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.

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