It’s the standard question I get asked from anyone, “How do I improve my power output?”, and the answer isn’t quite as simple as it might sound, particularly if you’ve been following structured training, or been coached, for a number of years. For people who are new to cycling, have ridden recreationally, or who have trained sporadically any number of the following factors might see significant results, for those already at a trained level it might take them hitting all of these to see gains at all.
Don’t neglect your base! Some people are really so eager to get started after having an end of season rest (or even worse going straight through from one season with no recovery time) that they neglect to build what some people call endurance base. For me this is quite a crucial period and the work you do here might ensure that you are able to sustain higher intensity training and racing for longer in the next season. Allowing your body to be more efficient at fuelling from fat stores and getting your organs working productively might ensure you can hit power targets more effectively when you start specific training and you might recover quicker. If you haven’t got the time for long low intensity rides, why not try fasted training, try hitting a higher intensity session the evening before a fasted session, this might yield similar adaptations in your body to longer rides.
Like I’ve said in many of my previous blogs, if you’re doing short distance events in the season (and even if you’re not!) you might get better response from training at the higher end of aerobic endurance anyway. Many of my other blogs point towards the time you have available, your busy job or family life and not wanting (or having the time) to spend multiple hours training every day. The good news is that you might be able to get similar adaptations, and I would argue sustain a better mental health, by keeping your training shorter. Unsure about this? Checkout my Coaching Packages for more info.
Don’t neglect cross training, build functional strength, leg strength, balance & co-ordination, core & flexibility. Another crucial component of fitness that might yield massive gains when you specialise your training. Having a strong core and legs, a stable body and flexibility should help you maintain higher power outputs with minimal discomfort in your riding position. Another important factor will be the mental break from training hard at cycling for so long, doing something else will keep your mind fresh and committed once you start having to train hard for key events.
MMP, MAP, FTP, and/or LT. Whichever system you use to set your training zones you need to understand at what intensity, with what duration, will yield what adaptation in the body! Five minutes at one intensity might not be achievable whereas at another it might be easy but have no results. Look it up, research it, test yourself or seek professional help in all of the above!
Once you know what intensity you have to target and for what duration, to improve your power output you just need to do it! Training at or around what some people call race pace, sweet-spot, intense endurance, threshold or other terms might improve your power but can be quite fatiguing. Know when to quit your session if you’re not hitting the output, make 1-2 sessions per week your all important ones, don’t miss them, hit the right power output, heart rate level, or effort/feel. No excuses!
Recover! Learn to recover. Make your hard sessions hard by making your easy sessions easy. Without adequate recovery you are simply over training, dire consequences for anyone’s season and will definitely not help you improve your power outputs, in most cases you’ll see a drop. Nutrition can play a massive part in this, getting the right micro-nutrients in your balanced diet alongside the right healthy macro-nutrients will ensure you are at least providing the right fuel!
And if all else fails something that might help improve your speed but not necessarily your power output is building technique, optimising your position, and ensuring your tactics are effective. Something that might help you be faster for the same power.