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Thread: How do you use "watts" ?

  1. Default How do you use "watts" ?

    Could someone please explain to me how to correctly use the watts on the Keiser M3 computer ... ??? THANKS!
    Life is a garden, dig it!

  2. Default Using Watts on a bike

    Caveat: I don't teach on the M3 (if wishes were horses...) nor have I been to any workshops from Keiser. I do use a power meter on my road bike and I have read a whole heck of lot.

    Short answer: Watts can be considered a measure of effort similar to using heart rate or perceived rate of effort (albeit far superior). Establish a baseline and use that to create your zones. How do you create a baseline? Perform a functional power test (FPT).

    FPT test:
    Have the group warm-up for 15-20 minutes. With the M3, stop pedalling for about 30 seconds - this will clear the computer.

    Depending on your group (road riders can go longer, fitness riders shorter) have them ride as hard as possible for 10 to 30 minutes at a constant rate for the whole ride. That is the tough part for some participants - they go out too hard initially and die towards the end. At the end of the test period, riders stop pedalling. The M3 will (I think after 10 seconds) display the average power for the ride. That is the functional power for the rider. They need to record or remember that (best to write it down).

    Have the group cooldown.

    Rides are now based on that power level. You will do rides that are 70% or 115% depending on intent. Riders adjust their resistance and cadence to be suitable for the ride, with the goal of maintaining power in the correct zone.

    The FPT should be repeated periodically to adjust for changes in the fitness level (hopefully improvements). Depending on training levels, it can be repeated every 8-12 weeks.

    Long answer: Check out the following -
    Saris, manufacturers of the PowerTap power meter for bikes as well as the CycleOps indoor bike. They have an incredible amount of information on training with power.

    "Training and Racing with a Power Meter", Hunter Allen and Andrew Coggan, Ph.D. Publisher: Velopress

    Jennifer "Funhog" Sage's eBook "Keep it Real" discusses it as well.
    Last edited by CycleGuy; 01-06-2009 at 11:27 AM.
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  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Washington DC

    Default Using Watts on Keiser bikes

    I've been having students focus on Watts on Keiser M3s for the past 6 months and have been also been taking coached classes on a Computrainer (with my road bike).

    CycleGuy's suggestion on performing a FPT test to establish a baseline is spot-on. However depending on the fitness level of your students, and the time you have available in class, it might seem too intimidating or impractical at least in the short term.

    I wanted to share how I have been using the Watts function in my classes. I am in no way an expert, in cycling or exercise physiology, so I look forward to hearing from others (and reading Funhog's ebook) about how they incorporate Watts into their classes. I hope that Keiser provides more direction in this area- I have called them directly and didn't get much help.

    Here goes:

    First, I have students warm up for at least 5-10 minutes seated (without focusing yet on watts), giving them cues on proper form, etc. The first 5 minutes we start at about 3-5 on the resistance, then bring it up to 5-7 and add in a few 30 second sprints with 30 seconds rest in between. I think proper warm up is crucial to helping them reach and maintain a sustained power effort. During the warm up, I explain what watts is and why we want to focus on it (simply, it is "training with power" / watts is a measurement of power (Watts = Force x Cadence, or how hard you press on the pedals multiplied by the number of times per minute you apply this force).

    This link to a discussion on cycling cadence provides useful information and analogies on using watts:

    Following the warm up, I have students bring their resistance up to level 11 and gradually bring up their cadence until they reach their baseline wattage (which we have previously established, see below), they should feel like they are working at about a 7-8 on a scale of 10 perceived exertion- one analogy that road riders can relate to: it feels like they are on a "spirited group ride" - it isn't easy, they have to work to keep up with their friends, they can carry on a short conversation. But they have to focus and keep up their effort or they will "fall off the back" of the pack/ get dropped.

