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Questions for Achieving an Ambitious FTP Goal

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Questions for Achieving an Ambitious FTP Goal

Old 08-05-23, 08:24 AM
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Questions for Achieving an Ambitious FTP Goal

I recently completed a self-administered FTP test (20 minute all out effort, multiply measured watts by .95, measured through a Norditrack S22i Stationary Bike) and came away realizing how much I need to develop in order to even be considered a "good" cyclist:
FTP 184.3
Watt/kg: 2.9
(for reference I weigh 63.5kg, mid-30s)

So I have set myself an ambitious goal: I want to achieve 5 Watt/kg within 2 years.
That means I have to generate 334.2 Watts in a 20-minute effort, assuming my weight does not change drastically, for an improved FTP of 317.5 Watts.

That is an enormous leap admittedly, but I rather like ambitious goals as even if I don't ever achieve it, I feel the satisfaction or regular progress to something grand (at least in my eyes), and that feeling is worth its weight in gold.

At the same time, I can't do what I could do when I was younger, that is: workout until my body hurts, and workout for enormous hours each week. So sorry to my pro ambitions that would require multiple weekly 4+ hour sessions in the saddle, because that ain't happening. I have a family and a career that I obviously won't sacrifice.

So my constraints are:
5-10 hours of training per week, with the possibility of one 4 hour session in the saddle if deemed necessary.
Attention to my knees and hips (years of ice hockey doesn't come free), thus requiring requisite rest and obviously not overdoing it.
I have a gym membership at the university I work at that has all the normal stuff, a hilly northern town that has some good riding (but snow comes early and lasts long), and a few friends who are much better riders than I am, but thankfully are willing to share their hard-won wisdom.

I'm posting here because I have a few questions for those who have sought to achieve such FTP goals:
1. I've read in places that it's long rides (4+ hours) that make the great difference in the body's adaptations to better FTP and VO2 max. Now, I can do this once per week, but I have to plan it out carefully given my time and health constraints. However, is it possible to replicate these effects and benefits without such a long single session in the saddle? It's not that I'm trying to avoid this, but I want to know if, given current research on training, whether it's particularly necessary.
2. I am a big fan of squats, and I have bulky thighs for someone my weight (my wife chuckles at my proportions. I think she's just jealous of the junk in my trunk). Is there an optimal or recommended ratio of leg weight sessions (I like to build power, i.e. low rep high weight, as I love sprinting those short hills and sprints on the flat) to riding sessions per week?
3. I am considering a TrainerRoad account to build a structured plan. It seems expensive, but it might be worth it. Any opinions and experiences on what it did for your FTP goals?
4. Any stories you have about your journey that could help me, at the outset of mine?

Thank you all!
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Old 08-05-23, 10:41 AM
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#1 thing: watts/kg has a lot to do with genetics. Your project will be interesting anyway. I don't think there's any need to be able to squat more than bodyweight for say 12 reps. That's some of the weight you'll have to get rid of (legs). Look at the pros. Look like them. 10 hrs/week is a minimum. Long rides are mostly for endurance. You might look at The Time Crunched Cyclist (book), do that program but more Z2 hours. Yes, it's critical to have a plan and then follow it. Works for me. There are a zillion opinions about plans. Main thing is to have plenty of time and as much high end as you can recover from. I've had good seasons in my 60s when if my legs weren't sore every day, I could have been dong more. Gradually reduce your gym time until by next summer, you're only doing 30' of low rep heavy work once a week.
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Old 08-06-23, 12:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy
#1 thing: watts/kg has a lot to do with genetics. Your project will be interesting anyway. I don't think there's any need to be able to squat more than bodyweight for say 12 reps. That's some of the weight you'll have to get rid of (legs). Look at the pros. Look like them. 10 hrs/week is a minimum. Long rides are mostly for endurance. You might look at The Time Crunched Cyclist (book), do that program but more Z2 hours. Yes, it's critical to have a plan and then follow it. Works for me. There are a zillion opinions about plans. Main thing is to have plenty of time and as much high end as you can recover from. I've had good seasons in my 60s when if my legs weren't sore every day, I could have been dong more. Gradually reduce your gym time until by next summer, you're only doing 30' of low rep heavy work once a week.
The genetic thing makes sense. Figures I don't start from the best place with regards to genetics, but that's okay. I'll take a look into the book, thanks for the suggestion!
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Old 08-06-23, 01:24 PM
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5 W/Kg is Cat 1 territory. Air is thin up there. I've met a few riders like that and I am sure there are some here but not me.

