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The Differences Between Running and Cycling Power




Power Training Evolution in Cycling


For over twenty years, cyclists have harnessed the power of training with power metrics. Initially a niche interest among early adopters, power training has become ubiquitous across all levels of cycling, from junior cyclists to pro triathletes and UCI pro teams. This widespread adoption has led to the development of sophisticated metrics tailored specifically for cycling.


Introduction of Power Training in Running


In contrast, power training has only been available to runners for about three years. This new development means that some power metrics used in cycling don't translate directly to running, and the assumptions that apply to cycling don't always apply to running.





Key Differences in Power Training Metrics


1. Normalized Power (NP) in Running: Unlike cycling, running power output is less variable, and there's no coasting. Consequently, NP in running often mirrors average power (AP), with minimal differences. NP is useful mainly for interval sessions or trail running with variable terrain.


2. Variability Index (VI) in Running: VI, calculated as NP divided by AP, is typically greater than 1.00 in cycling due to power variability. In running, NP and AP are almost identical, resulting in a VI close to 1.00, making it less useful.


3. Intensity Factor (IF) in Running: IF, calculated as NP divided by functional threshold power (FTP), often equals AP/FTP in running, since NP rarely differs from AP. Thus, IF and %FTP can be used interchangeably in running.


4. Running FTP vs. Cycling FTP: Running and cycling FTP values differ due to distinct muscle activities, mechanics, and power measurement technologies.


5. Eccentric Muscle Contractions: Running involves more eccentric contractions than cycling, affecting training load tolerances. Runners typically manage lower CTL ramp rates than cyclists.


6. Pmax and FRC in Running: Running power meters may underreport short-duration, high-power data compared to cycling power meters, leading to potentially lower Pmax and FRC metrics for runners.


7. W’, AWC, and FRC in Runners vs. Cyclists: Distance runners generally have lower anaerobic work capacity (AWC) and functional reserve capacity (FRC) compared to cyclists due to morphological differences and training focuses.


8. VO2max Slow Component: Runners exhibit a less pronounced VO2max slow component than cyclists, resulting in a narrower range of power-duration relationships accessing VO2max.


9. FTP and VO2max Relationship: FTP lies closer to VO2max in runners than in cyclists. For trained runners, FTP is about 85-87% of VO2max power, compared to 80-82% in trained cyclists.


10. Metabolic Efficiency Variability: Runners show more variability in metabolic efficiency compared to cyclists, both as a group and individually, with greater improvements observed in runners through training.



Summary


While power training principles apply to both cycling and running, there are significant differences. Understanding these differences is crucial for effective training and avoiding faulty assumptions when transitioning between sports.

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