Question: I purchased a PowerTap power meter last year and have been training inside with watts all winter. This has included 3-4 workout per week ranging from 90 minutes to 2 hours, mostly hard intervals.
My power increased for the first 6 weeks but then plateaued. Recently, it’s taking much more effort to generate the same wattage that I easily produced in January. What’s worse, I just did my first group ride outside and people I hammered last summer dropped me like a bad habit. I know they haven’t worked as hard all winter as I have. What’s going on? — Reggie N.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: Hard training is fine in its place. However, midwinter isn’t the time to be doing as many gut-busting intervals on the trainer as you’ve been doing. As you learned, you’ll burn out long before spring. A regimen of 3-4 hard workouts per week is a recipe for disaster because there’s not enough recovery time.
And, your hard workouts went on far too long. Most riders, even those with a good aerobic base, couldn’t do your routine for more than 6 weeks without improvement slowing to a crawl or stopping. That’s why you reached a plateau after 6 weeks (although in your case it sounds more like a cliff).
There’s an enthusiasm issue here, too. Several months of going hard on a trainer will destroy nearly anyone’s fun quotient. Your friends are eager to ride and they’re going hard. You’re tired, stale and mentally fried.
Properly used, power meters are a great training advance. But if you let the readout goad you into greater and greater efforts, without scheduling the proper amount of rest, you’ll see only declining power, not improvement.
To get your groove back, take one week off, ride easy the week after that, and then reduce interval training to twice a week, max. The group ride counts as an interval workout! I’ll bet you’re soon back in form.