The ability to go hard for long is tough. Too hard and you’ll burn out, too slow and you’re off the pace. The types of situation where you need sustainable power would be in a 25 mile time trial or a long road race, getting to the end to finish in a sprint is all very good but if you’re too tired to be competitive in the sprint it’s game over. Alternatively you can look at it from the point of view that with exceptional sustainable power you could win from a break-away or at least tire your competitors out enough to give yourself the best chance at the line.
But it isn’t just about competition, if you can go hard for long you’ll be quicker than your friends, able to reserve energy for those tough climbs or that sprint to the sign post. Sustainable power is as much a part of any ride as it is any race. The best part, in my opinion, about improving or boosting your sustainable power is that it’s easily done outside! You may get slightly better results from training inside, but the fun element, the part that we all enjoy really comes to play in training to boost this element of your cycling.
The way I coach is with with Maximum Minute Power (MMP) or the average power you can sustain in the final minute of a ramp test or a 3 minute test. To build sustainable power you need to train in anything between 55-75% of MMP, if you are using a power meter. If you are using a heart rate monitor you should aiming between 75-89% of your maximum heart rate (MHR). Training with power will yield better more efficient results but not all of us can afford expensive power meters, the next best thing is heart rate, if you don’t train with a heart rate monitor you should be finding it reasonably hard work, heart rate and breathing up, sweating and beginning to pant. If you use training zones you will need to be training in zones 3 and 4.
The results from training in these zones vary, obviously the main goal is to boost sustainable power but you’ll also get an improvement in your body’s ability to metabolise carbohydrates, some of your muscles will change from fast twitch to slow twitch, and as mentioned above you’ll start to boost your threshold. This type of training benefits everyone, it is useful during tapering and pre-competition but too much training in this area will cause staleness.
If you chose to train to boost sustainable power outside it is important to be able to see your power output or heart rate while riding or at a minimum you should be able review your ride afterwards, a good tracker is important here. If you are outside rides should last anywhere between 30 minutes and two hours, effort should increase as duration decreases.
If you can’t check out your effort during or afterwards you should really complete these sessions on a turbo trainer. The type of intervals here will vary but can range from 2 intervals of 15 minutes to 4 of 8 minutes, anything really. If you want to test your progress, a 25 mile time trial is perfect as you should be aiming to be as close, or under, to an hour as possible. Another reason why, if you don’t already, you should make a leap and do some time trialing…