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How to Master Training with Power in 6 Easy Steps

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For cyclists and triathletes, training with power is likely the most effective way to maximize results. Why? Power meters and the data they provide remove a lot of the guesswork from training by supplying precise, accurate information for accurate measurement of training intensity and load, unlike heart rate training or rate of perceived exertion (RPE) training.

Power Training vs. RPE

Even when athletes recognize that power training offers significant benefits, many of them are apprehensive about jumping into the power-training game because they’ve heard it’s complex and they aren’t sure they have the knowledge or technical skills to get the most out of it.

I’d like to make it easier. Here are a few simple steps to get started with power training and how to better understand the entire power training process.

Step 1: Ride with power

The first thing your should do after you buy a new power meter is set up your head unit with some key metrics to track. I suggest setting power, heart rate, and speed to display on the screen.

And then just ride, observe and record. That’s all you should do for two to four weeks. Don’t change anything about your riding or training yet. Simply observe and begin to quantify your efforts.

Be sure to record all your workouts, no matter how small. It’s pretty simple to automate the recording and uploading process, and these records will become your data diary and will be highly useful in the future.

This first step gives you time to get a feeling for the relationship between power and effort, along with a basic understanding of the quantification of training. If you went up a short hill, did it feel hard? Your power meter now gives a number for “hard.” Hard for you might be 450 watts or 600 watts. Soft pedal down the other side of the hill and watch how many watts that generates.

Step 2: Test your Power

Once you’ve ridden with your power meter for a few weeks, the next step is testing. Power training focuses a lot on FTP testing, but it’s also important (especially when starting out) to test a range of targets that align with different areas of your physiology.

I recommend the following four tests:

five-second max: This test gives us an idea of your Neuromuscular (sprint) Power.
one-minute test: This tests your Anaerobic Capacity (AC), which is how hard and how long you can go over threshold without resting.
five-minute test: This test gives insight into your VO2max, which is the maximal amount of oxygen your body can transport and absorb (your “maximal aerobic capacity”).
20-minute test: This provides an estimate of your Functional threshold Power (FTP), which is the highest power you can maintain in a quasi-steady state without fatiguing. To estimate your FTP, use 95 percent of your average power for the 20-minute test. As you become more familiar with power training in the future, I suggest you complete a full 40km race-pace test.

When getting started, keep the testing protocol simple. I recommend a two-day testing format like this:

Day 1: Complete a good warm-up of 15 to 30 minutes, with a few one-minute, fast pedaling efforts to wake everything up. Once you’re warm, complete two x 10-second maximal sprints (we will use the peak five seconds from the sprint).

This is best done in the small chainring and mid-cassette gear, so maybe 53-16 or 50-14. Rest for a full five to seven minutes between sprint efforts. Once you complete these efforts, ride casually for 10 to 15 minutes, then find a slight hill with no interruption and complete a maximum effort one-minute test.

Go as hard as you can from the start and push all the way to one full minute. Finish up with a cool-down period of 10 to 15 minutes of easy riding.

Day 2: Complete a good warm-up of 15 to 30 minutes with a few one-minute fast pedaling efforts to wake everything up. Once you’re fully warmed up, find a slight hill with no interruption and do a maximal five-minute test, starting hard, but not too hard.

Once this effort is done, recover by riding 15 minutes of easy pedaling, then start your 20-minute maximal test. Terrain is a challenge for most of us, but try to find a road (preferably a climb) that allows you to go hard for 20 minutes with minimal interruptions. Don’t start too hard, and pace yourself. Cool down for 10 to 15 minutes when done.

Once both days of testing are done, load all your data into your TrainingPeaks account for analysis.

Step 3: Build a Power Profile

Each athlete is unique and therefore generates a unique power profile. Your personal power profile gives insight into your training needs by identifying your comparative strengths and limiters.

Take a look at the Power Profile Chart in your TrainingPeaks account to see areas where you compare better or worse against the database of riders.

This comparison gives insight into your strengths and limiters, revealing potential areas of training focus. The old adage “Train your weakness, race your strengths” is a pretty good place to start as you begin to think about training to improve your performance.

For an even more detailed power profile, use TrainingPeaks’ WKO4 software to review your entire power-duration curve.

