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Next training program; New Functional Threshold Power (FTP) established.

Thursday, December 6, 2012 by  
Filed under Daily Blog


Yesterday I kicked off the second six-week cycling training program I’ll be following on TrainerRoad: Intermediate Base II.

This training program is described as follows:

“Upon completion of a solid foundation phase (Intermediate Base I), this training plan begins with a fitness reassessment to account for any early season improvement.

It then allows riders to focus more intently on growing their sustainable power through consistent use of near-threshold efforts. The intensity grows somewhat sharply as suprathreshold efforts are sprinkled in on a weekly basis in the interest of growing aerobic power in minimal time.

Additional focus is given to improved climbing form, adequate power production in an aerodynamic position, increased leg strength & improvement of maximal aerobic power.”

As you can see, a big part of this program is geared towards increasing aerobic and sustainable power. I feel this is precisely what I need right now, so I’m excited about the improvements I expect to see over the next couple of months.

Yesterday's "8-minute" FTP test. New FTP of 288 established.

Yesterday’s “8-minute” FTP test. New FTP of 288 established.

So yesterday I did the first workout in the new program which, as mentioned above, is a fitness reassessment. This fitness test is the same workout that I started off the Intermediate Base I training program with. The workout is called the “8-minute test”, and it’s designed to measure the athlete’s FTP (Functional Threshold Power). FTP is, simply put, the maximum average power an athlete can sustain for one hour.

The actual test is one hour long, and it includes two 8-minute time trials. The idea is to ride very hard, but at an effort that you can consistently sustain over each of the two 8-minute segments. The formula for establishing FTP is to simply average the power sustained over those two 8-minute tests (assuming the results of both tests are within 10% of one another) and then multiply that average by 90%.

My baseline FTP when I started the first six week training program was determined to be 270. That’s not a bad FTP for someone who is in shape, but has never done any cycling-specific training.

My power during the two 8-minute timed sections of yesterday’s test was very consistent: 319 watts on the first test, 320 watts on the second. My new FTP (90% of the two-test average) is 288, which is an 18 point (6.25%) improvement over my initial FTP of 270.

I was sort of expecting my new FTP to be 300 or so, but after doing some research I think that was an unrealistic expectation after just six weeks of cycling-specific training. An FTP of 300 (at my current weight–75.75 Kg) is pretty good, and a 30 point FTP improvement after only six weeks of cycling-specific training (especially starting at a relatively high baseline FTP of 270) would be unusual. An 18 point improvement is good, and I’m pleased.

This puts my new 1 hour FTP/Kg at 3.80. During yesterday’s test I also set a new 5-minute Wattage PR of 322, which equates to 4.25 Watts/Kg. That’s a decent improvement over my 5-minute Watts/Kg from six weeks ago, which was 4.10 Watts/Kg. According to this chart I’m still hovering around the middle of Cat 3 racer territory:

My 5-minute watts/Kg score yesterday is 4.25, which puts me right in the middle of Cat 3.

My 5-minute watts/Kg score yesterday is 4.25, which puts me right in the middle of Cat 3.

I’ve made some nice improvements over the past week, and those improvements have translated to real-world results out on the trails and on the road (for example, about a week ago I destroyed 7 long-standing PRs at Wekiwa).

While these early results are encouraging to me, I feel I can do better. I’m going to re-double my efforts over the next six weeks and work harder than ever!

John Stone Fitness Comments

5 Responses to “Next training program; New Functional Threshold Power (FTP) established.”
  1. Great work John as usual. As a daily reader to your blog and knowing all the strava records you hold and you being a destroyer on a bike yourself, it blows my mind after looking at those charts that a professional/record holder almost doubles your sustained wattage output. It’s impressive on both sides, because I know how hard you train. My wife laughs at me every year as I watch the Tour de France how I can just sit and watch people ride bikes for hours. I tell her until you get on a bike and try to climb a steep local hill and do the walk of shame you’ll never have respect for people that climb 17 miles literally up mountain sides. ****sigh***** I’ll guess I’ll never have my own support car!!!

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    • I totally agree: the athleticism of elite cyclists is truly mind-blowing once you understand what they are able to do.

      I think a pro/semi-pro cyclist can sustain 280-300 watts pretty much all day long (which is right around the watts I would struggle to maintain for just one hour), and they can maintain 400+ watts for an entire hour.

      I remember when I first started mountain biking I rode with some mountain bikers who were very much anti-roadie. They made fun of road cyclists for wearing lycra, shaving their legs and not being “hardcore”. I’ve come to realize how ridiculously off-base those guys were. Roadies are some of the most hardcore, pain-tolerant and hard working athletes on the planet. It takes a tremendous amount of time and effort to get fast, and those guys really put in the work.

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  2. The other thing that many mountain only riders don’t understand is how difficult it is to make substantial progress when only doing mountain riding. It’s bumpy, there are lots of turns, lots of time for recovery, but also suboptimal training areas due to extreme climbs. It’s not a good training environment but tons of fun to ride! Many don’t understand how much better of a training platform either a road or indoor bike can be. When I first started riding years ago I was definitely in that ignorant category.

    However, after a cold winter here and me taking spin classes for a few months due to snow cover and temperatures I learned the value of training as opposed to just riding. After I incorporated regular indoor training on a fluid training I went straight to the front of the pack. It’s still surprising to me that when people ask me how to improve and I tell them to get a trainer they just ignore my advice and keep riding. I guess they just don’t like hearing it so ignore it.

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    • I know some very strong XC mountain bikers who have never put so much as a single mile on a road bike, but they are the exception and not the rule. I started to see that most of the really good XC mountain bikers were also road cyclists, and it became clear to me that that that was no accident!

      After noting the pretty drastic time improvements I’ve been able to make on a mountain bike with only a couple of months of road riding (and indoor training) under my belt, I’m even more of a believer now.

      Of course some mountain bikers just want to get out there and do what they love, and don’t have the slightest desire to become faster or whatever. Absolutely nothing wrong with that–in fact I applaud it. But for me part of the enjoyment of mountain biking is becoming faster and more efficient.

      And, as it turns out, road biking is pretty fun. 🙂

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      • I also found that as I got stronger I was able to clear the most challenging technical features. Lots of step up and steep, rocky ascents here. I attribute it mostly to building up a stronger aerobic base through training so that I could be more aggressive anaerobically on the challenge features.

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