcast. It's invaluable.
Andrew: That was a good one. Yeah.
Jeff: Invaluable information there. It breaks this down.
Andrew: And that was our first episode with Jeff and Jeff, Jeff Raines and TriDot Founder Jeff Booher.
Jeff: The Jeffs.
Andrew: Lots of reasons to go back and listen to that one.
Jeff: Now, I would say that there's a power versus stamina aspect. It depends where you're at in your season. Are you in that kind of pre-season, early season, base phase, some people will call it where we prescribe a lot of developmental strength and power. We want to prescribe a lot of quality, we want to raise your thresholds, get your 5K's as fast as you can. And so we're developing threshold first, so later, we can add safe volume and build stamina around those established thresholds. So, the purpose of these higher intensity workouts are to give a certain adaptation to help hone in on and develop our thresholds, raise our threshold so we can hold percentages of those for longer durations in that stamina phase. So, zone two, arguably in kind of no matter who you are, that aerobic threshold will fall in that kind of lower zone two range. And your anaerobic threshold will fall in that zone four category So, we're going to differentiate between zone two and zone four a lot in how we prescribe our TriDot workouts.
Andrew: So, when an athlete gets a new power meter, and they begin to use it in their training, it's so easy to just hop on the trainer, hop on the road outside, look down at your Garmin, look down at your watch, and see the power number that's being produced and just kind of ride off of that based on what the workout that day is supposed to be. At the point we have a power meter, John, do things like heart rate and average speed still matter or are we really just looking at those watts in our sessions?
John: So, I would say that heart rate is still an important metric to pay attention to. Speed, not as much. Speed is largely irrelevant. It is what it is on race day. Obviously, race day is important speed, but not so much in training. You can be in a headwind, tailwind, uphill, downhill, that's all going to have a massive effect on your speed, but has no indication as to your fitness or your current intensity. But power is really more of an input metric. So, it's going to measure the amount of work that you're putting in. Heart rate as we kind of mentioned earlier is a delayed response to that stimulus. It’s going to provide some feedback as to how your body is responding to that, so it's more of an output. So, the power is the input, the heart rate is the output. So, heart rate and power are most powerful when they provide context to one another. So, you have your power, you have your heart rate, you see what is the input that you're having, and then how does your body respond to that, what is the output. It becomes real important especially in your longer, longer training days and especially your longer races. If your heart rate is elevated above what it should be, for a given power, that's very important information to know. If your race plan has a wattage of X, and heart rate of Y, but your heart rate is significantly higher, especially over a long day at Ironman that's going to catch up for you, it's gonna have big implications. So, as valuable as the power information is, it becomes even more powerful when we combine that with heart rate to really see what the body is doing, how the body is responding. And is that still the right power? Is that still appropriate, or do we need to back off power so that the body can better absorb that input and better respond to that input?
Jeff: Yeah, I would say we don't always live or die just by power. If power is becoming more of, let's say, the gold standard, there are points at which heart rate will trump power. And so like John said when both of them working together and understanding that relationship and how you should respond to it, that is where it's the most effective tool where you’re using them both together. Because there are instances in training rides and races where you would maybe want to utilize average versus normalized power. Those are two different metrics. I’ll kinda explain that in just a quick second, but I want to iterate one quick thing. If watts and power are an exact measurement, there's not a lag or delay in heart rate, but let's just say that you have a very, very long downhill, it might be a 1% grade, it might be an 8% grade. So, whether you're going 25 or 45 miles an hour, you're still going very fast, and momentum is helping you gravity is helping you. And it sometimes is very hard to produce an overall kind of average goal wattage for a given race distance. So, if you're supposed to hold 200 watts, but you're going 45 miles an hour down a hill, and you're only producing 60 watts, but you're going fast, you're going to use a ton of effort to try to get up. You may not even have enough gears on your bike to get the watts that high but going 45 miles an hour. And so there-- Or let's say it's a very flat course, maybe there are no hills, but it's hot. So, if you're supposed to hold a given watt power all day long-- [crosstalk]
Andrew: But it's spiking your heart rate to live at that wattage.
Jeff: So yeah, maybe you're going to race-- [crosstalk]
Andrew: You gotta know when to back off.
Jeff: Just for a quick example. Let's say you're supposed to race your upper zone three watts for a half Ironman, which you have a coinciding, upper zone three heart rate range. So, if you're holding the upper zone three prescribe watts but your heart rates in upper zone four, the human body only knows that effort, that response. And so your body thinks you're pushing zone four, zone five, even though the watts are good. So, there's a point at which heart rate will trump power, understanding that relationship-- [crosstalk]
Andrew: You’re paying attention to it in your training will help you know what your body is going through on race day. If you've ignored heart rate in training and then get there, you're not going to know what's a heart rate that's too much for that wattage and when to back off and when the push and all that.
