Training With Power, Step 1: Obtain your FTP

Road Cyclist Training

As I mentioned in my first post about power meters, training with power in cycling can be fairly complex, and the very first step is the easiest of all: collect data. Begin your first few weeks of training by simply riding with your power meter and collecting data.

Some cycling power meters come with their own software suite for collecting and analyzing data, such as PowerTap's PowerAgent, and there are some freeware programs out there you can use, as well (e.g. Golden Cheetah). Training Peaks is an online software suite that offers free and premium accounts, and they even have an offline version called WKO+. Regardless which product you use, it’s important you collect data from every ride. More on that later.

Before we jump to the next step, it's important we define and understand the most important and fundamental term used in training with power: Functional Threshold Power, or FTP. FTP is the highest power output you can maintain for approximately an hour without fatiguing. If you go above this intensity level, you will fatigue very quickly, and below this intensity you can continue riding considerably longer. In a nutshell, your FTP is a great indicator of your fitness; the higher your FTP, the more fit you are. As long as you can understand that, that you are good to go for now.

So now for the million-dollar question: How do you figure out your FTP? By the definition above, you should ride all-out for an hour and see what your average power was for that hour. Sound like fun? Yes! ... said no one, ever. Lucky for you there are other ways to determine your FTP. Probably the most common way is the 20-minute test. It’s still not that much fun, but certainly better than an hour. For this test, you ride as hard as you can for 20 minutes, then take 95% of your average power. That is your FTP.

So now what? You've figured out that mystical thing called FTP, and the next step is to put it to use. Next post we'll look at figuring out your training zones so you can ride at the correct intensity to get the results you want. In the meantime, don’t forget to collect data on every ride. Be safe, and keep the rubber side down!

by Curtis Scrugham

Curtis is a USAC level 2 and USAC Certified Power Based Training cycling coach. He owns and operates The Power House training lab and is a product specialist at Bikewagon.

Do you have training questions for Curtis? Post them below and he'll reply or answer them in a future post!