If you are not doing any training currently and are recuperating from a respiratory illness, it might be possible to go from 2.9w/kg to 5w/kg in 2 years on 5 hours per week of training. In all my reading on various forums over a decade, I can recall one fellow with such an audacious goal. I think he got to 4.5 w/kg. Maybe you only get there, too. Who knows.

I'll just leave you with two tips. 1) Be consistent with your training: build a little bit week by week, month by month over the two years. 2) Learn when to take a recovery day and week to allow adaptations to happen.

it is not one long ride that increases VO2 max, it is total volume of training.....not that HIIT can't increase it as well. Some respond better to volume than intensity but to achieve the kind of gains you want, you need volume, intensity, perfect diet, consistency, and probably 5 years. Nobody reaches their potential in 2 years. Sorry to say but prove me wrong.
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Old 08-06-23, 01:41 PM
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Originally Posted by GhostRider62
5 W/Kg is Cat 1 territory. Air is thin up there. I've met a few riders like that and I am sure there are some here but not me.

If you are not doing any training currently and are recuperating from a respiratory illness, it might be possible to go from 2.9w/kg to 5w/kg in 2 years on 5 hours per week of training. In all my reading on various forums over a decade, I can recall one fellow with such an audacious goal. I think he got to 4.5 w/kg. Maybe you only get there, too. Who knows.

I'll just leave you with two tips. 1) Be consistent with your training: build a little bit week by week, month by month over the two years. 2) Learn when to take a recovery day and week to allow adaptations to happen.

it is not one long ride that increases VO2 max, it is total volume of training.....not that HIIT can't increase it as well. Some respond better to volume than intensity but to achieve the kind of gains you want, you need volume, intensity, perfect diet, consistency, and probably 5 years. Nobody reaches their potential in 2 years. Sorry to say but prove me wrong.
I have and was training for other sports primarily, but have only been converting that training into cycling recently, so I'm not sure where that leaves me in terms of "newbie gains". I suppose we'll see.

Good tips, and I definitely accept what you're saying about the lofty place that is 5 w/kg. Thus, I'm not holding myself to "5 w/kg in 2 years or bust", and would be quite chuffed with myself if I got to 4 w/kg, and perhaps even 3.5 (albeit less so). Overall though, success to me looks like consistent progress towards 5, even if 5 is not explicitly achieved. I like lofty goals. They get my blood going.

So I guess you could say then that I'm gonna try to prove you wrong, haha. And if I don't, I'll still feel good about it.

On a more practical note, I am also in the process of structuring not just my training, but also improving my diet. My body has always been a "set it and forget it" entity when it comes to diet (that is to say, while I may not have the best starting point for top-end athletics, I am one of the lucky ones that can eat some junk food and still look fit, even though I would feel a bit sluggish), so getting to researching all the nutrition has been likewise a bit of a journey.

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Old 08-06-23, 07:14 PM
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Genetics genetics genetics…

Ive been training fairly hard for 2 years now and may have a 20 watt improvement in FTP. I can ride at a higher % of threshold for longer periods, but my 20 min test and V02 max is barely budging.

Im sitting fast at just shy of 3w/kg…my goal is 300w 4w/kg - probably a pipe dream.

But - I’ve got a 12-1300 watt sprint, do no strength training or sprint training. I know people with relatively high FTP’s and no sprint power to speak of.

A coach would probably help… as would more than 6-7 hours per week.
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Old 08-06-23, 11:43 PM
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II think it sounds like a reasonably attainable goal for the OP. 30 years old, untrained in cycling, but athletic? I kinda want to say reaching 300w FTP will be no problem, not even on 5hrs a week, provided a good training regimen.

