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When Jackie returned in 2018, her watts per kilogram were 1.4. In just a little over a year, she has increased that number to 2.0. Amazing, right? How did she do this?

Theresa Christensen

Different Strokes…

When it comes to working out, people have different goals. Some want to lose weight, some want to build muscle, some are trying to lower their cholesterol…but there is one goal that I think every gym member can admit to – we all want to get stronger. This is easy to measure in most areas of the gym. In strength training, we can measure improvement by how many reps we do or how much weight we can lift. In yoga, we see ourselves getting more flexible or being able to hold poses more easily. However, when it comes to indoor cycling, that might not be so easy to see. Or is it?

Meet Jackie

Jackie Sackoor has been a Fitness Incentive member for over 20 years. She has always enjoyed the cycling classes here. Being a teacher and mother of two, she finds it important to be able to get in a great workout in just 30-45 minutes. She loves the music and enjoys the motivation of being part of a group. In 2008, Jackie had to stop cycling due to a foot injury. When she returned to the cycle room in October of 2018, she discovered the new Matrix color-changing bikes, which have a ton of innovative features. My favorite, though, is that they can track your progress by calculating your power to weight ratio. You might hear an instructor refer to this as your “power number.” This number is a calculation based on how much power you can sustain based on your weight. It can be found on screen W4 on your bike console at the end of your workout. Your goal when it comes to becoming a stronger cyclist is to increase this number. So how does a bike determine that? Simple. It tracks your average watts and divides it by your weight.

How She Did It

When Jackie returned in 2018, her watts per kilogram were 1.4. In just a little over a year, she has increased that number to 2.0. Amazing, right? How did she do this? There are different ways to increase the number. One surefire way is to lose weight. The less you weigh, the higher that end number will be. But realistically, the average person is not going to keep dropping weight long term. So how do you increase that number while maintaining the same weight?

The simple answer is to generate more power. A great motivator to do that is to increase your Functional Threshold Wattage when you set up your bike. This is the number that the bike gives you after you input your age, weight, and hours of cardio per week. It’s basically an estimate of how many watts you can sustain on the bike before entering an anaerobic state. It’s what generates the colors – Blue is roughly half to 75% of that number, green is 76%-90%, yellow is 91%-105%, and red is anything above that. By increasing your personal number, you would need to generate more watts to hit the colors that the instructor is cueing. Another way is to push harder in each zone. If the instructor is telling you to be “in green,” try to hit closer to 90% than 76%. By aiming for the higher end of each color, you are generating more power. Jackie increased her final “power number” by doing both of these. She has been increasing her FTW by just one point each week. It seems like such a small difference, but by making that tiny increase each week, she has increased her FTW tremendously over the course of the year.

Some things to keep in mind while tracking your watts per kilogram are:

– Length of the ride. The shorter the ride, the easier it is to maintain your average watts. The longer the ride, the harder it is to maintain. Because of this, your power number is likely to be higher in a class than a 45-minute class.
– If you are dieting, your number will increase as your weight decreases. At the same time, if you are putting on weight for any reason (even building muscle), your number will decrease.

So what is a good number to achieve?

This is subjective. Some researchers have stated that the average recreational cyclist should hit a number of 1.8 in a 45-60 min cycle class. I cannot stress enough though that everyone starts somewhere, and the most important thing you can do is start, and then track your own improvement, just like Jackie has.

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About the Author

Theresa Christensen

Theresa Christensen is a certified Cycling Instructor at Fitness Incentive. She is also the Artist/Owner
Theresa Christensen Art, Voted Best Artist on Long Island 2015 and 2017 by The Long Island Press

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