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    Functional Threshold Power – What is it and How Does it Help Me?

Functional Threshold Power – What is it and How Does it Help Me?

Functional Threshold Power (FTP)- What a mouthful!  Well, at least it’s a pretty cool sounding mouthful.  You may hear cyclists speak about this often.  If you’ve training by using FTP, you’re a believer.  If not, you’re missing out on one of the most influential and unknown aspects of training and output for beginner triathletes.

FTP is the maximum power output you can hold for 1 hr of effort.  It is measured in watts.  If you want an example as demonstrated in a French commercial, enjoy:

Wattage is power.  Various devices measure power output for cyclists.  Power meters can be built into the hubs of bikes, integrated into the cycling trainer, or integrated into the crank of the bicycle.  The number represents the amount of effort you are generating as evidenced by the power output.  Most would ask why speed wouldn’t be enough.  Great question!

Speed would be sufficient for effort output if all other factors were equal.  If we always rode on straight and level roads, road the exact same bikes, and had no wind to contend with or cyclists to draft off.  You may accomplish this on an indoor trainer, but the variables when on the road are very different each ride.

Power numbers take everything into account as they measure your output of effort regardless of the environment.

When I ask my athletes what is the single most influential factor in them improving their speed in a triathlon, most would point to the power meter.  I’d like to think they’d point at me as their coach, but let’s not be delusional.

One of the first tests I perform on each of my athletes, other than the VO2 test, is an FTP test.  Once I [...]

Running in the Heat

I couldn’t sleep this morning for many reasons.  It’s been a long week, even with the holiday.  I decided to start my endurance run for the week which is customarily 13.1 miles.  This time of year, I typically average between 7:30 and 8:00 miles.  What’s interesting is that, in cooler temperatures, I can run at 7:15 – 7:30 and maintain the same heart rate levels.

“Well duh, you should know that!”  Many of you are likely saying right now.  And it makes perfect sense to me too… but what are the why’s?  I’m always curious like that.

I’m also reminded of my experience with the Texas Ironman this year.  The Houston temperature was 94 degrees with humidity in the upper 80%+.  Adjusted temp was a whopping 107!  It felt like hitting a wall on the run.  Average finish times were 13:40 with a 17% DNF (Did Not Finish) result.  (The only race which was worse was the last St. George IM where the storm forced many out of the water.)  Average run time was 5:35.  I came in at 12:39 happy to finish after such a long and hot day.  We spoke with another IM triathlete who’s PR was 10:14 and he was cruising for a 14+ hour time.  Brutal…

So what do the scientists say?
Exercise in the heat (40c) increases muscle glycogen oxidation and reduces whole-body fat oxidation (Febbraio et al. 1994), in comparison to the same exercise intensity performed at 20 C.
According to Alex Hutchinson in an article titled “How Does Heat Affect Fat Burning?”
In general, you burn a mix of fat and carbs when you exercise. The more intense the exercise, the more that mix shifts toward carbs and away from [...]