Jeff: And having a strategy and knowing your race day course, which sections of the course could potentially give you those unique readings to where heart rate and power, they don't line up equally. And then one last thing is I like to play the cadence game. You know, raising or lowering your cadence at a given watt level can kind of help somewhat trick your heart rate a little bit. So, instead of just clicking two or three gears easier, losing 20 or 30 watts, because my heart rates eight beats too high, oh no, I need to drop the power instead of losing five miles per hour; you could essentially if you train this way, and you could essentially click a gear harder. But wait, don't you need to drop effort to drop the heart rate? Well, you could click a gear harder, drop your cadence and the cadence game, I have a five-minute rule. You know, it's actually two to five minutes if you drop the cadence by five but maintain the speed, maybe even maintain the watts but lowering the cadence can have an effect on lowering the heart rate without just coughing up a bunch of speed. If a couple minutes goes by and the heart rate hasn't come down, then you have to succumb to slowing down and bringing that heart rate down. But you can play cadence games there, there's a way of training and working with a coach that you can develop these things. But there's this big debate or misconceptualization, whoo, big word there have normalized versus average power. So, you'll do a workout, you come home, “Hey, I averaged 200 watts for that workout.” Great. My normalized power, though, says I averaged 230 watts. Which one do I go by? Maybe even when I test, which one of those do I take? There’s a 30-watt difference.
Andrew: Yeah, I've seen people ask that, like they get done with their 20-minute tests and they're a little confused on which number is the one they're supposed to reference, right, for their FTP.
Jeff: Yes, I think we have to address this in this podcast and so I'll touch on it real quick. But normalized power is, it's kind of going back to that bell curve. It's a smooth out data. So, let's just say for example, you have a very hilly bike ride. Maybe it's a race training ride, lots of undulation, you may have had long periods of time where you averaged zero watts or low watts on a downhill. So, you might have produced 200 plus watts every time you were cranking the pedals, but you get home and the watt, the normalized watts, or the average watts are very low. Because average watts is just the average watts given throughout the duration. But inside of a session, if you had a lot of stop and goes, a lot of cornering, a lot of getting out of the saddle, a lot of sections where you drank a lot and sat up and coasted. So, normalized kind of guesses what your average power would have been without the technical aspects of the course you actually rode. So, it takes into account coasting, and hills and stuff like that.
Andrew: Getting some real deep insider riding with power stuff from Jeff Raines here. I love it. I love nerding out on this. But let's-- We've given so much good info today so let's end with this. And Jeff, you touched on racing with power a little bit earlier and we'll do podcasts on racing race strategy. But just real quick, while we're talking about power meters and riding with power, not only is having a power meter a huge benefit for our training but good golly, it's also so helpful on race day. John, based on our training, how can we know how many watts to hold on race day?
John: So, Jeff alluded to this before, there's a lot of theories out there as to what percentage of your FTP, most will start with that. It's a derivative of your functional threshold power, kind of, depending on the race distance, you're either going to be above that threshold or below that threshold. Obviously, with your long course racing, it’s going to be some percentage of that below threshold. Great thing within TriDot is everything is based on that data. So, what we're able to do is prescribe very specific race execution for each individual athlete on the course that they're racing. So-- [crosstalk]
Andrew: With the weather with the elevation, with the temperature.
John: Exactly, it's all normalized. It's all created specifically for each individual based on their functional threshold as well as many other inputs of things like their fitness level and their body type, their body size; all these different things that play into how you execute on race day. The great thing is it's real simple for the athletes. They pull up their Race X guides, they know exactly what wattage [crosstalk].
Andrew: Pull it up and follow it, trust the process.
John: Exactly. And it's real simple. It's a section by section guide as to where you’re at in the race, you're going to know exactly what your target power should be, what your max power should be for each section of the course-- [crosstalk]
Andrew: And to what Jeff was saying, it also gives you a heart rate cap. Like makes sure you're not exceeding this heart rate.
John: Exactly, yeah. Right. So, those things are coupled together as we mentioned, it's powerful information combined. And then the heart rate information is also there for those that don't have power. So, you can use heart rate as that race execution metric, but it's that much more beneficial when you have both the power and the heart rate. So, that'll be there for you on race day so just simply pull up your race execution Race X, and-- [crosstalk]
Andrew: And follow the living mess out of it.
John: There you go.
Great set everyone. Let's cool down.