My own experience leads me to believe that, as I followed a similar timeline with similar numbers, even though I didn’t start formal training until I was 40 years old, in 2010. I don’t recall my opening FTP; it was a long time ago and I started as rehab from knee surgery, so I don’t really recall when my coach gave me a proper FTP-based training plan, or what that number was. I do recall struggling painfully to make rides with a 195w FTP number, and I also recall building up a new bike in 2013 and getting a 300w FTP upgrade during that same timeframe. That’s my memory, but I’ll ask my coach, who I’m still training with today and who keeps all the records. I’m also still at 300w FTP, but I’ve had a lot of setbacks over the years, particularly with bad knees (including another surgery), so I’m just happy to be where I am today in that regard. Actually, I’m currently training to 295w FTP numbers, but well overperforming on the rides, it’s just that my coach doesn’t bump training numbers until the winter indoor sessions, which is a pretty tough 16 week regimen December to March.

With regards to time investment, I’ve been doing about 3-4hrs/week of structured workouts on a stationary bike year round for the past 12 years, plus whatever outdoor rides I do during the on-season, which are typically a 2hr Wednesday night ride and 3-4hrs on Saturday. It’s not a lot, and it can be pretty variable; life, family, kids, partying…almost everything gets in the way! I keep coming back to it, though, It doesn’t work as well for me today as it used to, because my recovery time is a little longer and it’s just not enough to ride time to offset my bad, weight-gaining habits. The fitness and strength are there, but with probably 15lbs or so extra weight, it’s very hard for me to set PRs out on the road. I’m close, but even clawing back 15secs out of a 5 minute climbing effort to match a PR from 2015 is starting to seem like it’s gonna take a perfect storm with a miracle in it.

Anyway, I’ve said too much, but I still want to reiterate that I think the OP’s goal sounds reasonable. There are so many good training plans available these days, as well as personalized coaching stuff online, that it should be pretty easy and even fun to undertake the improvement. Marc was the first guy doing power based training in Ann Arbor, and he was something of rare bird even considering nationally, as I understand it. Nowadays, there are so many tools, from affordable power meters to Training Peaks to Zwift, which really allow cyclists to collect, analyze, and implement data for training, which I think is crucial for making the kinds of gains the OP wants to make and to do it in relatively short time with relatively short time invested.
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Old 08-07-23, 05:02 AM
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I think you can make relatively fast progress to 225-250 watts, you'll be on the elbow of the curve. After getting to that (very solid) plateau, each additional phase of improvement gets harder.

Everything I've read says long pulls at Z2 are critical.

I think you should have a cycling goal along with your FTP goal, something like finishing a regular 20 mile loop in under XX minutes or a serious hill climb goal.

Good luck!
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Old 08-07-23, 05:35 AM
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I seem to recall Dr Andrew Coggan (well respected cycle training/performance author) stating that the average Joe (genetically speaking) tops out at around 4 W/kg with consistent long-term training. My own personal experience as an average Joe backs that up. I've been hovering around 4 W/kg for years and 5 W/kg is certainly not going to happen.

So your 5 W/kg target is very ambitious. Not impossible, but statistically you are far more likely to fail than achieve it. But the one major thing you have in your favour is a relatively low body weight. At 63.5 kg you ought to be a very good natural climber and rising above the "average Joe" 4 W/kg mark will be a little easier. My weight is around 80 kg, which makes it that much harder to raise my W/kg.

As for training, I think TrainerRoad is a very good starting point. The plans are tailored to your limited training time and will almost certainly give you the biggest initial bang for your buck. But you might want to think about investing in a good smart trainer to go with it. You need accurate power measurement to get a realistic W/kg figure and a lot of stationary gym bikes are way off on their power calibration. So be careful with that potential pitfall. The FTP you measured on the Norditrack bike may or may not be accurate. But the numbers you quoted don't seem unreasonable.

