Friday, June 29, 2012

5 Training Tips to Increase Your Power

In my last article, I discussed the value of your power to weight ratio and how it can help improve your cycling results. We know how to reduce our weight through regular exercise, eating healthier, etc. However, where cyclists often struggle is how to improve the numerator - power - especially during the season.

Why do you care about increasing your power? Well, the more power you have, the harder and longer you can ride, whether it is hammering at the front of the peloton or pushing hard up your "favorite" hill. But improving power requires dedication, focus and work (sound familiar?).

Here are five tips you can use to improve your power:
  1. Ride uphill -  Riding uphill is a great way to increase muscular endurance and strength.  The formula is simple: pedal a relatively large gear at a moderate cadence for an extended period of time. 
    • One way is to progressively increase the climbing distance. If you don't live in the mountains where you climb for miles, then find a good mile plus hill and do four to six repeats with a good recovery between each effort. But make sure you are pushing a gear that is hard but in which you can maintain at least 70 rpm's.
    • A second way is to find a short, steep climb and do high intensity intervals of about 60 seconds. Just like above, progressively add more intervals to your effort. 
  2. Ride into the wind - Maybe you live in an area with relatively flat terrain so doing hills isn't realistic. This was an old favorite of mine when I lived in Colorado Springs to help vary my training. I would jump on my bike and head east, away from the foothills, and I was guaranteed, at least in the spring, to experience a lot of wind. It isn't just a matter of riding into the wind but doing it in a big ring gear, one that allows you to maintain a cadence of at least 80 rpm's. Find a loop or route that will allow you to ride into the wind for a time, then recover with a cross or tail wind, and repeat. Progressively increasing your time riding into the wind will progressively increase your power.
  3. Ride a bigger gear - This is pretty straightforward. Get out of your comfort zone and push a slightly larger gear by adding a few two to three minute efforts during your training ride. The key here is that as you increase your gearing, you also want to maintain a consistent cadence. In other words, if you are riding a 53x19 gear and comfortably pedaling 90 rpm's, drop it down into your 53x18/17 gear but keep pedaling 90+ rpms.
  4. Increase the distance - Long rides increase your aerobic and muscular endurance. But length is a relative term. If your typical long ride is two hours, adding an hour will have a significant impact. And, if you can get to four or five hours, you will notice the difference.
  5. Block training - This can be an effective training method; however, if overdone, additional recovery time will be needed. The concept of block training is that you train hard for two or three days in a row followed by at least the same amount of recovery days (easy rides). The two or three day block could comprise of any variation of hard workouts mentioned above to really stress your body. But, again, I have to emphasize that the key here is to provide yourself ample recovery time. And, if after three days of recovery, your legs are still sore and/or tired, take an extra recovery day.
There are methods that I've used in the past and continue to use today to push myself so I know they work. Just one last piece of advice and that is to use a heart monitor and, if possible, a power meter in your training. They provide instant feedback on your effort. They also help you measure your progress over time.

Good luck and feel free to contact me if you have questions or if I can help you in any way.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Improve Your Cycling By Improving Your Power to Weight Ratio

How many of you use Strava to track your rides? Yes, it is great for comparing segments against other people but it is also a great tool for measuring your progress.

The image above is from my ride today. One particular segment of the ride, Ridge Park climb, is the subject of this article. The link to the segment can be found by clicking HERE. The Ridge Park climb is only 0.8 miles long at an average grade of 9.1%.

Anyone who is familiar with the Newport Coast area knows this is a short but tough climb taking you to the highest point in Orange County. After reviewing today's ride, I now have the third fastest time overall up Ridge Park. Not bad for a guy who is going to be 48 in October!

So why am I sharing this? It isn't to brag (although I am pretty pleased!) but to provide insight into how I trained 20+ years ago and how I am currently training. Given my size, I realized that the way to be competitive on the climbs was to improve my power to weight ratio. I wasn't suddenly going to shrink four or five inches and drop 40 lbs.

The secret is your power to weight ratio. To become a stronger rider, this means you have to address two areas: improving your power and reducing your weight. The latter can happen if you watch your diet and exercise regularly. I've lost 20 pounds since the beginning of the year
Improving power is a bit more challenging because it means having to improve your leg strength. This can be done via weight training in the off-season, strength exercises in the early season and lots of power road riding (hills, hard rides, etc.). It is best to find a coach who can help you build the power aspect of your program to gain maximum benefits.

Let me know how I can help you improve your cycling. Feel free to email me to discuss further. In the meantime, complete the form below if you want to get on my email list.

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