Training with Power

Kelly Cycle Coaching coach many athletes who train with power and heart rate. Here is some information to help you understand what power is all about and how you can benefit from using power as a form of measurement.

What is a power meter?

A power meter lets you see the precise pressure you are putting through the cranks during training and racing.  Power cranks measure the level of intensity you are putting out.

Why do you need a power meter?

Training with a power meter will really help you achieve your training and racing goals.  It is one of the most valuable training tools you can have, providing you with instant feedback on your performance. Using a power meter means every second of your training and racing is recorded for analysis by you and Kelly Cycle Coaching.

What is wrong with just using a heart rate monitor?

Many cyclists only use a heart rate monitor for their training and this provides some guidance as to how hard you are working.  When an athlete has a heart rate that is 10 beats higher than usual it is impossible to link this to putting out more watts and thus pushing harder.  Fatigue, stress, lack of sleep and dehydration all cause heart rate to vary considerably.

Heart rate monitors tell you what your heart rate is doing during and after an interval but it can’t measure how well you performed during that interval. This is the major difference between training with heart rate only and also using power. Using a power meter, in conjunction with your heart rate monitor, enables you to review your input (your heart rate) as well as your output (power).

Using heart rate alone doesn’t provide you with the full picture.  It tells you how fast your heart is beating during an effort but unless you can compare it to some measured form of output (ie. power), you are left guessing about how well you did the effort.  

Use Power and heart rate to measure improved fitness

One of the great attributes of training with power and heart rate is the ability to track improved fitness.

For example: you might do a number of strength endurance efforts at 250W and keep your heart rate around 150-160 beats.  Over several weeks, you can do these efforts at a higher wattage BUT at the same heart rate.  What does this mean?  This means you are now fitter and stronger – you are now able to push harder/more power on the cranks with the same level of effort/intensity.

Doing sprint training with power cranks becomes really fun.  Each time you do a sprint you can try to achieve a new max peak power. No longer do you have to glance down at your computer and try to guess if the max speed you reached means you are getting stronger and making an allowance for the terrain and wind.

Also training for time trialling and focusing on improving your power at threshold is much easier to do with the use of power.  Each time you do an effort, you can instantly see what power you have held and force yourself to lift that little bit more to achieve a new personal best power value.

Training with power allows athletes to be monitored and receive valuable feedback:

Training with power enables the athlete and the coach to monitor fatigue levels easier. I can monitor your workload each week (intensity, km’s ridden, duration completed) and make changes to your program and also monitor your fatigue levels.  I can alter workout intensities, giving attention to factors such as meters of ascent done during the week and temperature, all captured and in conjunction with several readily available integrated products such as Garmin, Wahoo, polar, zwift, etc.

Remove the guess work when using a power meter

When doing an interval with power, you can reach the desired intensity instantly. The effort becomes very precise and accurate, whereas when you do efforts using only a heart rate monitor, your heart rate takes some time to respond.  During this lag period, you are left guessing as to what power you might actually be doing.  Often you do too much power for the first minute as you are waiting for your heart rate to climb.

Also, it is normal for your heart rate to continue climbing gradually throughout an effort.  If only heart rate was used to monitor your intervals, you could erroneously taper off towards the end of an effort, but think you are still working hard if you were just watching your heart rate increase.  Using power will force you to be more honest and accurate with every effort.

Power software helps you understand your workouts

Kelly Cycle Coaching uses the web-based platform called Training Peaks.

How does coaching become more advanced with the use of power:

  • I can monitor the intensity of each workout and ensure you are not riding too hard/easy throughout your training blocks
  • I can review your intervals and help you set new goals
  • I can see weaknesses in your power and adapt the training program to overcome these areas
  • I can monitor your overall level of fatigue and adjust the program as needed

Can I download my power files into Training Peaks?

Yes, simply sync your device with Training Peaks via the Account, (Connectivity section)

By monitoring your workload and receiving feedback on how the efforts and sessions feel, the risk of over-training can be minimised.  This means the quality of your training will be maximised and not disrupted due to excessive training and/or lack of recovery.  This is one of the main benefits you will gain by training with power.  In essence it means you can see when you have over done it and need a recovery day.

If training with power sound like something you are interested in to help take your cycling to the next level, then please email or call me to discuss this.