So you’ve made the leap and you're ready to train using a power meter – or training on a smart trainer with power as your measuring stick. That's where we come in to help. Power meters have simplified training significantly, and while there is still a place for heart rate monitors, power meters have far surpassed them as the go-to tool for measuring your output. Power is a bit more “raw” than heart rate, in that power is a reading of what you're doing, whereas your heart rate is your body's response to what you're doing.
For whatever your reason – and we're thrilled that you have(!) – you've chosen FormFinder training. We're here to bring you into form and help you feel great on the bike! One of the biggest mistakes new athletes make, is not following their training plan. Now this can seem like a throwaway statement if you are extremely diligent with your training, and you get out and ride every day. When we say "not following your training plan" we mean not following the prescribed numbers. Early in your time with FormFinder, and semi-frequently each year, you'll do an FTP (Functional Threshold Power) test. Your FTP number will determine your training zones. We use 6 training zones which Dr Andrew Coggan created back in 2001 and have become the most commonly used in the industry. So here is the most important part: If your training suggests the zone to ride in, you need to ride in that zone! FormFinder training sessions have been carefully put together to maximise your progression, keep you in good health, and to prepare you for not just your target events, but to be well equipped for the next phase of your training.
Time and time again, our athletes will think the zone they've been told to ride in is too easy. They will push on up into the next zone, and sometimes the zone above that, which completely changes the body's response to not just that session, but potentially the preceding sessions, and in some cases, the next phases of training.
Here's an example: Billy is told to do two efforts in Zone 2, followed by one in Sweet Spot (High Zone 3). Zone 2 feels too easy so he nudges up to High Zone 3 and even a bit of low Zone 4. His Sweet Spot effort is super difficult to complete in High Zone 3, but he pushes on as long as he can, and even falls a bit short of that power by the final minute of his Sweet Spot effort. This session is now riddled with massive mistakes.
Firstly, the Zone 2 efforts were there to warm the body up and get everything adjusted to the session. They were meant to feel easy. Secondly, the Sweet Spot effort was no longer completed at a higher intensity that the Zone 2 efforts, it was basically done at the same intensity. Thirdly, the body's adaptation to the Zone 2 efforts to then get a good Sweet Spot effort in, did not work, because essentially all the Sweet Spot energy was used up at the start of the session. Coupled with that, the actual Sweet Spot to failure was not meant to happen. Billy was supposed to appreciate his body was doing a difficult effort, but felt pretty energised knowing he'd just smashed out a Sweet Spot effort and thought he could do another.
The prescribed session wasn't meant to be a "ride to failure" session, it was an energizing session that was going to lead into a rest day, and then a very difficult day was to follow the rest day. The trouble with going as deep as Billy went, is that by the time he got to his hard day, he was not fully recovered.
The idea for his hard day was that his power output levels were going to be the same, and his perceived exertion was about a level 8/10. As it turned out the following session felt like 10/10 and hurt like hell!
It's these failures to adhere to the training plan that can prevent progression, and in some cases lead to illness and symptoms of overtraining.
In a nutshell, we cannot emphasise enough how important it is to stick to your prescribed training zones. It is OK if you fall short of your intended zone (however if this is happening frequently we will need to reassess your FTP value), but what we really do not want to see if athletes going full gas every day. It's not about going hard all the time, it's about training smart.