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Old 05-14-14, 06:17 AM   #1
Campag4life
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Power versus Heart Rate Training...

I know there are more than a few disciples of training with power here. My question is...just how closely does power output line up with what your heart rate? I know there is some elasticity initially as wattage is increased...but say at a steady state output of 100, 200 and 300 watts, after a mile of riding at a particular wattage, does your heart rate tend to correlate to this wattage?
Thanks

PS: as a follow up, if heart rate does track wattage, then through your training regiment, how much have you changed this correlation by lowering heart rate for a given watt output?

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Old 05-14-14, 08:20 AM   #2
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It's close enough that you can make a general estimate of your power output using an HRM. This is what Strava and the CycleOps do.

However, these estimators are nowhere near as precise as a real power meter, especially with short-term efforts, sprinting and so forth.

In general, whether you train with power or an HRM, the idea is to do more work with less aerobic effort. The only way to know how much you're really changing would involve precise and disciplined measurements of both power and heart rate through your training process.
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Old 05-14-14, 08:35 AM   #3
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It depends.

Some day, HR and Power do not correlate at all - i.e. my HR is high but power is not.

Other days, it tends to track more closely.
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Old 05-14-14, 08:35 AM   #4
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If you don't have a power meter, training by HR is the next best thing. And it does ok, particularly for longer efforts. However, there is a lot of variability. Your state of hydration,and fatigue can significantly affect your HR. Somedays your HR just won't come up to the level it should, but your power is still high. Other days your HR skyrockets at relatively low power out puts.

Your HR can also change during a workout. It's not unusual to get heart rate drift as you do intervals, particularly if it's hot or your doing them on a trainer. So the first interval may be 165bpm at 300 watts, and the last interval will only be 270 watts at the same 165bpm.

So if you're pacing efforts off of HR, you often need to bump your HR target for the last interval or two of a set.

On shorter intervals, HR lag makes it pretty much worthless to pace off of HR, because HR doesn't come up until your well into the effort.
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Old 05-14-14, 08:43 AM   #5
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PS: as a follow up, if heart rate does track wattage, then through your training regiment, how much have you changed this correlation by lowering heart rate for a given watt output?
It's more that your power for a given HR increases with training.

Your lactate threshold heart rate (or the HR for a work out level you can maintain for an hour) is not going to change much in response to training. The power you can produce at that HR will increase with training.

For me, my power at LTHR has increased 23% from the time I first started training with power to my best FTP. That took 9 years. YMMV.
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Old 05-14-14, 08:46 AM   #6
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I'm still relatively new with power, and frankly it can be so dizzying at times that I just let someone else analyze my data and build my training plan. That being said, I still love to look at everything. I'd agree with Merlin, training with HR is just fine but I can also tell you that the only correlation between the two for me is that there's generally not as much of it. I think there are times when it correlates well given certain days of the week, i.e. If I come off a rest day or two and then ride every Monday each Monday I see similar tracking but when I have multiple days of riding and different types of rides then the data often stops any correlation. i.e. yesterday my heart rate was much higher within 5 minutes at a certain wattage than it had been the day before at the same wattage. I know that can be anything from temperature to the amount of caffeine I took in, but definitely as the days progress I see more fluctuation.

Not sure if any of this makes sense or not. I will say it's been really cool to watch my fitness change now that when I go for a ride I have some power goals to achieve (but I still enjoy the riding itself)
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Old 05-14-14, 09:48 AM   #7
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Yes, as been said, HR is variable, bit watts are watts. It doesn't matter to me what my HR is, and I only train to target power and cadence numbers. I do watch and log my average HR, and it is, of course, captured fully in the ride file data, so I can monitor macro fitness trends, but again, for specific training, it's power.

Most of my power training is in a studio on a Cycleops stationary, so my power goals are very specific, targeted, and consistent. With that data, looking at HR, it's fairly consistent, but there are definitely days when HR is lower than usual, but power is normal, and vice versa.

