Creating a Power Based Training Plan

With all the information and concepts we have seen, we are now ready to start creating a power based training plan to start the road, or shall I say, trail, to consistent fitness improvement.

Training plans may be a complex subject. In this post I describe the concepts and logic I used to build my first one, that is giving good results. As I learn, changes and improvements will be made to allow for better control and meeting my goals.

A power based plan allows to assign specific and quantifiable training targets for each session that you should adhere to and control. Your head unit, programmed with the appropriate data fields will guide your session making sure you follow the plan properly.

Being a normal person with a job, family duties and the realities of life, getting the most of the limited time we have to train is very important.


Note: This post is part 5 of 5 of a series on how to start training with a power meter. If you came here as a result of a web search, make sure to go the starting post to take full advantage of the series. If you have not done so yet, please read the section About Training with Power, where we explain our approach to sharing the Training information in this website. Thank you



For a plan to work to get fitness improvement, several training principles shall be applied to its development.

I already mentioned Frequency, Duration, Intensity and Load (Intensity and Time combination). Another very important components are overload and progression.

As I mentioned in the PMC explanation in the previous part of the series, in order to improve a fitness aspect, the body must be stressed above what it is used to (overload) so it gets fatigued, then allow it to recover and get stronger. This is the overload component and it means that your plan shall include overload periods followed by rest ones.

The other principle, Progression states that as the body gets stronger, a greater overload shall be applied but in a controlled manner to prevent injuries or overtraining. It is usually done through the intensity component, though could be duration or frequency as well. The general rule is to increase weekly load by 10 to 15 % at the most.



Consider the following factors to build your training plan.

Time Availability

How much time overall can you dedicate to training, both on a daily basis as well as weekly? This means how many hours a week and what days. How can you distribute the available hours in the available days?

Training goals

What do you want to improve?  Ride longer? Ride faster? Win a race? Keep the pace of your riding group? Be as specific as possible and using measurable terms such as “Ride the local MTB 20 km circuit in less than 2 hours”.

The more specific your target, the easier to create the plan and measure whether it is taking you there.

Using the Power Chart, identify which training zones you should train at. By now you should have a clear idea of what it feels to ride at each zone, so do not under estimate the effort each require. A Zone 2 ride for 3 hours may not be easy. Efforts in zones 3 and 4, although aerobic, are very demanding. Start gradually.

Your daily training plan shall include:

  • For how long you will train
  • How many days a week. At least 4 to get results.
  • At what intensity zone(s).
  • If there are intervals (that is maintaining a certain effort for a specified duration), how many, for how long and the recovery between them
  • Consider a warm up and cooldown

For example, this workout

1 hr. @ Z2 and 2×10 min @Z3 RBI 5 min.

means ride for one hour in zone 2, in between, add 2 intervals of 10 minutes each at Zone 3 with 5 minutes recovery between intervals. This overall 1 hour time includes warm up and cooldown.

The training Plan in Garmin Connect

This is how it looks in the Garmin Edge 530

A plan with 8 hours of training in 5 days a week, for 4 weeks, considering the progression and overload principles, could look something like this

Mondays: Rest to recover from Sunday’s hard ride


  • First week: 1 hr. @ Z2 and 2×10 min @Z3 RBI 5 min. Start training in zone 3.
  • Second week: 1 hr. @ Z2 and 2×15 min @Z3 RBI 5 min. Increase load in zone 3.
  • Third week: 1 hr. @ Z2 and 2×20 min @Z3 RBI 5 min. Increase load in zone 3.
  • Fourth week: 1 hr. @ Z2 and 1×10 min @Z3. Rest week reduce time in zone 3.


  • First week: 1 hr. @ Z2. Train Endurance.
  • Second week: 1 hr. @ Z2. Train Endurance.
  • Third week: 1 hr. @ Z2. Train Endurance.
  • Fourth week: 1 hr. @ Z1. Rest week reduce intensity to zone 1.


  • First week: 1 hr. @ Z2 and 1×10 min @Z4 RBI 5 min. Start training in zone 4.
  • Second week: 1 hr. @ Z2 and 1×15 min @Z4. RBI 5 min. Increase load in zone 4.
  • Third week: 1 hr. @ Z2 and 1×20 min @Z4 RBI 5 min. Increase load in zone 4.
  • Fourth week: 1 hr. @ Z2 and 1×5 min @Z4. Rest week reduce time in zone 4.

Fridays: Rest


  • First week: 2 hr. @ Z2. Train Endurance.
  • Second week: 2 hr. @ Z2. Train Endurance and 2×15 min @Z3.
  • Third week: 2 hr. @ Z2. Train Endurance and 2×20 min @Z3.
  • Fourth week: 2 hr. @ Z2. Rest week reduce intensity to zone 2.


  • First week: 3 hr. Mountain Bike, have fun and ride hard.
  • Second week: 3 hr. Mountain Bike, have fun and ride hard.
  • Third week: 3 hr. Mountain Bike, have fun and ride hard.
  • Fourth week: 3 hr. Rest week, Mountain Bike, have fun and ride easy.

In the second and third week, load is increased through both intensity and interval duration and the fourth week is used for rest and recovery. Notice that the load decreases substantially in the rest week.

Planning for the 5th week and beyond follow the same principle. Week 5 shall be built based on week 3, adding a 10-15% load increase with increased Intensity, longer Durations or both. Depending on your goals, distance may be another factor to include. If you plan on longer rides, add the weekly distance you rode, increase it by 10-15% the next week and repeat until you get to your distance goal.



I already mentioned that on a GPS bike computer it is better to use the Power Zone Field to control the session intensity. This works very well in indoor training sessions where the surroundings are not a concern. Not so well when riding outside.

It will be very difficult to find a stretch of road that allows to follow a training program exactly. In the real world we have ups and downs, stop lights, traffic, from sand to rock gardens, mud and so forth. It is almost impossible to maintain Zone 3 for 15 minutes and then rest for 5 under these conditions.

How to deal with this? By using a different approach with Normalized Power (NP). We defined this metric in Part 3 of this series. Normally it is used to analyze a training session once its finished. But this metric is also calculated in real time by your GPS Bike computer, provided that you configure it to show.

What you have to do is make sure that the overall NP is within the bounds of the training zone you are targeting. So, if your plan calls for a one hour zone 2 ride, make sure that at the end of the workout, despite ups and downs, varying terrain surfaces and whatever reality throws at you, the NP value is within the bounds of your Z2.

This is a secuence of images showing how Normalized Power is stable despite changes in power zone:



Upon finishing the workout, open your companion app. Look for a graph called Time in Power Zones. As its name implies, it shows the time you spent in each power zone during the ride. See whether you met the target times at each zone. If so, congratulations. If not, think about what happened and made the necessary changes for the next session.

Load the data in Golden Cheetah and look at the PMC chart to see the effect that it had on your overall performance. Notice how CTL, ATL and TSB were affected and confirm they are in the expected planned trends. If not, adjust your training plan accordingly.


Creating a power based training plan will allow you to get the most out of this technology and your devices. You must put in the work. May not be easy but the results will show. And you will feel and meaure them accurately.


In these posts I shared what I wished I knew about training with power when I started. This is really just the beginning as there is much more to learn and apply, but hopefully will help you to get going faster and easier.

Enjoy your new power based fitness. You will like it.

First Article: What I wish I knew when started training with power

Previous Post: Gather data and initial analysis