June 20, 2012
FLO Cycling - Power Meters: An Interview with Coach Nathan Chaszeyka
I have personally used a power meter for the last couple of years and have found it to be very beneficial in both training and racing. I interviewed Nathan Chaszeyka, Director of Coaching at Endurance Addiction (www.enduranceaddiction.com), to ask some beginner/intermediate questions about training/racing with power. Take a look at the interview below. Even after two years of using a power meter, I picked up some interesting tips from this interview.
First, a little about Nathan Chaszeyka.
Nathan Chaszeyka is a Level two Expert Coach from USA Cycling. He has completed the curriculum for USA Cycling's Power Based Training Certification, USA Triathlon's Level 1 Certification, USA Triathlon's Youth and Junior Coaching Certification, Road Runner's Club of America's Endurance Running Certification, and CrossFit's Level 1 Strength and Conditioning Certification. Nathan is also involved in product development for FLUID nutrition and the director of the FLUID Cycling Team. His athletes have won USAC national championships, the RAAM four-man relay, NCAA swimming national championships, multiple state championships, competed in KONA, and qualified for ITU worlds.
1. Tell us about your background in cycling/triathlon/endurance sports.
I've been a runner since I was five years old and have spent my whole life participating in endurance sports ranging from mountaineering/alpine climbing, cycling, triathlon, fastpacking, and ultra-marathon.
2. What advice would you give to a new cyclist?
To a brand new cyclist, be patient. Pick your information about training carefully and then commit to that course of action long enough to see results. Too many people are eager to give a newbie information and it can lead to contradictory styles of training and recovery.
To a new racer, be aggressive and willing to make mistakes. A lot of guys who come to me for coaching are frustrated because they stagnate in the middle of the pack. To be a winner, you have to risk losing. It's better to lose by taking a chance than to lose by being conservative and sitting in all the way to the end. If your move doesn't work out, figure out why and work on your timing for the next race.
3. Coaching with power is your forte. Why should a cyclist train with a power meter?
At this point, I think it's easier to ask why would some one want to train WITHOUT a power meter. The reasons to train with power are legion.
The most important reason in my opinion is that training with a power meter allows the rider to communicate with his or her coach objectively and with a common language between them. The value that the power meter brings to an athlete's coaching is immeasurable. Along with being able to communicate more clearly, the power meter provides the athlete with quantifiable results about his training. Training with power makes clear whether what you are trying to achieve with your training is actually happening and allows you to see what other systems and efforts you need to improve upon.
4. How does training with power compare to training with heart rate?
In a way, both are measures of exercise intensity. In my opinion, the power meter makes training with heart rate obsolete in a lot of ways. Comparatively speaking, training with power eliminates the variability and unpredictability that is inherent in heart rate training.
5. Power meters are expensive. Are there ways an athlete can simulate training with power?
Lately, there are a lot of guys who are trying to simulate power by doing calculations with stationary trainers. I haven't looked into it too much personally to verify for myself how well it works, but at least there's that option.
The thing is, I disagree with your statement. Power meters have become very affordable compared to five years ago. With FLO wheels as an option, an athlete can now take those savings and put it toward a power meter. Now the athlete doesn't even have to choose between race wheels or a power meter, they have both!
6. How does a power meter help a triathlete or a cyclist on race day?
In cycling, unless it's a timed event, I find that my athletes are often hampered by their power meter. Too often, the pace picks up and the athlete peeks at her power meter. They see a number that they know they cannot sustain and it breaks them mentally. The truth about bike racing is more simple than power meters: either you have it that day or you don't. Looking at the power meter will not help you mid-race. Now, that's not to say that there aren't some advanced techniques out there to pace an attack or breakaway with the power meter. These do work, but I've seen more instances where a cyclist should have just kept his or her head in the race and worried about the numbers after the finish line.
In triathlon, pacing is everything. There is simply no better device to use for pacing than a power meter.
One area where we have been using the power meter with our athletes on race day (cyclist or triathlete) is in management of nutrition. We work with our athletes to carefully watch their energy expenditure in kilojules to ensure that they are consuming enough calories to meet that demand. This is not something that's especially new to triathlon, but it's amazing how little cyclists tend to think about adequate fueling during races.
7. What is the most common mistake cyclists make when trying to improve?
Group rides. Hear me out.
Typically cyclists are encouraged to do group rides because they are 'hard.' Upon examination of the files, though, many group rides are tempo rides at their hardest with A LOT of zero power time added in. If a cyclist goes on a two hour group ride and ends up coasting 25% of the time, he has really only ridden an hour and a half. Upon examination of that time, the power is often only high level two or low level three power.
Many of the cyclists I coach often make gains rapidly because they start spending less time on middling group rides and more time in small focused groups or riding solo. This means that on a two-hour ride, they will pedal 90% of the time and spend 30 minutes or more in focused levels of intensity that are intended to bring about a specific adaptation very quickly.
8. How has coaching with power changed your business? Have you seen improved results from your athletes?
I've been coaching with power since I started coaching five years ago. To be honest, I can't say that it has changed my business because it's always been a part of it. There have been drastic changes in the attitude of athletes toward training with power meters and this change of attitude has really affected our business. Our athletes' results have improved because when they start with us, and learn to use their power meter, most often they find that they have not been training nearly as effectively as they could be with the time that they have to devote toward training.
9. What is an athletes FTP and what is the best way to find it?
The true definition of FTP is the power an athlete can average in a quasi-steady state for an hour.
There are a number of ways to get a very close estimate of this, but the only exact way to find it is to do an hour TT. With that being said, I do not advocate doing a one-hour test and have never asked an athlete to do one.
The best way to find the FTP is to use one of the proven protocols and stick to it. Find a protocol that works for you, your terrain, your motivation, your training and then stick to it. Once you find that method, you will always have a very good handle of what your FTP is at any given time.
A lot of people waste mental energy on FTP. There are a few key things to remember. Firstly, it's a constantly moving target. It will never be exact from day to day. Secondly, it's importance is discipline dependent. Time trialists and triathletes need to have locked down, very accurate FTP if they are going to pace their event using a power meter (and why wouldn't you?) For road and crit racers, having your FTP dialed to the watt isn't as necessary. These cyclists are using their FTP more for relative training intensity. In a race, it doesn't matter if you know your FTP or not. You are either with the move or dropped.
10. Are there any golden rules to training with power? Can you leave our readers with some tips for getting started with their power meter?
My golden rule for training with power is this: the power meter works for you, you don't work for your power meter. Don't get emotional over the numbers.
If an athlete was going to lift weights and he could not hit his target weight for the day, he would reduce the weight and still put in his best effort. This is the same principle for power training. A good coach will explain to you that the effort you put into your workout is what matters. If you hit the numbers, we know you are on target. If you miss, we know to look for something (probably fatigue) and eliminate it or understand that it is going to complicate the workouts for a period of time and move forward.
As for getting started with a power meter, find a coach who is well versed and have him give you a one-on-one to get everything started and set up. This doesn't have to be in person. We have done this with many of our athletes by using Skype and other online tools to conference at a distance.
I hope you have enjoyed this interview. We'd love to hear from you. Please leave your comments and questions below.
All the best,