Thursday, January 19, 2017

New power zones for WKO4

It has been a little more than a year since I started using a power meter, the Garmin Vector pedals, and right from the start I was confused about setting power zones on Training Peaks. I just sort of made do with zone numbers, that is until two things hit simultaneously earlier this month. In my previous blog I introduced the new Training Peaks workout builder and noted that it uses zone names and not zone numbers, so zone names became a thing. In that blog I equated "Steady State" with "SweetSport" thinking they were the same thing. Thankfully a reader who knows a lot more about WKO4 than I do pointed out that these two were not at all the same, and that got me to do a deep dive into the whole power zone thing.I think I have it straight now.

To get started using power I followed the advice in Joe Friel's excellent book, "The Power Meter Handbook: A User's Guide for Cyclists and Triathletes." Friel recommends seven zones:

ZoneDescription% FTP
2Aerobic Endurance56-75
6Anerobic capacity121-150
7Sprint Power>150

I created a spreadsheet with formulas to convert a measured FTP into these seven zones. Then I went into Training Peaks to enter these zones, then edited the zone data on my Edge 800 and Fenix 2. Training Peaks has Friel zone settings for running, but not cycling. Odd. The power zone options are

Andy Coggan (6)
CTS (7)
Durata Training (8)

I went with CTS because it had seven zones, same as Friel, but honestly I never did figure out how to use the automatic setting feature. When I entered my tested threshold value I got nothing like Friel's values. I ended up doing it manually with my spreadsheet, and never bothered with the descriptions because they never appeared anywhere. Until now. Here is my last version of those numbers. Note that the percentage of FTP is the same as Friel's because that is what I used. Pay close attention to the descriptions.

Training Peaks
ZoneDescription% FTP
4Tempo 91-105
5Steady State106-120
6Climbing Repeats121-149
7Power Intervals>150

As I looked ahead to my 2017 season and its focus on cycling I decided it was time to take another look at WKO4. I installed the demo and began working through the excellent videos by Tim Cusick and Dr. Andrew Coggan. It was not very long before I was a convert and I shelled out the dough for a full license.

There is too much to WKO4 to say what matters most to me, but if I had to pick a few features, one that would rise to the top would be iLevels. The software looks at your history and derives a set of power zones based on your individual abilities, not just a straight percentage of FTP. Actually, I think the lower levels do follow a traditional % FTP rule, it is the higher zones that are more individually tailored. Here is what I know to be WKO4 iLevel power zones:

ZoneDescription% FTP

WKO4 includes a chart that fills in zones 5-7 with watts and recommended duration for intervals.

I want to point out two things. Friel and WKO4 agree on where Tempo zone 3 begins, and are virtually in agreement on where it ends. Training Peaks is significantly different. So, as I was designing some Tempo interval drills with the Training Peaks workout builder I ended up with some really high efforts. It just felt wrong, and now I now why. The workout builder displays zone names, not zone numbers, so I was adjusting %FTP to get "Tempo" when in fact this was way up at threshold. To be clear, I have yet to ride these intervals, I only got as far as creating the workouts. Now I have to go back and fix them, fortunately before I try them out!

The other thing I want to point out, and apologize for, is where Sweetspot comes. WKO4 puts Sweetspot just below threshold (a.k.a. FTP). Training Peaks has Steady State well above threshold. Like I said before, I cannot see how anything above threshold could be considered steady state, as by definition you cannot maintain anything above threshold for very long.

This Sunday will be my first Tempo interval ride. Look for a report next week. Except that the weather report calls for extremely high winds and heavy rain, so this may have to wait a week.

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