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Use power to improve your training and racing

An objective measure of ability will help you become fitter and faster.

On a cold March morning, Eric Blaise is unpacking his training bag at the Trek Store in north Toronto. He’s here along with eight other riders, including several elite triathletes. Eric takes out his PowerTap head unit and attaches it to his bike. The instructor, Suzanne Zelazo, gets on her bike as music  fills the room slowly. Eric begins spinning and watches as the number tracking his power ticks up. The power training session has begun.

Eric can’t imagine training without a power meter. When he first started, he used heart rate to measure and track the intensities of his workouts. Now, like many other other cyclists, he monitors his performance with a power meter. Eric says power meter numbers are more precise because they show exactly how much work you’re doing on the bike regardless of other factors, such as fitness level, fatigue and even temperature—all of which affect heart rate.

Training with power has been a staple of the pro ranks for more than a decade. The drawback for the amateur is usually the cost of the equipment. However, new economical options to measure power output have emerged. There are also many cycling studios that specialize in training with power. Both of these developments have opened things up for amateur cyclists.

Donna Radik’s Giant is set up on a Tacx trainer just next to Eric. Donna, a 49 year old training for her Ironman debut in August, says training with power has given her a lot of confidence. She says her power numbers show her the effort she can sustain and for how long. Donna says that data is exactly what she needs to know in order to tackle the challenges ahead of her.

In this video, we take a look at the basics of training with power. For more information on power meters available for your bike, see our in-depth look at four major brands. If you have any comments about training with power, post a note on our Facebook page.