But anyway good luck with your training and goals. You can only improve regardless of the level you ultimately reach.
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Old 08-07-23, 05:45 AM
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Time on the trainer is more time efficient than the road. (5 W/Kg is over 70 ml/Kg and is a very elite athlete)

Here is what Coggan said. I have seen similar statements and finggering from him on two different forums.

Let's do some figgerin'...

The average healthy but sedentary, college-aged male has a VO2max of approximately 45 mL/min/kg. However, I have seen it argued based on studies of, e.g., aboriginal tribes (and there are population data from Europe as well as military inductees here in the US to suppor the conclusion) that the "default" VO2max of the average human male is closer to 50 mL/min/kg, and the only way to get below this is to assume a couch-potato lifestyle, gain excess weight, etc. (and/or grow old, of course). So, I'll go with that latter number.

With short-term training, VO2max increases by 15-25% on average, with another perhaps 5-10% possible (on average, anyway) with more prolonged and/or intense training. That gives a total increase of 20-35%, so I'll go with 30% just for argument's sake.

So, if VO2max is, on average, 50 mL/min/kg and increases by, on average, 30%, that means that the average Joe ought to be able to raise their VO2max to about 65 mL/min/kg with training. Indeed, there are many, many, many, MANY amateur endurance athletes with VO2max values of around that number (not to mention the fact that athletes in team sports with an endurance component - e.g., soccer - often have a VO2max of around 60 mL/min/kg, something that is also true in other sports that you don't normally consider to be of an endurance nature, e.g., downhill skiing or motocross - i.e., motorcycle - racing).

The question then becomes, how high might functional threshold power fall as a percentage of VO2max (again, on average), and what does this translate to in terms of a power output? The answer to the former is about 80% (LT, on average, being about 75% of VO2max in trained cyclists), which means that in terms of O2 consumption, a functional threshold power corresponding to a VO2 of 65 mL/min/kg * 0.80 = 52 mL/min/kg could be considered average. If you then assume an average cycling economy of 0.075 W/min/kg per mL/min/kg, this equates to...

3.9 W/kg
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Old 08-07-23, 08:57 AM
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Originally Posted by GhostRider62
Time on the trainer is more time efficient than the road. (5 W/Kg is over 70 ml/Kg and is a very elite athlete)

Here is what Coggan said. I have seen similar statements and finggering from him on two different forums.
That is a lot of numbers and units, haha. Appreciate it though. Without thinking critically yet about what Coggan is saying (I don't have necessarily a reason to doubt its truth, but it's always good to come into that richness of data with a bit of criticality), 3.9 w/kg might be a good first achievement target for me, or roundabouts there anyhow. I think my second FTP test in about 5 weeks will be quite telling about where I actually am as I begin my structured training program next week...
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Old 08-07-23, 10:15 AM
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Originally Posted by sir_crash_alot
That is a lot of numbers and units, haha. Appreciate it though. Without thinking critically yet about what Coggan is saying (I don't have necessarily a reason to doubt its truth, but it's always good to come into that richness of data with a bit of criticality), 3.9 w/kg might be a good first achievement target for me, or roundabouts there anyhow. I think my second FTP test in about 5 weeks will be quite telling about where I actually am as I begin my structured training program next week...
Well, 5wks is quite a short span, so donít get too wrapped up in that! Youíve got two years, so this is a long game and donít forget itís likely not going to be linear advancement, either, so while youíll see plateaus and probably some ups and downs, too, youíre baseline from accumulated training will make you more responsive to returns to form.

I didnít really pay attention to your weight in my initial assessment; I donít work in Kg all that well and being 110kg myself, everyone seems light to me! But yeah, 143lbs is pretty light and does make Cogganís VO2 max-based numbers look unlikely, remember most folks are heavier, putting you on the good side of the bell curve. Scrolling through my Sauce-enabled Strava feed, a good number of the fast guys in your age range around here have FTPs in the +300w range, so thatís kinda my perspective: elite as a percentage of the total cycling population, but not so rare that theyíre all on UCI pro teams. Some are folks just like you.

To that point, and as a matter of encouragement, one of the guys who used to train with my coach at the studio is Alexey Vermeulen, who went on to a pro career, riding with Lotto Jumbo a few years ago and now, back home stateside, heís riding with Jukebox. He weighs in at 143 currently and has a 370w FTP. See? 300w is reasonable!