Step 4: Set your Training Zones

Once you’ve estimated your FTP as 95 percent of your 20-minute maximal test, you can set your training levels in TrainingPeaks. Log into your account, click on your name, select Settings, click “Zones” at the left, and scroll down to Power.

In the auto calculation section, choose Threshold Power in the first dropdown and Andy Coggan (6) in the second, and then click “Calculate.” Your new training zones are set up and targeted. Make sure you save the changes before you close the window.

Dr. Andrew Coggan designed a set of training zones (or levels) to identify different areas of an athlete’s physiology, allowing us to plan specific time and intensity into workouts to gain the improvements we want in those specific physiological demands. These zones are now referred to as the Coggan Classic Zones.

Take a look the diagram below and notice the relationship between intensity and time. For most people starting out with power, it takes a bit of trial and error to figure this out, but efficient training is all about the right intensity for the right length of time.

Step 5: Plan your Training

Not having a plan is a plan to fail! Now that you’ve got the basics down, you need to build a plan. All good training plans have this equation at their core: “Ability of the rider vs. demands of the event.”

Now that you have power data and a power profile, you already have a good idea of your ability as a rider and how you compare to the world, so you can move on to consider the demands of your event. Each event has unique demands, as you can imagine; there’s a dramatically different demand for a road race compared to an IRONMAN, and each one needs a specific training plan for success.

Hiring a good coach or investing in a quality training plan are great ways to jump start this process, but you can also try to plan your own training using one of these two parameters:

Ability of the rider: A simple starting point is to use your power profile and focus on your limiters. At the core off all good training is the development of your aerobic engine, but adding two to four days of limiter focus in each training microcycle (typically 21 to 28 days) can really help you improve.

Demands of the event: This is easier than you think! Do your research first and know the details of the event. How long is it? What’s the terrain like? Are there any big climbs? What are the technical demands?

The answers to these questions and any additional data you can find will help you plan your training. If your big event features a steady climb that typically takes about 15 minutes, you need to make sure you’re doing workouts to improve your steady-state climbing for that time range. Similarly, if your event includes a series of rolling power climbs, build your training to prepare you to power over those climbs.

TrainingPeaks.com has an excellent Annual Training Plan feature that is a great tool to use if you chose to create your own plan.

Step 6: Track and Test

Track all your data and review it at least once per week. Look for insights such as improving numbers, better performance and/or decline. Learn to cross reference your data in areas of training load and performance; this will add deeper insight into how your training is affecting your performance.

Testing is one of the most important things for an athlete new to power. I recommend that you repeat the test protocol every four to six weeks and track your results. If you’re training correctly, you should see improvements, specifically in the targeted areas.

These steps are a simple outline of the process and should be a great roadmap for any beginner. I recommend that you read Training and Racing with a Power Meter by Dr. Andy Coggan and Hunter Allen, as well as Joe Friel’s The Power Meter Handbook.

If you’re interested in digging even deeper into power training knowledge, TrainingPeaks offers a full online education and certification program that teaches both the fundamentals and some advanced techniques of power training.

Interested in learning more about WKO4 software? Download your free 14-day trial here.

The post How to Master Training with Power in 6 Easy Steps appeared first on TrainingPeaks.

Stage 19-20 Power Analysis: Rigoberto Urán’s Road to Glory

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Many thanks to Dig Deep Coaching’s Philipp Diegner for his work on this analysis and infographics.

The final three stages of the Tour defined what was a magnificent showing for Team Cannondale-Drapac, and solidified Chris Froome’s fourth Yellow Jersey. Let’s take a look at the last critical stages of the Tour: the long recovery of Stage 19 where Urán’s teammates skillfully shielded him, and the all-out effort (and nail-biting finish!) of Urán during the Stage 20 TT.

Stage 19 – Longest Stage and Recovery Time for the Field
Embrun – Salon-de-Provence, 222.5km

A large break of 20 riders dominated the longest stage of the Tour after being let go on the first climb after 25 kilometers. They fought hard for the stage win in the final, while the peloton settled into a very moderate tempo as everyone was anticipating the time trial that would follow on the next day. Compared to the previous three weeks of racing, Stage 19 had only one climb—the Col Lebraut, no doubt a welcome change as the rider’s prepared for Saturday’s final speed test in Marseilles.

