Thinking about improving your cycling performance but don’t know what to do? This might be a common problem confronting most beginners who are not receiving professional coaching. A number of them end up training blindly, with very limited improvement. But don’t worry, your effort is not wasted, it is just yet to be reflected in your riding. Before pushing yourself, you had better figure out what you are already capable of, and the outcome may be much to your surprise. To do that, you need to learn about how FTP (functional threshold power) helps better your performance and training.
The key to raising your power output is to control it. Many riders tend to give all out the moment they start until they get exhausted. Although making you faster at the beginning, it drains your energy too quickly. Once you are worn out, the output and speed drop rapidly. Moreover, even if you are riding slowly under that condition, your heart rate keeps going up, making it hard for your strength to recover. This kind of unstable output makes your riding an interval training, seriously affecting your performance. Therefore, to reach your maximum speed, keep riding at a suitable and stable pace, which can be informed by FTP.
What is FTP?
FTP (functional threshold power) refers to the average number of watts of the highest workload that a rider can sustain in an hour. Theoretically, the rider can hold this fixed riding intensity for an hour. If surpasses, Lactic acid will accumulate rapidly and you will soon be exhausted. On contrary, riding under FTP can last longer without getting tired. Throughout the ride, your speed varies with the landscape or wind speed, at the certain period you may feel that you are not doing your best. But as long as you stick to FTP and keep that steady effort, you are guaranteed to reach the best performance.
How to test FTP?
A power meter and a training station are needed for the FTP test. If a training station is not available, it is fine to test outside instead, only the result is not as accurate due to external influences.
All you need is a place where you can ride for at least 20 minutes straight without frequent stops or steep up and downs. The standard procedure is the following:
Warm up for 15-20 minutes
Ride for 5 minutes ( at an all-out effort)
10 minutes of easy spinning for recovery
Ride for 20 minutes (at an all-out effort, remain steady and do not undulate)
10 minutes of easy riding to cool down
After completing these, multiply the average power of that 20-minute ride by 0.95 to get your FTP.
Due to the high intensity, make sure to conduct the test in a good condition. It is recommended to have a couch to assist you so that you can easily master the appropriate pedaling intensity and obtain a more accurate result.
How FTP helps better your performance?
Firstly, as we have discussed, it is a standard according to which you can make the most of your rides. That is to say, it brings instant improvement through a more scientific riding technique. More importantly, every single training becomes more effective.
Secondly, it is also an indicator that quantifies your status and capability. FTP is usually tested monthly. By tracking the change in this number you can see whether your training is working, or how much progress you have made. If it doesn’t reveal an ideal result, you will be able to make a timely change in plan.
Misconceptions about FTP
Don’t compare your FTP with others’. FTP should be used only as your personal indicator. it is influenced by many factors including height and weight. Having a higher or lower FTP doesn’t necessarily mean you can do better or worse than others in real competition.
Don’t have any anxiety about FTP. If you really want to know how good you are compared to others, divide FTP by your weight in kilograms. A new rider usually has a ratio of around 2.0 on average, while professional cyclists are at around 7.0. But always remember, this number doesn’t affect your training no matter high or low. FTP is only intended for better training of yourself. Besides, maybe you got a bad FTP only because you are a bit off or not having good weather on the testing day. So don’t stress about a bad test result, just keep training and there should be a noticeable improvement in your next test.