# What is the Difference Between Average Power and Normalized Power in Cycling?

Have you ever been on a fitness journey that involves measuring your power output during workouts? If so, you may have come across two common terms: average power and normalized power. But what exactly is the difference between the two? It’s a question that many beginners to power-based training ask, yet this concept is crucial to understanding how to effectively measure and improve your performance.

Let’s start with the basics. Average power is exactly what it sounds like – it’s the average amount of power you are outputting during a workout. This can be calculated by dividing the total amount of work you’ve done by the duration of your workout. However, normalized power takes into account the variations in intensity that occur during a workout. This means that it’s a more accurate reflection of the effort you put into your workout, and it’s calculated using a complex algorithm that analyzes your power data.

While it may seem like a minor difference, understanding the contrast between average power and normalized power is an essential part of improving your power-based training. By identifying the areas where your performance is inconsistent, it’s easier to determine the most effective ways to enhance your performance. Whether you’re a cyclist, runner, or just an avid gym-goer, understanding the nuances of these two power measurements can be the key to unlocking your full potential.

## Definition and Calculation of Average Power

As endurance athletes, whether we are cyclists, runners, or triathletes, we are always striving to measure our performance. One of the most common metrics we use to gauge our performance is power output, expressed in watts. It’s a simple and straightforward way to see how much effort we are putting into our training and racing, and it allows us to track our progress over time.

When it comes to analyzing power data, two terms that often come up are average power and normalized power. While they may seem similar, they are actually calculated quite differently and offer different insights into a workout or race. Let’s start by exploring average power.

• Definition: Average power is exactly what it sounds like – the average power output over the duration of a ride or workout.
• Calculation: Average power is calculated by taking the total work (measured in kilojoules) and dividing it by the duration of the ride (measured in seconds). This gives us an average power output in watts. For example, if you rode for 2 hours and put out a total of 2000 kilojoules, your average power would be 2000 / 7200 = 277 watts.

Knowing your average power can be useful for comparing similar rides or workouts and tracking your progress over time. It’s a simple, concrete number that is easy to understand and compare with others. However, average power has some limitations. Because it takes into account all the time you spent riding, including coasting and low-effort periods, it can be skewed by those low-power sections. This is where normalized power comes in.

## Definition and Calculation of Normalized Power

Normalized Power (NP) is an advanced performance metric in cycling that takes into account variable power output during a ride. Unlike Average Power (AP), which is simply the mean power output over a given duration, NP provides a more accurate representation of how hard a rider works during a ride. It is calculated by taking the fourth root of the moving average of the power data, where the moving average is computed using a 30-second time constant.

• AP does not take into account variations in power output, while NP does.
• NP provides a more accurate representation of how hard a rider works during a ride than AP.
• NP is calculated by taking the fourth root of the moving average of the power data, where the moving average is computed using a 30-second time constant.

The calculation of NP involves several steps. First, the power data is divided into one-minute intervals. Next, the average power for each of these one-minute intervals is computed. Then, the fourth power of the average power for each interval is calculated, and the sum of these values is divided by the number of intervals. Finally, the fourth root of this value is taken to obtain the NP.

Here is an example of how NP is calculated for a 60-minute ride:

Interval # Average Power (Watts) Average Power4
1 200 1,600,000,000
2 250 6,250,000,000
3 220 3,841,000,000
60 190 2,801,380,000
Total 1,310,553,864,752,088

In this example, the sum of the fourth power of the average power for each interval is 1,310,553,864,752,088. Dividing this value by 60, we get 21,842,564,412. Taking the fourth root of this value, we get an NP of 206 watts.

By taking into account variable power output, NP provides a more accurate representation of how hard a rider works during a ride. This can be useful for analyzing and comparing rides, and for setting training zones based on a rider’s actual exertion level.

## Use and Importance of Average Power in Cycling

When we talk about power in cycling, two terms come into play – average power and normalized power. While normalized power is the gold standard of measuring power output, average power is equally essential. In this article, we will discuss the use and importance of average power in cycling.

• Race Strategy: During a race, average power is the best metric to determine the rider’s performance. It helps the cyclist to plan their energy expenditure throughout the race and enables them to judge their sustainable power output. Average power readings are used to analyze the pace of the rider after the race, similar to how a runner tracks their pace in a marathon.
• Training: Average power is critical in training as it helps the rider to measure their fitness and strength. It shows a rider’s ability to sustain high power output, and the data provides feedback that a rider needs to improve their strength. The average power output can be measured for various cycling workouts like hill repeats, time trials, or endurance rides, to help the rider get better at them.
• Comparison: Average power can be used to compare a rider’s performance to others when they ride similar routes or participate in the same events. Riders can use average power to gauge their fitness levels, make appropriate changes to their diet, training, or equipment, and better understand how they can improve their performance during the race.

## Normalized Power versus Average Power

The primary difference between normalized power and average power is that normalized power takes into account the variability of power output by using a mathematical algorithm, whereas the average power is a straight average of power data.