Overall Data Stage 19

Rigoberto Urán (Col)


46th +11:43

Nathan Brown (Usa)


51st +11:43

Dylan van Baarle (Ned)


49th +11:43

Duration: 5:18:36

Speed: 41.9kph

Average Power: 157w, 2.53w/kg

Normalized Power: 200w, 3.23w/kg

10min Peak Power: 310w, 5.00w/kg

Duration: 5:18:36

Speed: 41.9kph

Training Load: 251 TSS

Average Power: 209w, 3.22w/kg

Normalized Power: 261w, 4.02w/kg

Duration: 5:18:36

Speed: 41.9kph

Training Load: 255 TSS

Average Power: 237w, 3.04w/kg

Normalized Power: 300w, 3.85w/kg

Click on the image below to see Urán’s SRM Power File:

Rigoberto Uran Stage 19 File

Click image below to see Nathan Brown’s SRM Power File:

Nathan Brown Stage 19 Power File

Click on the image below to see van Baarle’s SRM Power File:

Dylan van Baarle Stage 19 File

This first KOM required high power outputs from all the riders. Looking at the discrepancy between Brown and Van Baarle vs. Urán on the climb, it is visible how effective the duo protected their Colombian captain.

With 395w, 6.08w/kg and 441w, 5.65w/kg they had to work hard while Urán in their shadow could stay at tempo intensity at 307w, 4.95w/kg. Teamwork in cycling at its best! Urán’s 10 minute peak power was 5.00w/kg—a low number compared to the previous stages.

Col Lebraut (5.1km at 5.5%) – KM26

Time / Speed

Rigoberto Urán
11:00 / 28.3kph

Nathan Brown
11:01 / 27.9kph

Dylan Van Baarle
11:33 / 26.4kph

The rest of the stage caused no difficulty for the whole team. No one was willing to take up the chase of the breakaway and consequently, the pace was very moderate.

For Urán, that meant 187w, 3.02w/kg for 4:42 hours. In the end, the field arrived in Salon-de-Provence, 12:27 minutes behind stage winner Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data).

The GC riders jumped on the opportunity of taking it easy for once and with the help of his teammates, the Colombian contender would save a lot of energy going into the critical time trial.

Stage 20 – The decisive time trial in Marseille
Marseille, 22.5km

A 22.5km time trial in the centre of Marseille would decide the race. The stage was set for a real showdown as Chris Froome (Team Sky), Romain Bardet (AG2R) and Urán went into the 20th day with just 29 seconds separating them.

The course featured a 1.1km-long climb with a 10 percent gradient, maxing out at 16 to 17 percent. This made it a very challenging TT course. Depending on their day’s form, riders could gain or lose significant time. With the top-three riders still less than 30 seconds apart, the race for Yellow was still very open!

Rigoberto Urán (Cannondale-Drapac) – Overall Data Stage 20 – 8th Place +0:31

Time: 28:46
Speed: 46.9kph
Average Power: 378w, 6.00w/kg
Normalized Power: 389w, 6.17w/kg

Click on the image below to see Urán’s SRM Power File:

Uran Stage 20 TT File

Urán pulled off an amazing performance that was good for eighth place in the stage—and most importantly it allowed him to move up to second overall.

He was 1:31 minutes faster than his French rival Romain Bardet, despite misjudging the last corner and bumping into the barriers. Without this small but inconsequential mistake, he could have finished in the top-five on the day.

This is the first time that a major Tour de France contender publishes his power data in a time trial. Thanks to the Colombian star rider and his team Cannondale-Drapac, the data provides unique insights into the ability of professional cyclists at the highest level.

Urán’s Time Trial – 6w/kg for 29 Minutes

Urán’s power over the course of the time trial was absolute world-class. With 378w, 6.00w/kg average power and 389w, 6.17w/kg normalized power, he rode at his limit for 28:46 minutes. He paced his effort very well, not going out too hard out of the gate and saving energy for the steep climb 15km into the course.

With 371w, he passed the first time-check at 12:19 minutes and lost 24 seconds to Chris Froome on these first 10.2km. What could have been perceived as a bad day, soon turned out to be strategy, when Urán started to improve both his effort and placing.

The next sector featured the climb to Notre-Dame de la Garde and it was here that the Colombian put out his best effort. He covered the sector in 8:23 minutes—the second fastest time of the day—riding at 401w, 6.37w/kg and regaining six seconds on Froome.

Most impressive was the climb itself: He flew up the 1.1km-long ascent with 20 kph average speed on a 10 percent gradient. To achieve this, he produced 457w for 3:16 minutes—7.25w/kg! This is even more remarkable, considering that the effort was produced not from a rested state but after riding for 15 minutes at 6w/kg.

On the last 6.9km, Urán was still going well and on the way to a top-five result, when he overshot the last corner going into the stadium where the finish was located. He bumped into the barrier and came to a halt, losing 10-12 seconds and finally finishing eighth, 31 seconds down on the stage winner Maciej Bodnar (Bora-Hansgrohe).

Uran's Final TT Approach

He averaged 364w for the last eight minutes. This number is deflated, however, because the segment included a 2km-long downhill, where the effort had to be reduced and the riders had to navigate a few tight corners. Once he reached the flat part, Urán ramped up his effort and put out 411w, 6.52w/kg on the next 3.5km.

Even after his mistake in the last corner, he accelerated hard and sprinted over the line with 485w for 26 seconds, peaking at 745w! The final time: 28:46 minutes at an average speed of 46.9kph!

Stage 20 – Time Split Analysis

Chrono 1
Chrono 2
Chrono 3

Rigoberto Urán – 8th














Roman Kreuziger – 65th














Chris Froome – 3rd

(Team Sky)









Orica-Scott Performance

Roman Kreuziger (Orica-Scott) – Overall Data Stage 20 – 65th +2:19

Time: 30:34
Speed: 44.2kph
Average Power: 363w, 5.42w/kg
Normalized Power: 378w, 5.64w/kg

Click on the image below to see Kreuziger’s Power File:

Roman Kreuziger Stage 20 TT

Roman Kreuziger finished mid-field in 65th position. He took less risks in corners and on the descent but produced good power at times, 363w for the whole stage (378w, 5.64w/kg normalized). With a five-minute peak power of 416w, 6.21w/kg and 455w, 6.79w/kg on the climb, he showed that his form is still good.

A more than solid 24th place in the general classification in the Tour is the Czechs’ reward. He will race the Clásica San Sébastian next, a race he was won in 2009 and finished third in 2013. With his current form and some rest, he could be in for a great result.

Performance Conclusions

A time trial with a length between 20km and 30km is the perfect test of individual cycling ability. Urán proved on stage 20 that he has been one of the strongest riders in the Tour de France 2017.

The power he produced after three weeks and more than 3,000km in the saddle was very impressive—a well-deserved second place in the GC.

This amazing performance was partly due to Cannondale’s great teamwork throughout the Tour, protecting Urán whenever they could, combined with the very intelligent race tactics of the Colombian.

He only attacked at critical moments and rode very well-measured, never expending more energy than necessary: Experience and race intelligence are important success factors for GC riders.

Highlight efforts on the way to 2nd overall

(with time difference to Chris Froome)

Time / Speed

Stage 3

Final Climb

1.7km 5.7%

3:18 / 30.9kph

Result: 19th

same time


Stage 5

La Planche des Belles Filles

5.9km 8%

16:37 / 21.3kph

Result: 7th



Stage 8

Mont du Chat

8.0km 10.1%

29:28 / 16.2kph

Stage 8

Final Sprint

450m in Chambéry

32s / 53.5kph

Result: Stage Win



Max Power: 1189w


Stage 13

Mur de Péguères

3.4km 11.8%

13:32 / 15.0kph

Result: 10th

same time


Stage 15

Col de Peyra

8.35km 7.1%

22:33 / 22.2kph

Result: 29th

same time


Hardest climb of the Tour


Stage 20

Marseille Time Trial


28:46 / 46.9kph

Result: 8th



Stage 20

Notre-Dame de la Garde climb 1.1km 10%
3:16 / 20.0kph

Examining the evolution of the time difference between eventual Tour winner Froome and Urán, the Colombian lost 51 seconds in the first time trial in Düsseldorf and finished 54 seconds down in Paris.

He came out of the mountains in a better place than he was in after eight stages. It was a very close Tour, and Urán has proven that he is capable of winning the Tour de France in the future, if everything goes his way.

Get more Tour Stage analysis, course predictions and training takeaways from this year’s Tour de France here.

The post Stage 19-20 Power Analysis: Rigoberto Urán’s Road to Glory appeared first on TrainingPeaks.

How to Improve an Athlete’s Racing Attitude and Expectations

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As a coach your primary responsibility is to prepare the athletes you work with to achieve their goals. That means everything from writing their training to helping them prepare mentally for a race.

The build up to race day can be a stressful time for athletes at all levels. They’ve put so much time and energy into training and preparation, and then it all comes down to one performance.

Coaches are there to lighten an athlete’s load and ease their mind. Here are several tactics that you can use leading up to a race to help both you and your athlete be better prepared.

Key Workouts

Make it a point to schedule a breakthrough or key workout appropriately close to race day. These workouts should be ones that are close to race day effort and simulate the demands of the course.

The objective is for the athlete to walk away from the workout feeling confident in their ability and their training. You can also use this workout as an opportunity to discuss race day preparedness and any weak spots the athlete may feel they have.

Discuss Race Day Strategy

Often thinking through how to actually execute a race is the most stressful part for athletes. Discuss race day strategy in detail with them. Breakdown specific portions of the course, and walk them through how they should handle hill climbs, sprint opportunities, the start, etc. Explain how they can use these parts of the race to their advantage, and when they may need to be conservative based on the weaknesses you’ve identified together.

Review Key Metrics

Reviewing critical performance indicators with athletes is always important, but it becomes even more relevant as they near the start line. Review the metrics that are most important to the athlete’s performance. Peak powers, CTL, and TSB are just a few that might help your athlete understand how their training has helped them prepare for the event.

Use the Tools You Have

WKO4 and TrainingPeaks are invaluable in allowing an athlete to visualize how their training has impacted both their fitness and race day preparedness. More specifically, you can highlight in what ways they are uniquely prepared for their goal event(s).

Creating custom charts in WKO4 and using the PMC in TrainingPeaks creates an all-encompassing set of visuals to help athletes see how their efforts leading up to their race have helped them prepare.

Talk to Your Athletes

Often times athletes simply need a sounding board before a big race. As their coach, your knowledge and experience can go a long way in calming nervous energy. Put their mind at ease by talking through what’s on their mind, and listening to their concerns. You’ve prepared for race day as a team, so talk through it as a team.

Communicate What You’re Thinking

Coaches spend their time helping athletes stay focused on their goals. However, often overlooked are the coach’s goals for the event. What is your desired outcome? Let your athlete know what you’d like to see them accomplish. Whether it’s a win, a podium, a finish, or a chance to learn and grow in preparation for future races—communicating your goals can help your athlete to be more confident in theirs.

What Should They Expect

Many athletes, especially those that are new to racing, aren’t familiar with many of the logistical challenges that race day can present. Newer athletes may wonder about proper gear selection, how to time their pre-race nutrition, how early to arrive, or even where to pin their number.

As a coach, it’s your job to walk them through the race start to finish. Helping your athletes check things off of their list can be a huge burden lifted from their shoulders, and also free up mental energy to focus on performance.

Improving on Past Performances

Is your athlete revisiting a race that they’ve competed in before? Many athletes go back to races season after season in hopes of improving each year. Take the time to critically review their past performances, looking for any insight that you can convey to your athlete.

Also, talk to them about how they feel the race went, and what they need to do to improve. By combining both the qualitative and the quantitative you can develop a comprehensive race strategy to share with your athlete.

Racing can be both exciting and stressful. As a coach your job is to help your athletes prepare on a variety of fronts as they get closer to race day.

The goal should always be to use your experience, relationship with the athlete, and your understanding of their training to help them feel comfortable and confident.

Coaches play an important role in the success of an athlete, and there’s no place that role is better displayed than on race day.

Come listen to endurance industry experts like Taylor Thomas, Dave Scott and Jesse Kropelnicki discuss coaching best practices, business solutions and innovative insights at the 2017 Endurance Coaching Summit, August 3-4 in Boulder, Colo.

The post How to Improve an Athlete’s Racing Attitude and Expectations appeared first on TrainingPeaks.

Avoiding Mental Sabotage Part 4: How to Channel Pre-Race Anxiety

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In part four of our continuing series on mastering your mental skills for race-day, we discuss how to properly channel your pre-race anxiety into positive energy and focus.

How to Cope with Pre-Race Jitters

Every triathlete, runner or cyclist, no matter their level, experiences pre-race jitters—the feeling of excitement or butterflies in your stomach prior to the start of a race. However, some athletes turn pre-race jitters into performance anxiety. Pre-race jitters are a natural part of your racing, but pre-race performance anxiety will cause most athletes to tense up, worry about their performance and ultimately not perform up to their ability.

Are Pre-Race Jitters Helpful to Your Performance?

The first step is to find out if you experience common pre-race jitters or if you are anxious or scared. The difference is that pre-race jitters or butterflies are helpful to your race—they help you focus and perform better.

However, real “performance anxiety” is a reaction to stress or fear about the event that can cause excess tension. We think that pre-race jitters are a form of respect for the event you are about to engage in and part of the physical way your body prepares for the race.

How can you distinguish between pre-race jitters and performance anxiety? Look at the characteristic of each below:

Pre-game Jitters

You feel excited to get the race started.
You feel physically up and alert.
You think clearly about what you want to accomplish.
You feel ready to tackle any challenge that comes your way.
You feel your heart beating harder, but you think it’s natural and helpful.
When the race starts, you relax, get into the flow, and don’t focus on how you are feeling.
You have energy to keep going until the end of the race.

Performance Anxiety

You are over-excited about the race and feel scared before you start.
You feel physically sick to your stomach.
You have excess internal chatter and can’t think clearly or calmly.
You are worried about what you might encounter during the race.
You feel physical symptoms such as an increased heart rate, but worry that you are anxious or uptight.
You feel anxious or tight well into the start of the race and it may last for the entire event.
You feel drained and exhausted before the competition even starts.

If you identify with pre-race jitters, that’s great. That’s what you want to feel just before the event. You want to embrace the pre-race jitters.

If you identify more with performance anxiety above, you’ll have to learn how to overcome your performance anxiety by channeling it in a more constructive way.

Welcome Your Pre-Race Jitters

The goal is to embrace any pre-race jitters as helpful to your race. Look at your pre-race stress as helpful to your performance. Keep these tips in mind:

Embrace the pre-race jitters as your body’s way of preparing for action and it’s natural to feel this way.
Remind yourself that pre-race butterflies are one reason you love racing—to feel excited and amped up.
Welcome the added adrenaline or excitement and perform with confidence and composure.

Overcoming Pre-Race Anxiety

If you feel you have pre-race performance anxiety, you’ll want to overcome this. This takes more work as it’s often rooted in fear of failure. The place to start is to uncover what causes your anxiety or worry. What’s the fear that’s holding you back?

Here are some of sources of pre-race performance anxiety:

Focus on outcomes or result
Excess mental chatter or negative self-talk
Fear of failing
Worrying about what others might think
Not performing up to expectations
Poor training leading up to a race
Worrying about the quality of one’s warm up
Worrying about performing well in the “big race”

Tips for Coping with Pre-Race Anxiety

Warm up properly. Make sure you get your heart rate up close to lactate threshold. This will relieve a lot of anxiety.
Do a reality check with your own fears. “Why am I here?” Hopefully to have fun and enjoy the day.
Try putting your fears aside by focusing on something more pleasant.  Do visualization – visualize yourself executing the race according to plan.
Focus your mind on something else. Some athletes work themselves into a state of anxiety as they stand around and worry about results before the race even starts. Observe others, be calm and relaxed, you have prepared for this.
Focus on success instead of worrying about avoiding failure. You cannot win during warm-ups or in the opening minutes of a race. Ask yourself, “What do I need to do to perform my best today?”


Your goal is to welcome pre-race jitters as they are a natural reaction to racing. When it is time to perform, stay calm and slow down. Don’t rush; take your time during your warm up or pre-race routine. This is a good time to give yourself a pep talk with statements of confidence and composure, such as “I know how to race; and I trust in the training I have done in order to get the job done today!”

