What metrics should I track when I train?

It’s great having access to data but it’s only really useful if you understand how it can help you to make better sense of your workout and reach your goals with greater ease and efficiency. With many Power Trainer’s the data set is huge and so understanding what to use and when to use it can be tricky. Here’s a quick guide of which data to track to help you keep improving.

The first data point to track should be Functional Threshold Power or FTP. FTP is an indication of the maximum Power output you can sustain for approximately 1 hour and is a good guide to use to develop endurance training programmes. With FTP it’s possible to build a zonal system which you can then use during training to facilitate specific physiological outcomes. There are a variety of tests available to ascertain FTP and so when testing and retesting it’s important to use a comparable test protocol. At Newark Cycle Coaching we understand the application of maximal and sub-maximal ramp tests as well as a variety of Critical Power (CP) tests which might be suitable for riders with different levels of riding experience. In general, we use a ramp test protocol initially for those riders unfamiliar with power training as it helps to guide effort to a maximal level and gives a great correlated result to other (more widely used) CP tests. The generally considered Gold Standard test for FTP is a 60-minute maximum effort where the resultant average Watts sustained for 60-minutes represents FTP. The physical and mental fortitude required to perform such a test means that most riders opt for the shorter 20-minute FTP test or CP20. The CP20 takes the maximum Power output over a 20-minute effort and then reduces the number by 5% giving the first inferred FTP value. Whatever test protocol you use in your initial test process, try to use that same protocol when retesting. 

Whilst FTP will help you to develop a zonal training system there are other key metrics that will help you to understand your strengths, your weaknesses and how to apply them during training and ultimately during a race. Understanding your 5-minute Power, 1-minute Power and 5-second Power will help in building a well-rounded training programme to fill the gaps in your personal skill set and to improve overall performance. This process is called Power-profiling and is essential in helping you to understand what areas to focus on during your training period.

Understanding Power output is essential but without reference to the bodily response it offers only part of the data you need. Tracking heart rate response in relation to given Power outputs will help you to understand how your body is responding to given levels of work and how you’re developing through your training period. A Power output is absolute. How the body responds to a specified Power output is not and can differ from day-to-day. If an athlete is producing 300 watts of work at 90rpm and displaying a heart rate of 156bpm on day 1 of training but by day 45 they’re producing the same 300 watts at the same rpm but their heart rate response is now 147bpm we can likely infer (all other factors affecting heart rate being similar – we’ll discuss that at a later date) that adaptation to training has taken place and the efficiency of that athlete to produce Power has improved. It is now “costing” their body less to produce the same work and so it’s likely he or she can produce greater Power. Without understanding heart rate response it’s more difficult to understand how you’ve improved.

To develop yourself fully it’s essential to track the volume and intensity of your training throughout any given training period. Training Stress Score or TSS is a metric that will sit at the heart of any smart training regimen and offers insight into the fatigue caused by each training session and subsequent training block. TSS can be steadily increased (or ramped) throughout a training period as training volume increases and can then be reduced to provide recovery and “freshen up” athletes in preparation for specific events. The intensity of any given workout can also be tracked using IF (Intensity Factor) which will indicate how intense the specific workout has been in relation to FTP. 

So, to begin developing your training with meaning you should track the following…

FTP – This will help you to understand your current level of fitness of and if you’ve improved.

Power profile – This will help you to define your training need and track your improvements over specific energy systems.

TSS – This will help you to ensure your training is progressive and help you to understand when you need recovery.

Have a clear understanding of your own abilities and what areas you need to improve upon. Track your heart rate in response to all of your Power training to help you understand when improvements take place and track your training stress to improve your fitness over time and help you be ready for your big day. Most of all… Enjoy the ride!