Insofar as HR at a specified power level over time, part of fitness is being able to hold the HR relative to power and cadence, but also to be able to push it up and recover. In the end, though, we all see power flag and HR rise as we reach exhaustion. For me, at sub-threshold efforts, I can lower cadence at a given power level and drop HR; higher cadence will drive HR up, so it's not just a matter of HR vis a vis power.
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Old 05-14-14, 10:56 AM   #8
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Non power users may think in terms of 100, 200 and 300 watts but for me, 10 watts of long term power is a lot but may not change HR very much. So if I am cycling at 200 watts for 15 minutes, my HR may be X. If I raise my average power to 210 watts over the same course with the same cadence and ambient temperature, my heart rate may go up a beat or two, but the effort will feel a lot harder. As I get closer to LT, small increases in power feel much harder and HR seems to compress meaning I do not get a linear increase in HR such as 2 beats equals 5 watts. In fact, as I have improved my fitness, my resting HR has dropped and it is harder to raise HR as I increase power. When I stop producing power, my HR drops quickly. Also, my HR is higher when the ambient temperature is higher for the same amount of power and my HR will vary from day to day depending on many factors.

As a side note, I workout at the gym. When I go into the gym, I have a goal as to how much weight I am going to lift and how many sets I will do. I will use my ATP-PC, glycolytic and to an extent oxidative systems (we all have these) to provide the energy to lift the weights and recover between sets using blood pumped from my heart. I do not have any heart rate goals when I go to the gym since HR is at best a tertiary metric and inferior to counting reps and knowing how much weight I am lifting per unit of time and distance - power. However, I am sure my HR goes up during a set and there may be correlation between how much weight I am lifting and my increase in heart rate. And if I lift the weights faster, I suspect my heart rate would go up more. I mention this example only to show that if one could know how much power one makes on the bike over a distance, one would select that metric over heart rate since heart rate is a tertiary metric influenced by many other factors.

Recovery is another matter. And I use HR on the bike to check my recovery after a power interval.

The key concept that I learned when I started training with power was that I was not working hard enough. Measuring power is a cruel taskmaster. Any slight downhill sections of road cause the power to drop as well as after cresting a hill and starting on the downhill. Before power measurement, I thought I would ride constant z3 but in reality, I got a lot of mini rests that my HR monitor did not record. A constant z3 power ride is very tough since changes in power must be immediately responded to with a change in pedal force. So as soon as I crest a grade, I shift into a bigger gear and dramatically increase pedal force. This keeps the power up until the bike accelerates and air resistance increases to increase power required. Mini rests are gone but the heart rate graphs look the same. And when I did hard intervals based on HR, my heart rate increased and my legs were burning which I thought was a good indication of performance. Power measurement showed me my power was dropping as my HR increased and perceived effort increased. Now I focus on power and turn myself inside out to maintain power much like I do in the gym trying to make those last couple of reps on the last set.
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Old 05-14-14, 11:01 AM   #9
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The key concept that I learned when I started training with power was that I was not working hard enough. Measuring power is a cruel taskmaster. Any slight downhill sections of road cause the power to drop as well as after cresting a hill and starting on the downhill. Before power measurement, I thought I would ride constant z3 but in reality, I got a lot of mini rests that my HR monitor did not record. A constant z3 power ride is very tough since changes in power must be immediately responded to with a change in pedal force. So as soon as I crest a grade, I shift into a bigger gear and dramatically increase pedal force. This keeps the power up until the bike accelerates and air resistance increases to increase power required. Mini rests are gone but the heart rate graphs look the same. And when I did hard intervals, my heart rate is increasing and my legs were burning which I thought was a good indication of performance. Power measurement showed me my power was dropping as my HR increased and perceived effort increased. Now I focus on power and turn myself inside out to maintain power much like I do in the gym trying to make those last couple of reps on the last set.
+1

Going to power from HR to pace intervals made the intervals much harder.
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Old 05-14-14, 11:58 AM   #10
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This video illustrates why HR is not a good indicator of power. For the same HR, you can have a 2-3X difference in power depending on gear https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L1uJ0oL98ps
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Old 05-14-14, 12:33 PM   #11
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Non power users may think in terms of 100, 200 and 300 watts but for me, 10 watts of long term power is a lot but may not change HR very much. So if I am cycling at 200 watts for 15 minutes, my HR may be X. If I raise my average power to 210 watts over the same course with the same cadence and ambient temperature, my heart rate may go up a beat or two, but the effort will feel a lot harder. As I get closer to LT, small increases in power feel much harder and HR seems to compress meaning I do not get a linear increase in HR such as 2 beats equals 5 watts. In fact, as I have improved my fitness, my resting HR has dropped and it is harder to raise HR as I increase power. When I stop producing power, my HR drops quickly. Also, my HR is higher when the ambient temperature is higher for the same amount of power and my HR will vary from day to day depending on many factors.

