If you're teaching with power, there's a good chance you'll have a participant ask you this simple question; how many watts should I be making when I'm working at my threshold? Same goes for any new studio or one that is upgrading to indoor Cycles with power/watts. You will be asked for a number from many of your riders. The reason is pretty simple, many people naturally want to know how they compare.

 There are two schools of thought on if, or how, you should answer this question:

  1. There's the "Don't give them a number - ever" school that believes whatever you tell them could be wrong and potentially upsetting. You don't want to demoralize riders, or hurt their feelings, especially with a new rider with no/limited fitness, by suggesting anything. The recommendation is to respond with a question; how many watts did you see today? Then respond positively to any response.
  2. Then the "give them something to work with" approach. My preference is to start with the suggestion of one watt per pound or a little bit over 2 watts per Kg.

They're adults = tell them the truth... they can handle it.

Have you ever had someone lie to or mislead you, under the pretense that they didn't want to hurt your feelings? Did it make you feel valued and respected? If you have experienced a situation where you weren't told the truth, did you feel you would have acted differently, if you had been given accurate information?

Imagine for a moment you're a personal trainer and your client asks you this question; what percentage of body fat should I have? A common question I'm sure. Is the correct response; "what is your body fat percentage now?" And then to positively affirm what ever answer they give? I don't think so... do you? There are established ranges for body fat %, published by credible fitness authorities like ACE. Here's their chart.

Let's see where you fall on this chart...

Let's see where you fall on this chart...

If your female client told you their body fat is 34% - would you smile and say; "that's great!" ? Of course not. You would probably suggest a diet and exercise program directed toward reducing their fat percentage down, with a goal to get into the average range. The person standing in front of you may not like hearing that they're obese, but don't they need to learn the truth so they can decide to do the work needed to change their body composition?

What about running a 5k? Or bowling for that matter? They both have metrics that define a reasonably achievable level of proficiency for an able-bodied person. Would it be wrong to suggest a goal time of 36 minutes (12 minute mile) for a 5K or 120 pin score in a bowling game?

Teaching with power for two years has me in the "give them something to work" with camp. And that something is a goal of one watt per pound of body weight*. I've asked multiple dozens of riders; "are you close to your body weight in watts?" Are they all there? No, but it's been very few. I'll bet if you were to privately poll your regulars, at the end of a 3-4 minute sustainable threshold effort, you would hear wattage #s around body weight.

At the end of the PST (Personal Spinning Threshold) assessment I did at WSSC, MI Janet Toussaint allowed me to ask the class this exact question. The majority agreed that their PST was at or above their body weight. Now a room full of fit Instructors may not be a representative sample, but it reaffirmed my experiences.

If you'd like to learn more about this concept - listen to this podcast where I first learned about it.

*I've heard other Instructors suggest using lean / goal body weight, which would reduce the number slightly. This calculator provided by ACE might be helpful.

Originally posted 2014-06-05 09:35:39.

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