    To establish inital baseline (after 5-10 min. warmup) I suggest students aim for 120-150 watts (women) and 150-170 (men) if they have never taken my class before. The wattage at which students can sustain this effort varies widely - between men and women, fit and less fit, if they just got over a cold, etc. and muscle mass plays a role also. Walking around the class, observing how hard each person is working and what they are able to maintain, we basically establish the baseline "power number" together-- for example, "Cheryl, you're at 120-130 right now, do you think you can maintain 125 for the next 5 minutes? How does that feel?" (keep in mind that the wattage function "toggles" between calories burned and watts which drives me nuts- Kaiser should just get rid of the cals. it isn't very accurate anyway! They also need to put a backlight on the computer, change km to miles, but that is for another discussion...)

    I carefully monitor each students effort, and after 5 minutes or so of maintaining their baseline wattage (seated), I again walk around the room and talk with each student individually, adjusting (up or down) their baseline wattage goal (or floor, whatever you want to call it, it is the number that they try to maintain) and then we work up from there- for example, adding ten more wattage points at 30 seconds each, three times, or going into a standing climb, increasing resistance to a 13 maintaining baseline wattage and then adding 10 points for one minute, another 10 points (baseline +20) for one minute, back to baseline for 2 minutes, repeat. After a long effort, sometimes I give everyone a one song "break" and have them drop resistance to 7 or so, increase cadence to 90-120 and just spin their legs out. Helps to flush out lactic acid, lets them clear their mind and refresh. Then we go back to work!

    Having adequate resistance is really important, I've found that 9-12 to start (while establishing the baseline) is a good range for most, with 11 usually being the "magic" number. To give you an idea of the difference/ range in power capability, here are the baseline watts of two of my regular students (at level 11 resistance):

    110 lb. 5'2 moderately fit female: 100 watts
    185 lb. 5'11 male cat 4 bike racer: 275 watts
    myself (145 lbs. female spin instructor): 190 watts

    I recently did a 20 minute time trial test on the Computrainer (which also measures power) to determine my training zones. My "baseline" FPT was within 10 points (200) of the baseline estimated on the Kaiser bike (at 11 resistance) so I think the MP3 wattage feature is pretty accurate.

    Hope this helps and look forward to hearing how others use the wattage feature. I plan to use Cycleguys FPT test in my classes next week.

    Thanks all for making these forums so great!

    - Cyclerama, without all the drama

  4. Default Watts Question ...

    Sorry guys, but I am still having a hard time understanding WATTS on the M3.

    In my class I have my students warm up for about 10 minutes, we ride for about 35 and cool down/stretch for about 10 ...

    After the warm up we clear our computer and ride hard for 35 minutes. I then have them write down their average watts. What else should I be doing??? We talk about watts and power ... etc.

    Should I have them do a FPT once every 8 week session or should we calculate watts every class?

    I am confused on what cyclerama said about adding 20 to their watts for 1 minutes ... I know the computer goes back on forth to cals and watts ...

    PLEASE HELP!!!! Thanks!
    Life is a garden, dig it!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    London, UK


    My advice would be to ignore it. Rather, use it as a guide to whether effort is rising, lowering or if it needs to go higher (e.g., achieving the same number at the end of each interval). Same as with cadence - go with the flow but the number is a guide.

    Most riders want to have a fun, effective and safe training session. Those who care enough to work out their FTPs (by the way, you should really calculate them for every time range) know enough to do it themselves.

    Granted, such tools are extremely useful in scientific training for athletes but I'm one of those who thinks that such toys detract from ever achieving a true state of enjoyment, of flow.
    See me on the blog - Spinning profiles, training tips, thoughts on life, and anything else I can think of sharing!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Washington DC

    Default This is the response I received from Keiser

    Our best resource for incorporating wattage into a class would be through our M3 Power Module. When one of our modules is purchased, one of our trainers would come out and teach the module to your instructors. More information on our modules can be found here:


    We do over a variety of different modules that teach you all the different sides to instructing with our bikes. We also introduced a correspondence course for online certification.

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