Power Training with Volker Maier

Not every evening do you find a motley group of adults beat the weekday traffic to catch up for a lively discussion on the role of power in cycling. If this makes you think of electric bicycles, you are little off the mark. Collaborating with Srinath Rajam, a data munching, pedal pushing 60 years young cycling coach from Chennai, Coimbatore Cycling organized an interactive knowledge sharing session with Peaks Coaching Group’s Elite Cycling Coach from Germany, Volker Maier. The event was pegged as a prelude to a three-day cycling coaching camp aimed at equipping the cycling enthusiasts with the knowledge of Training with Power, measuring the power produced by the body and training with data for increased efficiency and performance. We catch up with the coach for a discussion on some common questions seasoned and amateur cyclists mull over;

Why and what data should you be looking at while training?

Early competitive cyclists were training with the Borg Scale, a system of measuring training intensity based on the Rate of Perceived Exertion. This was subjective and was solely dependent an individual’s perception of effort and intensity of training. With the advent of Heart Rate Monitors and Power Meters, riders and coaches can accurately measure the effects of high intensity training on the body and chart appropriate training sessions to manipulate the body’s response thereby achieving better fitness levels and performance. The data points that we can look at for training are many; for starters Cadence, Heart Rate and Power would be apt and as we progress in training measuring Training Stress Score (TSS), Acute Training Load (ATL) and Chronic Training Load (CTL) and will give us better insights on the training adaptation of our body.

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Selfie with the Coach..!!

How different is power based training when compared to heart rate based training?

Not like chalk and cheese…!! Heart rate tells us the effect that our training effort is having on the body whereas power quantifies the result of the effort. For increased performance we should have insight into the power produced as well as the result of the power produced on the body. The right training plan must be built around Power and Heart Rate measurement and both are equally important.

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High on Tea @Dodabetta’s famed Chocolate Tea Shop

How accurate and important is Power measurement when compared to Heart Rate measurement?

With the advanced systems available in the market both Heart Rate Meters and Power Meters throw up accurate numbers. The difference here is that power data is instantaneous whereas heart rate data is affected by the Heart Rate Lag. This is the difference in the time taken for the heart rate to increase or decrease when there is a change in the training effort.  This is critical as one can quickly fatigue if these sudden and prolonged increase in elevations of heart rate is not observed and controlled.

What about plateauing?

Plateauing occurs when the body becomes used to the training effort over time and performance stagnates. Consistency in training increases body conditioning but not necessarily guarantee continual performance increase.  The rule is simple, if you keep doing what you have been doing, you will keep getting what you have been getting. Variation and shocking the body with surprises is key. Having a bouquet of training sessions in our schedule keeps the surprise element on thus varying the training adaptation.  As training is continuous and fitness increases there is some amount of fatigue that sets in. Performance is the resultant of the difference in the fitness is fatigue. So easy weeks or even a week of complete rest followed by weeks of hard training blocks has proved to reduce the Acute and Chronic Training Loads (ATL and CTL), thus freshening and recovering the exerted muscles thereby increasing performance.

How to lose fat cycling?

There are many quick and effective tips here and the adage one size fits all does not apply here. Each individual’s response to training stimulus is different. Cycling at lower intensities in the aerobic, “Fat Burning” zones has proven effective for some in shedding extra fat. But in any case, we need to watch the calories that we ingest for fat loss to be effective.

What would be the right age to start with training for kids?

It is key to understand that a child is not a miniature adult. The coaching should not take into consideration short terms benefits but rather long-term rewards.  Too much too soon will result in loss of interest in the sport or injury to the kid. Kids can start early on skill building routines where having fun is an important element. A ride around with friends on bicycles would be best fit considering Indian conditions. Training routines and activities should be initiated only around the age of 11-13 for girls and 12 – 14 for boys for greatest gains. Power training for kids can start around 15 years. Even though this may seem a little late when compared to other sports, if the skill levels are built through normal riding when they were kids then this would be a natural progression.

Cycling as an activity is pure fun due to the simplicity of it. But for thrill seekers who are keen on performance, the ride just got Powered..!!

Picture Credits – Michael Joseph

Thannks for reading.!!

– DS

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