Yesterday, Christine D’Ercole (aka CDE) announced that she was one of the new power zone (PZ) trainers. This had been a source of a lot of speculation over the past several weeks since her announcement that she would no longer be producing heart rate zone training content. Yesterday after getting home from errands and lunch, I saw the news and was super excited. I have been interested in PZ training for some time, but I hadn’t ever taken the plunge with doing a functional threshold power (FTP) test.
Not long after the announcement, an FTP warm up and FTP test with CDE were put up on demand. Well. I had been thinking about what ride to do in the afternoon (short Tabata or HIIT and Hills) but this was a perfect opportunity to say yes to the FTP test. I was nervous, because from everything I’d read, it is extremely difficult and you should have nothing left when you’re done.
I didn’t really know what to expect, beyond that I probably wouldn’t like doing the test very much. So in case you are also new to all things PZ, here’s a short breakdown of what went on in the FTP warm up and test that I took. As always, CDE’s coaching was on point!
The warm up
The warm up was really helpful. As we warmed up (flat road, easy effort), she explained both what would happen in the warm up and what would happen in the test itself. As the warm up went on, we did three spin-ups (increase cadence by about 20) for 30 seconds each. Then the effort ramped up. CDE explained that the FTP test starts at PZ zone 4 (lactate threshold) so she wanted us to see what that would feel like (especially if you don’t know your zones yet) and memorize that output number. Definitely not conversational work. Then she asked for a bit more effort so we could feel what a zone 5 (VO2 max) was, so we would know not to start our FTP there. The warm up ride is IMPERATIVE to have a successful FTP test. CDE explained everything in a very understandable way, which set me up to feel a bit more confident going into the test itself.
The FTP test
I’ll be honest here. The FTP test itself was HARD. You start out at the output you identified as your zone 4 from the warm up. And then you ramp up from there. There are no breaks, so even the usual way that CDE says one minute left in a song, didn’t really make it better. At least I knew there would be 1 min less in the whole thing each time. The playlist was really good, which helped. I was worried about being able to finish and had some serious doubts with about 8 minutes left. I had to use my words over and over again. I am. I can. I will. I do. I am. I can. I will. I do. I think the countdown at the end was my most favorite countdown of all time. Someone on Facebook had said you’ll know you did the test right if you feel like throwing up at the end. Check! After I came upstairs, Sandy asked me if I was okay and said it sounded like it was hard based on all of the grunting and groaning going on. I am super proud of myself for finally getting this done, and I’m looking forward to doing the PZ training and seeing measurable improvements in my fitness. I know I am stronger since I’ve started riding, but it will be helpful to work towards better fitness in a quantifiable way (says the science nerd)!