Monday, November 5, 2012

Training with a Power Meter - An Interview with Hunter Allen

Cycling coach mines data for more speed and power
By: Kristina Bangma
Originally Posted on: Vancouver Courier

After taking Hunter Allen's two day Training with Power course last weekend, I'm more than ever convinced that every cyclist who is serious about getting faster should be training with a power meter.

Hunter Allen spent 17 years as a professional road racer and now lives in Bedford, Virginia where he co-founded the Peaks Coaching Group. He coaches amateur and pro endurance athletes and in 2006 co-authored Training and Racing with a Power Meter and followed that in March 2012 with Cutting-Edge Cycling.

His greatest claim to fame has been co-creating the CyclingPeaks software, which is now called TrainingPeaks WKO+ and is one of the most advanced power analysis packages available. Allen has spent his entire life dedicated to cycling and learning how to make cyclists faster.

He promises "power training, powerful results," and believes misleading or incorrect data is far worse than no data at all. He warns cyclists of becoming "a slave" to their power meter each ride and instead says the resulting data is most useful when collected and considered over time.

After the weekend workshop, I asked Allen why cyclists should use TrainingPeaks WKO+ to see results. Is a power meter beneficial for new riders?

"Yes, if they are serious about wanting to improve and are willing to go beyond. Even if they just use the power meter to collect data or to pace themselves, it will help their training."

What are the three main benefits to training with a power meter?

"Number one is the planning. You can actually plan your training around the response you want to get. This is called the dose and response system. 
The second is pacing. We often lose sight of the fact that this sport really is a sport of pacing whether that's a time trial, a criterium, a mountain bike race or even a breakaway. When you race and train with a power meter you know what number of watts you can hold for every distance. 
Lastly, with the data collected before, during and after each race, you or your coach can now analyze this data, providing answers to: Did I improve? How much rest do I need? What are some drawbacks to training and racing with a power meter? 
Many cyclists become a slave to their power meter, watching the watts on every ride, trying to break records every time or basing their confidence on their ability to hold a certain wattage. The true test is analyzing the data over time. That also means you have to have accurate data. Inaccurate data is much worse than no data at all."

There are nine different power meters currently available or hitting the market soon: SRAM, Ergomo, Power Tap, iBike, SRAM/ Quarq, Stages, Polar, O Sync, Power2Max. Which one do you recommend?

 "They are all good with positive and negative points so it mainly depends on your budget. The iBike and Stages are both new products but their price point of under $1,000 makes them a good, entry-level choice."

What are your top three rules for new riders?

"You can always train harder than you think. Longer races means more fitness. Get a bike fit."

What is your biggest accomplishment in road racing?

"I have won a lot of races but I am most proud of producing the WKO+ software and helping make a difference in lots of people's lives."

Kristina Bangma is a coach, personal trainer and writer with a love of riding and racing.
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