Normalized power is adapted to factor in changes in power generated between sprints, surges, and hills to produce a value that represents a rider’s physiological demand. It gives additional weight to the high-variation, high-intensity workouts, which can lead to more accurate data more useful for training.

Parameter Average Power Normalized Power
Calculating method Simple mathematical average Uses an algorithm based on the variability of power output
Purpose Shows the consistent power output during the ride Represents the physiological demand of a workout or ride
Use in training Measures a rider’s fitness level Helps a rider to improve their training and physiological response
Use in Race Monitors the pace and energy expenditure of the rider Reflects the rider’s perceived effort and physiological demand of the race

While normalized power is relatively more accurate, average power remains an essential metric in cycling. It is convenient to measure, provides riders with a baseline of their efforts, and is useful in training and racing.

## Use and Importance of Normalized Power in Cycling

Cycling is more than just a recreational activity; it is a full-blown sport that requires intense training and dedication. One of the ways that cyclists measure their performance is by looking at their power output, which is the rate at which they produce energy during the ride. However, there are two types of power that cyclists need to understand: average power and normalized power.

• Average Power: This is the average power output over the course of a ride. It is simple to calculate, as you just add up the power for each second of the ride and divide by the number of seconds. However, it does not take into account the variations in power output that occur throughout a ride.
• Normalized Power: This is a more accurate representation of a cyclist’s performance because it takes into account the variations in power output that occur throughout a ride. Normalized power also includes the effects of fatigue on the body. The formula for normalized power was developed by Dr. Andy Coggan and can be a valuable tool for cyclists to analyze their performance.

While it is important to know both your average power and normalized power, it is the latter that is more important in cycling. Normalized power can help cyclists to better understand how they are performing during a ride, as well as providing insights into how they can improve their training.

Some of the key benefits of using normalized power in cycling include:

• Accurate training zones: Normalized power can help cyclists to better understand their power output at different intensities. This can help them to train more effectively by staying within the appropriate training zones for their goals.
• Better pacing: By understanding their normalized power, cyclists can better pace their rides and avoid burning out early on. This can be especially important in longer rides or races where endurance is key.
• Analysis of training progress: Normalized power can also be used to track an individual’s progress over time. By comparing normalized power output from previous rides, cyclists can identify areas where they are improving and areas where they might need more work.

Overall, normalized power is a valuable tool for cyclists who are serious about improving their performance. By understanding the benefits of normalized power and using it effectively, cyclists can take their training and performance to the next level.

Training Zone Percent of Functional Threshold Power (FTP) Description
Active Recovery < 55% Very easy effort, used for recovery rides.
Endurance 56-75% A comfortable effort, used for long rides and building endurance.
Tempo 76-90% A moderate to hard effort, used for building muscular endurance and lactate threshold.
Threshold 91-105% A hard effort, used for building maximum sustainable power.
VO2 Max 106-120% Very hard effort, used for building aerobic capacity and anaerobic power.
Anaerobic Capacity 121-150% An all out effort, used for building anaerobic capacity and peak power output.
Neuromuscular Power > 150% Sprint effort, used for building max power and speed.

The training zones table above is an example of how normalized power can be used to better understand power output at different intensities.

## Factors Affecting Average Power and Normalized Power

As we know, average power and normalized power are important metrics in cycling that helps determine a rider’s performance. However, these two metrics are influenced by various factors. Understanding the factors affecting average power and normalized power levels can help a cyclist improve their performance more accurately.

• Efficiency: If a cyclist is not riding efficiently, they will put out more energy and increase their average power.
• Terrain: Cyclists will produce a higher power output on uphill terrain due to resistance, whereas on downhill terrain, power output decreases.
• Weather: Wind and outdoor temperature can have a significant impact on power output levels. Cyclists tend to have lower power output when fighting against a headwind or high temperatures.
• Bike Setup: The type of bike, tires, wheelset, and position can affect a rider’s efficiency and thus resulting in power output levels.
• Cycling Experience: A seasoned cyclist will typically have higher power output levels than a beginner cyclist due to conditioning, riding position, and overall strength.

Normalized power, on the other hand, takes into account the variability of power levels throughout a ride or race. Therefore, more factors can impact normalized power levels compared to average power. Some factors that affect normalized power levels include:

• Interval Efforts: When a cyclist is performing intervals, they will have higher normalized power levels than when cycling at a steady pace.
• Climbing: Inclines, descents, and steepness of terrain can cause variability in power output, affecting normalized power levels.
• Weather and Terrain: Just like average power, weather and terrain have a significant impact on normalized power levels.

It’s also worth noting that factors such as age, gender, weight, and fitness level can impact both average power and normalized power. However, these factors vary greatly from person to person, making it difficult to draw broader conclusions.

Factor Average Power Normalized Power
Efficiency
Terrain
Weather
Bike Setup
Cycling Experience
Interval Efforts x
Climbing x

In summary, understanding the factors that impact average power and normalized power levels is crucial in improving a cyclist’s performance. While some of these factors can be managed and controlled, others, like weather or terrain, are beyond the rider’s control.

