Normalized Power (NP) is a trademark metric of TrainingPeaks. It is a complex algorithm that takes into account your actual power output, and the intensity and variability at which you performed a power-meter measured ride to create a Normalized Power value. This value is the power at which you could have performed your ride had you done so at a constant power output (i.e. if you were more efficient).
You can read more about Normalized Power and other fascinating metrics here. Once you've wrapped your head around the concept... WE CAN HAVE SOME TRAINING FUN!!
First of all, as a triathlete I am given the bad reputation of being unable to hang on even the shortest of climbs. Cyclists, true cyclists, like to go boringly slow for much of their ride but simultaneously everyone in the group magically decides to "sprint to that sheep" or "hammer to that cafe around the corner so we can sit for 2 hours and drink coffee". Triathletes are boring; they only go out for "steady-state" rides, eat Powerbars and probably pee while riding even in training rides. In essence, triathletes try to keep their power output as constant as possible throughout the ride. It's true, in a race, you want to minimize power (and thus energy) spikes to put out the most power the most consistently that you can. It's more efficient to ride consistently strong than it is to coast for a period, HAMMER for 10 minutes and coast for another 10. The latter is so energetically costly, it's not even funny. However, training "like a triathlete" is not the best value for money.
I like to go out riding and pretend that I'M A REAL CYCLIST, damn it! by hammering certain sections, coasting and looking like a tool spinning real easy as old grannies pass me by, then balls-out hammering again. Why? Although it is energetically costly to do so, and I end up feeling drunk within one hour of riding like this, it stimulates different energy systems, different muscle fibres, and honestly stimulates you mentally. It's sort of like fartlek runs... you run like a crazed idiot for a period, then you calm it down and jog slower than a baby can swim. Thus, when you take your workout file and examine it in TrainingPeaks, you should see a pretty low Avg Watt score, but your Normalized Power should be REALLY high. The bigger the gap, the more exciting your life becomes!
In contrast, your non-drafting triathlon race workout file should have almost identical Avg Watt and Normalized Power scores. Why? Because you're a good triathlete, after all, and did not hammer the first half of the ride only to bonk in the last half of a 90k or 180k ride. You used your power meter, rode consistently and, in comparison to the other non-TP using racers, finished strongly! Booyah!!
Get training, get racing, and don't forget that you can get a TrainingPeaks membership, with a 10% discount using this link using discount code TPA11. Enjoy!!
It's a nice life out on the roads, no doubt about that: