In part 2 of his account of his FTP test, guest poster Don Blount explains how it works.
Completing the functional threshold power (FTP) test opened a new world of cycling to me. I used to think of cycling as an endurance activity akin to running a marathon. I had worked at building my endurance through time in the saddle and not through specific effort.
I learned that cycling is a power activity more like running a series of short to long repeat sprints with easy to hard recovery efforts in between.
Instead of focusing on endurance I needed to focus on building power and while building power, I would build endurance.
The FTP test provided me with a base number to work with of 162 beats per minute.
So I went to work on building power through interval training at just below or above FTP. From what I could find that would be an effective way to train.
I rode four to five days a week. Two of those rides would be some type of interval workout. I did efforts as short as 3 minutes with 3 minutes rest and as long as 20 minutes with five to 10 minutes rest. I also did fartlek (random change of speed), hard rides into the wind and high gear, low cadence and low gear, high cadence rides.
I could tell I was making progress as the weeks went by but knew I was making significant inroads when I was capable of doing intervals as part of a 40-mile ride.
These workouts were hard and challenging but the variety kept it interesting and gave me more purpose instead of riding for fitness or to keep up with a group. I was riding against myself. Since most of my riding is alone, that was perfect for focus.
After a few rides I noticed that I was getting stronger. After a few weeks I held my own on a group ride of 45-miles with 2,600 feet of climbing. Four days later, held my own again on a 40-mile group ride with just under 2,800 feet of climbing. I was not the fastest up any hill but I made it up them all without that: “What am I doing out here?” feeling.
The best validation I received was when someone who I ridden with before said to me “You sure are riding strong today.” He remembered my struggles.
And 10 days later on a 57-mile ride with 3,200 feet of climbing a different rider said the same thing to me.
I was obviously more fit and more confident in the hills.
At the end of the six weeks, I did another FTP test. My heart rate was the same, which surprised me as I thought it would be lower, but my speed was much higher. My guess is a power meter would show that I was producing more power at that same effort level.
Next I did a recovery week of moderately-paced rides but no intervals.
My disclaimer is I put my program together through books, talking to a few cycling people and scouring the Internet. I don’t know if it is correct for you but it is working for me and I am having fun. That is good enough for me for now.
And all because I took a test.