## Comparison Between Average Power and Normalized Power

If you’re a cycling enthusiast or an athlete, you probably have heard the terms average power and normalized power. These numbers are metrics used to measure the power output of a cyclist or an athlete during a workout or race. While they may seem similar, there is a significant difference between average power and normalized power.

• Definition: Average power is the average power output produced by a cyclist over a given period. This metric is calculated by dividing the total power output by the duration of the ride or race. In contrast, normalized power is an algorithm that accounts for the variability of efforts throughout a ride or race and provides a more accurate representation of the cyclist’s overall effort.
• Calculation: To calculate average power, the total power output is divided by the ride or race’s duration, giving you an average power value. On the other hand, normalized power is calculated based on the variability of a cyclist’s power output throughout the ride or race. To do this, the algorithm raises the power data to the fourth power, averages it over 30 seconds, and then takes the fourth root of the average.
• Importance: Average power is a useful metric to measure the overall power output of a cyclist or an athlete over a given period. Still, it may not account for the variability of the efforts throughout the ride or race, making it less accurate in some instances. Normalized power provides a more precise measurement of the athlete’s overall effort by accounting for the variability of the power output during the workout or race.
• Usage: Average power is commonly used to measure the overall performance of a rider or athlete by calculating the power output over a given period, such as in a time trial or race. Normalized power, on the other hand, is used to evaluate the effort of a ride or race more accurately, especially if there are significant changes in terrain or intensity levels throughout the event.
• Data recording: Both average power and normalized power can be recorded using a power meter, which is a device that measures and records the power output of a cyclist or athlete during a workout or race. Most modern cycling computers come with power meters, and there are also standalone power meters that can be attached to the bike’s crank or pedal.
• Conclusion: In conclusion, while average power and normalized power may seem similar, there is a significant difference between them. Average power is an essential metric, but it may not account for the variability of the efforts throughout the ride or race, making it less accurate in some instances. Normalized power provides a more accurate representation of the athlete’s overall effort by accounting for the variability of the power output during the workout or race.

## Limitations and Criticisms of Average Power and Normalized Power

While average power and normalized power are popular metrics in the cycling world, they do have their limitations and criticisms. Here are some of the main ones to consider:

• Doesn’t account for variability: Average power doesn’t take into account the fluctuations in power output that can occur during a ride. It assumes a consistent power output, which may not be the case.
• Can be misleading: Average power can be misleading if the ride includes long periods of coasting or low-intensity riding. For example, a ride with 50% coasting and 50% max effort would have the same average power as a ride with a consistent effort throughout, but they are two very different types of rides.
• Difficulty in comparing data: Normalized power is calculated based on the intensity of a ride, so it can be difficult to compare data between different rides or riders with different training backgrounds. Two riders may have the same normalized power, but one may have achieved it with more high-intensity intervals, while the other may have relied on longer, sustained efforts.
• Dependency on data accuracy: Both average power and normalized power rely on accurate measurement of power output. Any errors or discrepancies in the measurement will affect the resulting data.
• Not a measure of fitness: While power output is a good indicator of work done, it doesn’t necessarily correlate with overall fitness or performance. Other factors such as endurance, recovery, and nutrition also play a role in cycling performance.
• Subjectivity of testing protocols: Normalized power is calculated based on a specific test protocol, and there is some subjectivity involved in determining the intensity factor and other parameters. Different protocols may result in different normalized power values for the same ride.
• Not applicable to all cycling disciplines: Average power and normalized power are primarily used in road cycling and time trials, where sustained efforts are common. They may not be as useful in other disciplines such as mountain biking or cyclocross, where power output can be highly variable and dependent on course conditions.

Despite these limitations and criticisms, average power and normalized power remain valuable metrics for many cyclists. By understanding their strengths and weaknesses, riders can use them effectively to monitor performance, plan training, and achieve their cycling goals.

## What is the difference between average power and normalized power?

Q: What is average power?
A: Average power is a metric that calculates the average power output during a ride or training session, regardless of any spikes or drops in power.

Q: What is normalized power?
A: Normalized power takes into account the variability of power output during a ride. It is a more accurate representation of the physiological demands of a ride than average power.

Q: How is normalized power calculated?
A: Normalized power is calculated by averaging the fourth power of the power data over a time period, typically 30 seconds to 60 minutes.

Q: Which metric is more useful?
A: Normalized power is generally considered to be a more useful metric as it reflects the true physiological demands of a ride. However, average power can still be a useful tool for tracking overall progress.

Q: Can average power and normalized power be the same?
A: It is possible for average power and normalized power to be the same if there is little variability in power output during a ride.

## Closing Thoughts

Thanks for reading about the difference between average power and normalized power! Understanding these metrics can help you become a more effective cyclist. Keep practicing and check back soon for more cycling tips and tricks.