The post Avoiding Mental Sabotage Part 4: How to Channel Pre-Race Anxiety appeared first on TrainingPeaks.

An Introduction to TrainingPeaks Metrics: Part Two

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In the last post we learned about the importance of determining and setting thresholds and how these numbers are used in TrainingPeaks to calculate the core metrics such as Intensity Factor and Training Stress Score.

In today’s post let’s build upon those concepts by introducing some new metrics that can help with race pacing and monitoring your progress.

What is Variability Index (VI)?

Variability Index is a metric that shows you how steadily paced (or variable) a workout was ridden. This can be a very important metric for time trialists or triathletes as pacing is the name of the game!

Variability Index is calculated by dividing your Normalized Power (or the estimate of the metabolic cost of the ride) with your average power.

The closer these two numbers are, the less variable the ride was and in turn the less energy that was wasted. For a steadily paced ride such as a time trial or triathlon bike leg, we would expect these numbers to be pretty close resulting in a VI of 1.05 or less.

If you happen to see a higher VI for one of these types of events then you might want to take a look at what kind of changes you could make to your pacing strategy.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have criteriums and mountain bike races which are quite variable and may result in a VI of 1.3 or higher.

Let’s take a look at the workout example below of an interval workout. This ride had an average power of 150 watts but the normalized power was 200 giving us a Variability Index of 1.32

How to use Variability Index

Take a look at a time trial or the bike leg of a triathlon. If your VI is 1.05 or less, you are doing a good job on pacing. If it’s higher, consider including some specific pacing drills into your regular bike workouts such as a cadence ladder or some steady-state intervals over a rolling course with the goal of minimizing the variability of each interval.


What is Efficiency Factor (EF)?

As the name implies, this metric is a way to measure efficiency during certain types of workouts as a way of looking at output versus input.

In order to ride your bike hard or knock out a 10K at race pace, your heart rate increases (input) to produce the power (output) to propel you along. As you become more fit you are able to do more work for less effort. In other words, you have become more efficient!

We get this number by dividing your output (power or pace) by your input (your heart rate). Note that this number is not useful on its own or for comparing yourself to other athletes. To make the best use of this number you would want to do similar steady state workouts over time and track the EF to monitor the progress of your training and its impact on your efficiency.

Note: because this metric is heart rate based it can be impacted by heat, stress, dehydration or other environmental factors.

How to Use Efficiency Factor

Schedule a steadily paced aerobic benchmark run or ride every one-to-two weeks and track the efficiency factor over time. Once your EF plateaus, it may be time to move on to the next phase of your training, or mix it up with some new workouts!


What is Decoupling (Pw:Hr/Pa:Hr)?

Finally we have Decoupling or Power to Heart Rate/Pace to Heart Rate Ratio. This metric is useful for demonstrating aerobic fitness over a given duration.

As an athlete starts to fatigue, their pace or power will drop for the same heart rate, or their heart rate will increase for the same power or pace. This phenomenon can be an indication of aerobic fitness or lack thereof.

In order to make use of this metric you will need a heart rate monitor and a way to record power on the bike or pace on the run. To determine Decoupling we compare the Efficiency Factors for the two halves of the workout or selected interval.

This comparison produces a percentage representing the decline in Efficiency Factor from one half to the next.  As a rule of thumb, you are looking for a decoupling of 5 percent or less over the course of your target duration.

Note: because this metric is heart rate based it can be impacted by heat, stress, dehydration or other factors.

How to Use Decoupling

Take a look at your steadily paced, low VI, aerobic long runs or rides, if the decoupling is greater than 5 percent, then look at the environmental factors such as the temperature that day or your hydration status.

If those things seem normal then you may need some additional aerobic conditioning.

Consider adding in some additional Zone 2 workouts or revisiting the base phase.

See more about using Decoupling.



Today there are new training devices being introduced every day with the ability to measure almost anything you could imagine. By knowing what to measure (and what metrics matter to you most), you can ensure that you are working on the right things and will continue to see improvement in your training.

The post An Introduction to TrainingPeaks Metrics: Part Two appeared first on TrainingPeaks.

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