Winter Power

by | Bike, Training

What do you mean your power went down?

One of our PB+J Athletes recently completed the Coggan FTP test. The is a?time trial format session designed to establish Functional Threshold Power, a measure of the effort (in watts) that you are able to theoretically sustain for one hour. It requires a bike, a power meter and a not inconsiderable amount of effort. This results in an FTP figure and a set of Zones, a tool to judge your effort level in a training session or a race; similar?to heart rate zones or pace zones on a run. It is, at its heart, a measure of your cycling fitness and therein lies the problem. No-one likes to see their performance decline.

The athlete in question was naturally disappointed to see a decline in his perceived ability – an average 7% decline in power. After all, it was 6 months or more since his last test, why had he not improved? The answer lies in the test conditions, and it also highlights an important message – You can not be super fit all year round.

A new power meter saw this athlete completing?an FTP test in the middle of the 2016 race season. In fact, the test was done after a solid winter of training, a race build and a great result?at the Ironman Victoria 70.3 in June 2016. For this athlete, it was not far from his peak fitness for the year. The test was also done outdoors.

In stark contrast, the most recent test was done a couple of weeks after a period of sickness in the middle of post-season, on an indoor trainer.


The indoor trainer alone might account for a hefty percentage decline in performance. The reduction in outdoor stimuli, no air cooling, performance sapping heat and a fixed trainer position all add up to a less comfortable experience both mentally and physically. When we knead in his reduced off season training load?it’s no surprise that the FTP figure was lower. There has also been a post season focus on strength and low cadence work,?a great tool to carry into race season but somewhat limiting when asked to perform a time trial.

No one can maintain peak fitness throughout a race season let alone a full calendar year. We peak and trough to allow both mental a physical recuperation before the next push to increase fitness. A lower power figure is not only expected?it’s likely advantageous to the season ahead.

The Takeaway

Winter training requires us to put aside the ego and develop patience. We are not robots and it’s absolutely fine to have a period of downtime when your usual levels of performance kick back and rejuvenate. The hard work and results will come soon enough, this is a time not to achieve greatness but to prepare yourself for it.

For more reading on adjusting your FTP for indoor riding read this Adjusting Your Functional Threshold Power news item from Training Peaks.