Cycling To Power – Guest Blog by Sarah Heward

Cycling to Power – New to it? Still learning about it? Not yet an expert in this area! If so, then read on….

This is a report written by one of my clients Sarah Heward (F 50-54) training for 70.3 and IM distance triathlons, setting out details of her first 18 months experience of Cycling to Power.

Background

After almost 10 years’ absence from triathlon I started working with Kevin Henderson in 2016 who introduced me to the concept of ‘cycling to power’. Kevin makes this a pre-requisite for all of his athletes. The way I see it, is that there are three main elements to this approach:

  1. Gathering reliable power data on a regular basis (Garmin Vectors)
  2. Converting this data into meaningful information and presenting it simply and clearly, to help you understand the key elements of your cycling performance: TRAINING PEAKS. This platform allows you to analyse power, cadence and efficiency as well as ‘heart-rate’ and speed etc.
  3. Monitoring, reviewing and making adjustments, to improve performance: weekly and sometime DAILY/REGULAR REVIEW with your coach.

I am very ‘goal focused’. I think that this is important if you’re going to invest the time and money required to fully utilise power-pedals. There is no doubt in my mind that training in this way has made me a faster, stronger and more confident cyclist. 

There are a number of power meters and systems on the market. I’d recommend doing some research to find the ones that best suit your goals and budget. I invested in a pair of Garmin Vector 2S power pedals and the Training Peaks web-based system. It’s worth noting that I had to return 2 faulty sets to Garmin before I found a set that worked. Although this was frustrating and time-consuming, the pedals were exchanged with little fuss. To be honest, I am a bit of a techno-luddite, so if I can get to grips with this system then most people can.

The main challenges are:

  • getting to grips with using the pedals, which includes transferring them from bike to bike (with a bit of help from my lovely husband), 
  • linking them to my (Garmin) watch and 
  • uploading to Training Peaks. 

Now that I have the hang of this, I use each element confidently. By consistently using power-pedals, my coach and I closely monitor all key areas of performance and identify areas for adjustments, however small. This approach has been the basis for a substantial improvement in my performance over the past year.

Results

I now find the information presented on the my ‘Training Peaks’ system easy to understand and helpful.

I enjoy measuring progress reliably: day-to-day, week-to-week and month-to-month. Measurable improvements in performance include:

  • Functional Threshold Power (FTP) has risen from 195 to 237 Watts in 12 months (FTP is a reliable indicator or ‘snapshot’ of my ‘base’ performance capacity at any point in time) 
  • average cadence has risen from around low 70’s to 85 (the start point is an estimate)
  • cycling efficiency has improved. There are two elements here: 
    1. balance between power driving through right and left pedals and 
    2. amount of the rotation where power is being applied 

Positives

  • It’s a quantum leap forward from only reviewing heart-rate and speed.
  • It allows you to plan training and racing in more detail and with greater accuracy, thus allowing you to push yourself to the limit or save something in reserve when it counts.
  • It makes indoor winter training more interesting as you have up to the second power and cadence targets to ride against, and you can track your improvement.
  • It’s a great ‘pacemaker’ for racing.
  • Having a coach helps massively to analyse results and plan training. Trying to do this without this kind of support would be very time-consuming.

Negatives

  • It’s expensive to get set up. 
  • It’s not a quick fix – you need to be prepared to take a long term view, persevere and be patient. 
  • It was a frustrating experience to begin with – it takes time to get used to using it, once it’s actually all set up. 
  • You need to establish your initial statistics and get used to interpreting them. 
  • Be aware that if you choose to closely follow a plan, you can become fixated with hitting the targets and risk losing what you love about cycling. 
  • It’s not sociable unless your cycling buddies are willing and able to follow your plan.
  • In some cases there are physical differences in set up as the power peddle cleats can be different. 
  • Be careful as these cleats may not suit your cycling style and could cause injury. This actually happened to a friend of mine.

Testimonial: Jonathon Oldroyd, Gran Fondo cyclist

Look Marmotte Alps Granfondo

Great review from Blackzone athlete Jonathon Oldroyd!

“Just completed the Marmotte Alpes 2018 on Sunday in a time of 7hr 27mins. That’s an hour quicker than last year and this year’s condition were harder because of the hot temperatures. Improved my ranking from 2212 out of 7500 last year to 508 out of 7500 this year.

Really pleased with result and improvement in just 11 weeks of following your training program. Looking forward to carrying on with program and getting under 7hrs next year.”

Testimonial: Darran Bennett, Time Trial Specialist

Darran Bennett
I had seemed to hit a plateau with my cycling and results in TT events and I really wanted to achieve much more so I set about the task of finding a coach.  After emailing and chatting to Kevin I decided to go with a months trial and to be honest I have never looked back.
Kevin sends me over my structured training plans for the week through training peaks and initially I was saying to myself that there wasn’t any rest days! I started the training riding some days for only 50 minutes but the sessions Kevin has given me over the past two months have helped me achieve my first sub 20 minute 10 mile TT and the belief I have now with Kevin’s continued training plan is a sub 50 minute for 25 miles is a real possibility.
Kevin and I live at opposite ends of the country and have never met but with regular contact by email, texts and phone calls we have made this arrangement work.

Testimonial: Jonny McDonald

Tough Mudder Scotland 2017

“I knew what I wanted from my training and I knew I was going to have to focus to reach my targets, and whilst I was making steady progress on my own when I was recommended to Kevin at Blackzone training I thought I would give it a bash and see how it would affect my progress. It has been four months since I joined and I have been amazed by the progress, I find myself spending less time training but when I am training the structure and intensity of the sessions give me more gains for less time input, this has given me more free time and more recovery time whilst progressing. In the four months I have been focused on training but have still managed to get a new running PB after two years of stagnating in pace, took a high profile 40 mile OCR win improving from 9th place the previous year and took the win accompanied by a cash prize at the inaugural Scotland’s Tougher Mudder. I joined Blackzone with an 8 month goal to coincide with an event later this year, I never imagined I would have come so far in half that time and can’t wait to see what can be achieved in the future.”

