Ok, so you bought a power meter. Congratulations! Since a power meter is the single most effective training tool a cyclist can use for improving performance – you’re one big step closer to becoming a stronger cyclist. But now what? Unfortunately, your new power meter isn’t going to magically turn you into a faster rider. In order to unlock the potential that your new power meter holds, you need to start using it…and using it correctly. However, power meters can be confusing…and there is no shortage of training plans and theories all promising to make you the rider you want to be. Spend a few hours reading through training plans on-line and your head will be spinning. Talk to your friends and they will likely all offer different ideas and recommendations of what you should do. Well, fortunately there’s help. Enter The Power Meter Handbook, by Joe Friel.
The Power Meter Handbook takes the mystery and complexity out of the numbers. It shows you just how you can use your power meter to become a faster, stronger cyclist. Not only is the book packed with information, but just as importantly, it’s easy to follow and understand. Joe does a wonderful job of simplifying what could at times be rather complicated concepts.
The Power Meter Handbook
But before we get into the book, let’s take a step back and introduce Joe – the most trusted and followed endurance sports coach – period. Joe’s experience dealing with endurance athletes and cyclists in particular needs to be highlighted. His experience serves as the basis for why The Power Meter Handbook is a must read for every power meter enthusiast.
Since 1980, Joe has trained elite amateur and professional road cyclists, mountain bikers, triathletes, and duathletes. Joe’s clientele includes American and foreign national champions, world championship competitors, as well as an Olympian.
Joe has written 10 books geared towards endurance athletes. This includes the best-selling Training Bible book series (The Power Meter Handbook is his latest book). He conducts seminars word-wide as well as provides consulting services for corporations in the fitness industry. He is also a founder of Training Peaks and TrainingBible Coaching. Joe holds a master’s degree in exercise science, is a USA Triathlon and USA Cycling certified Elite-level coach. He is also a founder and past Chairman of the USA Triathlon National Coaching Commission.
Whew…that was a lot. But it’s all this experience and in-depth knowledge that Joe found a way to neatly bundle into his latest book. Ok, now let’s get into the book.
Part I – What is a Power Meter, and How Can It Help Me?
In Part I, Joe goes over some basics. He discusses what power really is, reviews some basic power meter terminology, discusses the benefits to using power (it’s a long list!), talks about how power training differs from heart rate training, as well as reviews what you need to know before you get started training with your power meter. This section serves as the foundation for Parts II and III. Even experienced power meter users shouldn’t skip this part of the book. There is something here for everyone.
For example, his comparison of power-based training to heart rate training has really stuck with me. Who hasn’t used a heart rate monitor? But do you really understand what it’s measuring and what its limitations are? Unless you are one of the select few, my guess is you don’t. Joe will tell you using his ‘Output and Input’ analogy. (Which I admit to have stolen on at least one occasion.)
Part II – How Can I Train More Effectively Using My Power Meter?
By the time you’re done with the first few chapters, you have a solid understanding of why you should use a power meter. You’ll also know what power really is as well as knowledge of some basic power meter terminology. In Part II, Joe takes these fundamentals and applies them specifically to training.
These chapters are really the heart of the book in my opinion, and are loaded with information. Here you will learn about the different power zones. You will learn important terms like Factional Threshold Power (FTP), Intensity Factor (IF), Variability Index (VI), Efficiency Factor (EF), Decoupling and more. But don’t let these terms intimidate you. Again – this is one of the things that makes this book so powerful. Joe breaks this stuff down in an amazingly simplistic manner – making it easy to digest and understand.
In this part he also walks you through the Performance Management Chart (PMC). The PMC is software that is available in TrainingPeaks and WKO+. It is an incredibly powerful tool that I highly recommend you take full advantage of. At a very high level, based on your Training Stress Score (TSS) for each workout (how hard your workout was based on duration and intensity), the software models and displays in chart form, your accumulated fatigue, fitness and form – no more guessing! If it sounds confusing, you need not worry. That’s what Joe’s for. I promise you’ll be a near expert in no time.
Part III – How Can I Use My Power Meter to Improve My Competitive Performance?
Part III gets even more specific. Joe takes everything you have learned and applies it to specific disciplines. He covers road racing, time trials, triathlons as well as century rides. In terms of what’s important and how to prepare, Joe breaks down how you might want to structure your weekly workouts in both the base and build periods. This is really helpful stuff when it comes to putting together your own training plan.
Lastly, there are a few appendixes at the back of the book which detail specific workouts, how to set heart rate zones as well as some analysis software you will want to consider.
In summary, power meters aren’t just for the pros anymore. They are essential tools for cyclists of all levels who wish to measure and improve their cycling performance. The Power Meter Handbook is an easy to follow book that allows you to properly put your power meter use – so you can start to unlock some new found speed and endurance. Who doesn’t want that!
You can find The Power Meter Handbook at Amazon where it currently sells for a little over $13. There is also a Kindle option for $10.
A Few of My Favorite Joe Friel Quotes From The Power Meter Handbook
“The power meter is a powerful tool for training, one that can potentially make you fitter and faster than any other piece of equipment you could get for your bike.”
“To become fitter and faster, you need to make physical and perhaps even mental changes as you prepare for an event. Your power meter can help you do both.”
“Training based only on heart rate is like using the fuel gauge on your car to determine how fast you’re driving. That can be done, but it’s bass-ackwards.”
“The concept of Normalized Power is critical for power meter training because it reveals the true effort of a ride by accounting for variability.”
“With a power meter, hills and wind are of no consequence. In a race, while others are guessing how fast to ride up hills and into the wind, the rider with a power meter is content simply holding the prescribed power. Power is a much easier and much more precise measure of intensity than speed.”