I am a firm believer in HR training but for cycling, nothing has been more beneficial and valuable with my training, than training with power.
I have to be honest, I was a little hesitant to convert from HR training to power training but after a week or so of training with power, I was hooked.
Karel sent me a great explanation of training with power and I thought I would post it for your viewing. If you have any questions, please let me know. Karel has been training with power for several years now and knows a lot about power training.
A power meter is the single best training tool you can invest in. The power meter is to cycling today what the Heart Rate Monitor was in the 1990s.
A power meter measures the exact cycling intensity giving you instant feedback. Heart Rate is your body’s response to not only your cycling intensity, but a host of other variables as well. Heart rate at a given power level can vary based on recent training load, health, sleep, temperature, humidity, anxiety/nerves, diet, and of course the time riding that intensity. The inaccuracies of using heart rate as a measuring tool for cycling intensity become crystal clear when you start training with power.
The power meter doesn’t care about hills, wind, temperature, indoors, outdoors, or any environment you’re riding in. It will always measure the actual power you’re producing on the bike regardless of the conditions. Most power meters will include heart rate straps so you can watch your heart rate response compared to power. Go out and ride at a constant power level for 20 minutes and heart rate can climb nearly the entire time. Harder intervals such as threee minute intervals at VO2max power will see heart rate climbing quickly the entire interval and never leveling off. Once an athlete starts training with a power meter, heart rate simply becomes another metric that’s monitored and recorded. You’ll still look at heart rate to learn a little about how your body is responding to a power level, but you’ll no longer uses it to measure and adjust intensity.
In addition to accurate intensity measurement, a power meter has many other benefits that you won’t find in a heart rate monitor:
* Pacing tool on race day - Gone are the days of riding too hard too early in the bike leg. Stick your target power right out of transition and you’ll be surprised how easy it can feel with all the race day adrenaline. You’ll bike faster during the bike leg because of more even pacing. You’ll likely run faster off the bike as well from more even pacing.
* Workouts recorded automatically - Power meter files can be downloaded and workouts can be analyzed for days and years after they’re completed.
* Track fitness changes - There’s no more guessing about how much stronger you are after a period of training. You’ll also know where your fitness is compared to the same time the year before.
* Goal setting – Testing allows an athlete to baseline their current fitness and can plan realistic short and long term power goals.
* Coaching feedback – If you’re working with a coach, power files can easily be emailed and a good coach will be able to provide feedback and plan workouts accordingly.
Answer by Dean Phillips
Lead Fitter FitWerx
If you’re looking for the best training tool available to a cyclist or triathlete, then look no further than a power meter.
I realize that power meters are very expensive. It is a big investment but I have to be honest...it is worth it! As you know, I am not a tech-savvy person nor do I believe that a person needs the latest and greatest in order to be fast, strong and powerful...and healthy. I am very fortunate that I have an amazing hubby who loves spoiling me with great components on my amazing bike but both Karel and myself believe that having great gear does not make you a great athlete. Bottom line, if you have a safe, reliable and well-tuned bike w/ practical components, you will be able to train at an optimal level...regardless if you train with power.
Keep in mind, if you invest in a power tap, you are likely getting a wheel, computer, chest strap and power meter in the hub. This wheel will be used as your "race" and training rear wheel since you can not remove the hub (which measures your watts) from the wheel. The quark (which Karel uses) is another type of power meter that is fully integrated into the crankset. Therefore, if you decide to purchase a quark power meter, you will be able to change your wheels for training and racing.