Friday, December 21, 2012

Training With Power

Power, HR, and cadence data from my first ride with a power meter.
Red: Power (watts)
Blue: Heart Rate (bpm)
Cyan: Cadence (rpm)

I took the plunge this month and invested in a power meter (Quarq S975) for my CX bike thanks to some help from my shop sponsor for 2013 (Thank's Slim & Knobbies!).  The graph above shows my first ride on a stationary trainier where I averaged around 215w over the course of 2 hours 15 min riding in HR zone 2-3.  I am in bike geek heaven with all of this fancy data and hopefully I will learn to actually put it to some good use over the next 12 weeks.  Needless to say, I am very excited to move past a fundamental problem I've had.

The Problem:

I have been using a HR monitor for the past 3 years and that has helped guess at how much effort I was expending during my training sessions.  I say guess because that's really all it is. The problem with a HR monitor, or more specifically, heart rate is the inconsistency as it relates to actual power to the pedals.  Some days my HR will much higher or lower for what seems to me like the same effort so it really is hard to know if I am pushing to hard for a given workout or not hard enough.  I have found that when compared to other riders, my HR has been 10-20bpm lower than theirs which was confusing to me at first.  For a while I thought this was because I wasn't pushing myself as hard as they were.  I eventually realized that my HR is just low, if I reach 160bpm I am getting close to bleeding out the eyeballs.  Anyway, you get the point, HR is a horrible way to gauge effort on a consistent basis but it is better than nothing.  With enough experience training with a HR monitor and paying attention to your body it is possible to get by.  Eventually I believe one reaches a plateau training with HR alone and I think I may be sitting on one right now.

The Solution:

Training with power takes everything inconsistent, vague, and problematic that comes with training by HR and replaces it with consistency, exactness, and cold hard reality.  200w of power today will be 200w of power tomorrow plain and simple.  With HR there is ramp up time between a change in effort and a change in HR. Power happens within a second or two at most.

So there you have it, everything I know about training with power.  I have a lot of reading to do and fortunately for me, there is a lot of available reading. I plan to start with the links below.


11 Reasons to give Santa why your bike needs a Power Meter (LW Coaching)

Train Smarter By Training With Power (

Training With Power On A Mountain Bike (

Why Training With Power? - An Executive Summary.

PowerTap - Training With Power (Joe Friel)

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