Why I Train and Coach Cyclists with Power Meters

CompuTrainer Lab

I bought my first power meter a few years ago because, honestly, I'm a gadget junkie, and power meters were the latest and coolest gadget to have. I'm also a data-holic, so the power meter was a perfect fix for me -- a gadget that gave me tons of data. For the first year or two it was fascinating to ride with my meter then go home and watch my computer re-create my ride in the form of graphs and charts -- all sorts of them. Piece by piece, I slowly began to learn what the data in all those graphs and charts were trying to tell me.

They could tell me with precision when I was gaining fitness, and exactly how much. They'd also tell me exactly how much fitness I was losing when I got lazy. As I collected more and more data I also began to see how I could compare my current fitness with, say, this time last year. I began to correlate the numbers produced by my meter with how I felt and how I performed on the bike.


SRAM Quarq Power Meter Crankset

So much so that I was inspired to get my Master's degree in Exercise Physiology and other certifications, among which are a USAC level 2 coach and USAC Certified Power Based Training coach.

Flash forward to today: I have my own coaching business and a computrainer studio from which I run a winter training program. I've been helping dozens of clients make real, measurable fitness gains on the bike, and with minimal time in the saddle -- typically three hours a week. As spring arrives and they transition from riding indoors to outside, I can be very specific about what they need to do to continue to improve.

Without a power meter, my instructions would be something like, "Ride hard for 20 minutes, then ride harder for two, then ride easy for a few minutes to recover."

Not very helpful instructions from a client's perspective.

With a power meter, I can tell them, "Ride at 240-250 watts for 20 minutes, then ride 280-290 Watts for 2 minutes, then recover between 180-200 Watts." Now my clients know exactly what to do, and when they upload their data to me, I'll know if they followed my instructions or not.

Training with power can get fairly complex, but if you break it down and take it step-by-step you can build an understanding of how all the pieces fit together. Interested in learning more? Just stay tuned. There is more to follow in the coming weeks and months.

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!