Get started, manage your expectations, and stick to it! I hope you have success pursuing your goals!
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Old 08-07-23, 11:02 AM
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Originally Posted by sir_crash_alot
3.9 w/kg might be a good first achievement target for me,
That is certainly a realistic target. But you should really focus on your training methodology and nutrition. Your target FTP wonít make any difference at this stage.

You might also want to think about what you intend to do with your increased bike fitness. Are you looking to race, TT, ride timed endurance events, hill climbs etc or is this simply an arbitrary fitness goal?
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Old 08-13-23, 06:30 PM
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Originally Posted by chaadster
Well, 5wks is quite a short span, so donít get too wrapped up in that! Youíve got two years, so this is a long game and donít forget itís likely not going to be linear advancement, either, so while youíll see plateaus and probably some ups and downs, too, youíre baseline from accumulated training will make you more responsive to returns to form.

I didnít really pay attention to your weight in my initial assessment; I donít work in Kg all that well and being 110kg myself, everyone seems light to me! But yeah, 143lbs is pretty light and does make Cogganís VO2 max-based numbers look unlikely, remember most folks are heavier, putting you on the good side of the bell curve. Scrolling through my Sauce-enabled Strava feed, a good number of the fast guys in your age range around here have FTPs in the +300w range, so thatís kinda my perspective: elite as a percentage of the total cycling population, but not so rare that theyíre all on UCI pro teams. Some are folks just like you.

To that point, and as a matter of encouragement, one of the guys who used to train with my coach at the studio is Alexey Vermeulen, who went on to a pro career, riding with Lotto Jumbo a few years ago and now, back home stateside, heís riding with Jukebox. He weighs in at 143 currently and has a 370w FTP. See? 300w is reasonable!

Get started, manage your expectations, and stick to it! I hope you have success pursuing your goals!
Thanks for the encouragement! I'm hoping for some newbie gains the first 6 months tbh, haha. If i can get to 300 FTP I'll be elated, but certainly won't feel it as a failure if I don't. :-)
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Old 08-13-23, 06:36 PM
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Originally Posted by PeteHski
That is certainly a realistic target. But you should really focus on your training methodology and nutrition. Your target FTP wonít make any difference at this stage.

You might also want to think about what you intend to do with your increased bike fitness. Are you looking to race, TT, ride timed endurance events, hill climbs etc or is this simply an arbitrary fitness goal?
Thanks. My goals are looking to race. I would like to focus on road racing and rolling hills type courses. This is to some degree an arbitrary number though just to give me something to shoot for as I want to become better at racing.

So here's a quick snapshot of my training plan (starting this week):



And it's more or less this until a taper down for my planned first road races in May 2024. A different plan will commence then, then picked up at the end of the "spring classics" season sometime in July 2024 or something like that. What's not represented here is that I will, on the days off, either play ice hockey, lift, or just rest depending on energy (probably mostly rest TBH). Furthermore, depending on feel, I will slot in a 1-hour swimming session instead of a road session if I feel the need to give my legs a rest.

My nutrition plan is pretty straight forward, and I'll see how it goes: a 30-30-40 carb-fat-protein ratio, eating clean and homecooked. Nothing sophisticated, lots of whey protein, with a higher emphasis on carbs > fat on days with longer rides (2 hours or more). Not sure how far this will get me, and I am admittedly focused on macros only (don't know enough to get more sophisticated than that). Caloric intake target is currently 1600 with goal of trimming down to 135 lbs over the next several months, but energy levels will dictate whether I go above that (in fact, I figure I will as the semester rolls along and I'm doing a lot of teaching).
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Old 08-13-23, 08:41 PM
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Playing ice hockey on a rest day is not rest.

Once your training gets serious, you need to account for the stress of a hockey game.

I play ice hockey, too. We're often short players and I take triple shifts to let the young kids catch their breath. 15 minute stopped clock. It is a real workout, like a superhard VO2 max workout. I manually put TSS points into my training load to account for the game
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Old 08-13-23, 08:52 PM
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Originally Posted by GhostRider62
Playing ice hockey on a rest day is not rest.