Andrew: All right. So, earlier in our episode today, I gave our normal warmup question to Jeff and John and I asked them if they were racing in a team relay, what would they want the team relay name to be? So, for you guys you'll remember because you listened to it about 30 minutes ago. John Mayfield claimed he is not very creative and wanted some help from the TriDot community on coming up with a quality relay name. So, I'm sitting here with Coach John Mayfield, for you that was 30 minutes ago, for me and John, that was a solid week ago, and we circled back to record today's cool down for you. And John, I threw this out to the people just like you wanted and I asked them for “Hey, if you were to do a relay with Coach John Mayfield on your relay team, what should the name be?”
John: And we got some good ones, they are much more creative than I am. So, I'm grateful for their input.
Andrew: Yeah, so I'm gonna bust through some of these and hit some of the highlights. And John, I just want your reactions to these ideas. So, the very first one that came in was from Mark, and Mark said one bourbon and two shots of tequila.
John: I think that we have a winner right off the bat. I think that's it. Mark is a good friend. Mark and I've been racing together for a number of years. So, my only caveat for the one bourbon and two shots of tequila is that Mark is on that relay team. So, we got some great ones, so we'll keep going, but I think we had the winner right out of the gate with my man, Mark.
Andrew: So, in that context, are you the bourbon, are you one of the two shots of tequila?
John: I’m not sure. Or maybe you know, it's a little of each, I don’t know.
Andrew: Does it depend on who the third person is?
John: Maybe, I don't know.
Andrew: Now, Matthew commented on that, and he, to me, improved it. I mean, to you and Mark and your friendship, maybe not. But to me, he was like, it really should be one bourbon, one scotch, one beer. And then you get the three people, they're all different, and that obviously is from the classic country song. And so those were-- [crosstalk]
John: I think Mark would be all right with that one as well, too. I think so.
Andrew: Yeah. They both work. So, then Sandy chimed in with the pain train. I mean, that's a classic, right? That's just a classic swim, bike, run, we're on the pain train. And then really, man, we had some country-themed ones. Cynthia said friends in low places.
John: That’s fantastic.
Andrew: Friends in low places. We all-- Hey, if you've been deep into the run of an Ironman, you've been to some low places, you know what Cynthia's talking about. Right? So, then Ande, and I met Ande at Ironman Arizona and Ande's a lot of fun and she really took it to the next level because here's what she said. She first suggested the TriDot trio, right the alliteration’s great, points for that, it brings in the word TriDot, you know, John's the lead coach here at TriDot, so that's great to bring that in. But then she said this, does she get to pick the third person in this relay? Because if so she's picking TriDot Coach and podcast regular, Elizabeth James, in which case she wants the team name to be we're all just trying to keep up with EJay.
John: That's like the story of our life. So, that's it anyway.
Andrew: Ande, thanks for kicking it up to the next level.
John: And that would be a fantastic relay and yeah, I’d just be trying to keep up with the ladies at that point. So, I’ll just-- [crosstalk]
Andrew: That’s very true. Ande's no slouch herself on the racecourse. So, then Aaron, who I also met in Arizona, he said drinking team with a triathlon problem, which I think that speaks to a lot of athletes out there. Leslie said I lived.
Andrew: I mean that's a celebration when you get to the finish line, you lived, right?
Andrew: Step one, don't drown. And then this is my favorite. John, I know you said the winner was just the first one. The last one was to me the winner.
John: It has my heart.
Andrew: Tres briskets.
John: Tres briskets, yeah.
Andrew: The tastiest of all the suggestions. So, thanks Charles for coming in right at the last second and suggesting the tasty Tres briskets. Brisket one, brisket two, brisket three. One of the briskets swims, one of the briskets bikes, and one of the briskets runs.
John: Doesn't sound as good when you put it that way.
Andrew: To cool up down, close us out, you're picking one. Is it the first one right off the bat?
John: Yeah, I think so. Gotta go with my man, Mark.
Andrew: All right. Mark, shout out to you. Thank you for helping John narrow down.
John: Let's go relay.
Andrew: And to all of our suggestions, thanks so much. I look forward to seeing John Mayfield and Mark on a course with a third athlete, one bourbon, two shots of tequila.
Well, that's it for today folks. I want to thank coaches John Mayfield and Jeff Raines for talking us through bike training with power. Shout out to our friends at Garmin for partnering with us on today's episode. If you are interested in training with power on the bike head to Garmin.com to find out how Garmin can help. Enjoying the podcast? Have any triathlon questions or topics you want to hear us talk about? Shoot us an email at Podcast@TriDot.com or head to TriDot.com/Podcasts, and let us know what you're thinking. We'll do it again soon. Until then, happy training.
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