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.
Don Hoffman says
Don B … I can attest that you are on the right track … it takes a lot of discipline to suffer intense workouts alone … but resuts come quicker; many of us with lots of time are putting in quantity instead of quality. And I have a Grame Street DVD that won’t play on my VCR (in the den) and it gives me fits on my laptop as well… works okay on my living room player.
With this kind of discipline, you really need a power meter and a copy of the book ‘Training with a power meter’. FTP is then easy to determine, just do a 20 minute max effort and take the average power times 95%. HR is interesting but power is much better, especially for intervals. Training zones and interval length are then easy to calculate.
You are going to keep getting a lot stronger, especially if you do a few more hill rides. Mount Diabo (or Sierra Road) anyone?
Both Don H and Rich are members of the Stockton (Calif) Bike Club, of which I too am a member. In the FTP video Graeme Street encourages anyone with a power meter to get the book “Training with a Power Meter,” the book Rich refers to as well.