Once your training gets serious, you need to account for the stress of a hockey game.

I play ice hockey, too. We're often short players and I take triple shifts to let the young kids catch their breath. 15 minute stopped clock. It is a real workout, like a superhard VO2 max workout. I manually put TSS points into my training load to account for the game
Good point. I guess after playing hockey for so long it stopped feeling like the workout it really is in my head. What I think I'll do then is, if I play hockey on a "rest" day I'll drop the road session the next day and rest then.

And yes, hockey is an awesome V02 max workout, and also great for maintaining bone density, which is why I don't want to drop that form of training from my regimen entirely.
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Old 08-25-23, 10:12 AM
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I'm about 2 weeks into my structured training program, and I thought I'd share my thoughts on my experience so far.
  1. A lifetime of anaerobic sports (ice hockey, martial arts broken down into two minute rounds) did not prepare me mentally for the reality of training for more endurance-centric sports. Zone 2 training seems boring and my legs always want to do more. I'm getting more accustomed to it, but the first week was a constant battle to keep my power consistent.
  2. Intervals on roads with live traffic is harrowing.
  3. Feels easier to put down power on the road than on the stationary bike though. I'm looking forward to an updated FTP test on the road next week.
  4. I haven't lost any weight, which I am a litle surprised by.
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Old 08-31-23, 07:48 AM
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Almost 3 weeks into structured training, with one more thought: For the purposes of racing, I'm starting to realize that aerodynamics is very important to understanding your power output in terms of actual performance. I've been emphasizing doing as much of my training in as aero a position as possible, and comparing my performance on Strava to some of the strongest riders in my local area, even meager power output can go a long way with appropriate rider positioning.

Interestingly, when I adopt an aero hoods position, because of how crunched up my legs are into my abdomen at the top of the stroke, they "want to be released" through the down stroke. In other words, it's difficult to ride at low power in an aero hoods position. Perhaps a good aerodynamic position also begs for power output...
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Old 08-31-23, 11:37 AM
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I had a Retul fit and aero testing performed at the velodrome and ride my harder efforts in the fastest position. If I am riding for endurance, I am more relaxed about the position but do some in the fastest position.
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Old 08-31-23, 01:37 PM
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Originally Posted by Hermes
I had a Retul fit and aero testing performed at the velodrome and ride my harder efforts in the fastest position. If I am riding for endurance, I am more relaxed about the position but do some in the fastest position.
This is interesting, and seems like it's a similar experience to mine. Others might have different stories, but it seems like an understated side effects of a more aggressively aero position is that it pushes us to provide more power than we would normally in a more upright position.
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Old 09-29-23, 09:16 AM
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Updates after ~1.5 months of structured training:
  • Finished up base phase building via TrainerRoad last week, this week has been week 1 of build.
  • I should have taken an FTP test right before week 1 of build (last saturday), but illness and bike problems hit me.
  • Took one this morning though.
So after 1.5 months of structured training at base level, current metrics are:
Average wattage for 20 minute effort: 222 Watts
New FTP: 210.9
Current Weight: 62 Kg
Watts/Kilo: 3.5 W/Kg
FTP/Kilo: 3.4 FTP/Kg


Still a long way to go, but progress is happening.

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Old 10-01-23, 07:31 AM
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Good effort. 3.4 W/kg is pretty respectable at this stage.
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Old 10-10-23, 06:54 AM
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Training has now moved mostly indoors due to the onset of cold weather (and my lack of winter gear). Got a smart trainer (Elite Suito T, on massive discount over on Bike Closet if you're interested), and I am shocked by how precise the workouts become when combined with the TrainerRoad phone app. In "erg" mode the trainer automatically adjusts the resistance to help you maintain your power within a very precise range as stipulated by the workout. It's quite a different experience than being on the road.
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Old 10-10-23, 08:26 AM
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Yeah, interval training on a Smart trainer is super effective. It's a very efficient way of making progress.
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