Friday File, July 31, 2015

Many of you who are new to bike power have had previous experience with heart rate data and have asked us about using both. Clearly, there are merits to having the two data sets so here’s a quick overview.

Heart rate monitors are definitely a huge step up from just riding by feel and the data helps set your training zones. The monitors are easy to use, allow you to set pace and give you a good indicator for how hard you can push. If you have done a number of hard training days in a row, however, you’ll know that getting to a high heart rate is much harder towards the end of the training block than at the beginning.  That’s when a power meter can add valuable perspective.

With power, you get your exertion measurement, instantly. The meter is not subjective to fatigue or illness and gives you a real-time wattage measurement to which you can build your power based training zones. This information can be particularly useful for time trialists and triathletes, who specialize in sustained efforts. Over long intervals, as an example, cardiac drift causes one’s heart rate to increase even though the workload is kept constant.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, sprinters specialize in very short, but intense efforts. Most sprints and sprint-training intervals last only 30 seconds or less, giving a heart rate monitor – and the athlete – little time to react. That’s when knowing your power is helpful.

As Hunter Allen puts it in his blog:

“One of the greatest advantages of training with a power meter is, in my opinion, that a power meter gives you the ability to dial in your desired level of exertion immediately. This is especially true for shorter intervals. The reason is the key difference between power and heart rate: power meters measure the power your body produces, and it can be measured directly and instantaneously, whereas heart rate is an indirect measure and responds to the body’s effort and is thus a delayed measure of exertion.”

In the case of our very own in-house Calgary 70.3 finishers posing below, multiple data points played a key role in getting them through the swim, the ride and the run. After that, it was all true grit!