Jonny McDonald

Testimonial: Angus Macleod

“Thanks for all your help – couldn’t even swim 2 lengths before you started training so delighted with a 23 minute swim! I know I can improve on that and can also improve the cycle and run with some more training! But delighted with where I’ve come from at the start of the year!”

Testimonial: Lara Russell

After injuring my hamstring during a training run for my first marathon, I approached Kevin for his help with maintaining as much fitness as possible while the injury healed and to catch up with my training once I was able to run again.  I chose Kevin as I regularly attended and enjoyed his spinning and bodypump classes and felt confident he’d be able to help me.  Having used a couple of personal trainers in the past, I’ve found that the real difference with Kevin is that your training plan feels truly tailored to you and your goals, your abilities and the results and feedback from previous sessions.

The training schedules Kevin supplies are always challenging and varied, never boring and I know that my fitness levels and speed have increased beyond what would have been possible if I’d continued to train by myself.  You have to be prepared to work hard to train with Kevin, but the results are worth it and I’d thoroughly recommend him to anyone looking to improve their fitness or train for a specific event.

Testimonial: Kate Richardson

Kate Richardson – an accomplished triathlete with Fusion Triathlon Club – has kindly provided a review of Blackzone Coaching:

Kevin Henderson is infectious. His knowledge, professionalism and enthusiasm ooze an inspiring passion for his profession and for the development of the athletes with whom he works and relentlessly drives to maximise their talents.

Cooking up a potent recipe of hard work, science, nutrition, rest and recovery, Kevin instils confidence, belief and a real desire to execute.

Don’t turn up if you don’t want to work, but if you’re ready to put the hours in results will follow!

Kate’s recent successes include

  • British Athletics X Challenge Series Champion U13
  • Scottish Schools Indoor 1500m Champion U16
  • Scottish National 1500m Indoor Champion U15
  • Scottish National Young Athletes Road Race Champion U13
  • West District 1500m Champion U15
  • Stirling Duathlon Champion TriStar 3
  • Bishopbriggs Triathlon Champion Tristar 3
  • Scottish Schools X Country Championships Silver Medallist U16
  • Scottish Schools Aquathon Championships Silver Medallist U15
  • Scottish National X Country Championships Bronze Medallist U13
  • Scottish Inter District X Country Championships Bronze Medallist U13

Testimonial: Mark Daly, BBC

Kevin was my coach during the making of my BBC Panorama programme Catch Me If You Can, and was an essential part of my team.

He was in charge of producing 15 hours of mainly bike training per week for me, for around eight months, as well as closely monitoring my progress. I was involved in a secret experiment to help expose doping in sport, so I had to be sure I could trust my coach to be circumspect about what I was doing.

Kevin is a trustworthy and inspirational coach, who is extremely well versed in the science behind behind the sessions he was giving, and he always finds ways to be innovative; the training is never boring.

The results I got with Kevin’s training were quick and pronounced. And I continued to improve.

He is always on hand for last minute changes to training, or to stick in session at short notice. All he thinks about is training and sports, which is what you need as a coach. And he always knew when I needed an easy day. I’d wholeheartedly recommend Kevin Henderson as a coach.

Mark Daly
Investigative journalist

Testimonial: Nathalie Jones, dietitian

Nathalie Jones is a freelance dietitian based in Glasgow who worked with Kevin Henderson on developing a triathlon coaching programme. Read her testimonial below.

I have always trained on my own, whether that be for running or triathlon. I always did ok but tended to overdo it and tire myself out or get injured. It was always pot luck whether a race went really well or disastrously wrong. Rest / easy days were never planned and probably, my harder sessions were not hard enough. I had known Kevin for at least 10 years as I had attended his spin classes in the past but, when we first spoke about the possibility of a structured training plan, I was apprehensive and unsure if another person could tailor a plan to my unpredictable work pattern and manage my training goals.

It has only been a few weeks but already, I cannot imagine how I would organise my own training again. It has been a real relief to have someone else take care of what I am doing and when. I’m not used to the detail or training at a particular pace or heart rate but am learning that each session has its purpose and that might not always be to go flat out. The Training Peaks system he uses is really straightforward (even to a total technophobe like me) and I train better knowing that he will be seeing my every move.
Kevin always has my week planned ahead of time and tailors it to the available time I have. I have found it a challenge, especially for longer sessions, but each session is manageable and within what I can do (just!). He is extremely knowledgeable and seems to have figured out quickly what I can push to and when to ease off, which is better than my own knowledge of myself!

I have found him to be a real support and is only a text away if I have a question. I would recommend Kevin to anyone who wants to take their training a step further. Knowledgeable, supportive, firm but fair – a great coach overall. Thank you very much!

Interested in working with Kevin to reach your full potential? Get in touch

Testimonial: Alan Edwards

It has been a lifetime ambition of mine to enter and complete an IRONMAN. I had trained 1-2-1 with Kevin before so asked him to help. His meticulous approach to my training plan meant it was carefully tailored to my busy work schedule. He continually readjusted my power and heart rate zones as I progressed. Sometimes work and family commitments got in the way and Kevin would adjust the plan to make sure I was hitting the key sessions and continually improving. My FTP rose by 40 watts over an eight week period and my swimming , cycling and running all improved considerably. I went into the race confident that I was in the best shape I’ve ever been and was able to enjoy the experience. Without this approach I would have been haphazard with my training. I never worried about what to do. You can trust Kevin to get you race ready whatever your goal is.