As a side note, I workout at the gym. When I go into the gym, I have a goal as to how much weight I am going to lift and how many sets I will do. I will use my ATP-PC, glycolytic and to an extent oxidative systems (we all have these) to provide the energy to lift the weights and recover between sets using blood pumped from my heart. I do not have any heart rate goals when I go to the gym since HR is at best a tertiary metric and inferior to counting reps and knowing how much weight I am lifting per unit of time and distance - power. However, I am sure my HR goes up during a set and there may be correlation between how much weight I am lifting and my increase in heart rate. And if I lift the weights faster, I suspect my heart rate would go up more. I mention this example only to show that if one could know how much power one makes on the bike over a distance, one would select that metric over heart rate since heart rate is a tertiary metric influenced by many other factors.

Recovery is another matter. And I use HR on the bike to check my recovery after a power interval.

The key concept that I learned when I started training with power was that I was not working hard enough. Measuring power is a cruel taskmaster. Any slight downhill sections of road cause the power to drop as well as after cresting a hill and starting on the downhill. Before power measurement, I thought I would ride constant z3 but in reality, I got a lot of mini rests that my HR monitor did not record. A constant z3 power ride is very tough since changes in power must be immediately responded to with a change in pedal force. So as soon as I crest a grade, I shift into a bigger gear and dramatically increase pedal force. This keeps the power up until the bike accelerates and air resistance increases to increase power required. Mini rests are gone but the heart rate graphs look the same. And when I did hard intervals based on HR, my heart rate increased and my legs were burning which I thought was a good indication of performance. Power measurement showed me my power was dropping as my HR increased and perceived effort increased. Now I focus on power and turn myself inside out to maintain power much like I do in the gym trying to make those last couple of reps on the last set.
An informative post...many thanks. I love what you wrote about training with power being a cruel taskmaster. As a non competitive rider, perhaps I best stay away. No doubt training with power is quite humbling as others have reflected.
I am still blown away with what the pros can sustain in terms of watts. Lance...I know he is scorned, won a Tri a couple of years ago when he said he rode the TT leg by putting his power meter on 330 watts for the 60 mile ride. Unbelievable.
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Old 05-14-14, 12:47 PM   #12
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Recovery is another matter. And I use HR on the bike to check my recovery after a power interval.
I've been trying to tweak my interval training lately. What zone/% do you use for recovery? Do you have set rest periods, or just when your HR drops to a certain number?
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Old 05-14-14, 12:51 PM   #13
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In your other thread, you indicate that you like to ride hard. Power measurement will enable that personality trait. As cyclists, we decide how hard we want to train on any given day. The data generated by a power meter is very cool and interesting and provides a great record of fitness over time.

And I would not give pro riders too much credit per se. Sure they train hard and take risks but IMO, it is all about genetics. They are genetically predisposed to generate those power levels with the right kind of training. Without the genetics, it is not possible but it is definitely fun to watch and inspiring.
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Old 05-14-14, 01:12 PM   #14
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I've been trying to tweak my interval training lately. What zone/% do you use for recovery? Do you have set rest periods, or just when your HR drops to a certain number?
This is a "depends". Full recovery takes about 5 minutes between intervals which is what most coaches use. So one may do a 5 minute VO2Max interval and then recover for 5 minutes. I have been doing 25 minute intervals with a set of embedded intervals and rest periods within the 25 minutes. My coach sets the intervals and power levels. He gives me 2 minutes rest between intervals assuming my heart rate drops below 120. I take more recovery if my HR is still up. The goal of these is to make each interval progressively harder simulating what is experienced in racing. The idea of getting below 120 is to assess training load. If my HR stays up, I may be carrying too much fatigue into the session.
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Old 05-14-14, 01:20 PM   #15
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This is a "depends". Full recovery takes about 5 minutes between intervals which is what most coaches use. So one may do a 5 minute VO2Max interval and then recover for 5 minutes. I have been doing 25 minute intervals with a set of embedded intervals and rest periods within the 25 minutes. My coach sets the intervals and power levels. He gives me 2 minutes rest between intervals assuming my heart rate drops below 120. I take more recovery if my HR is still up. The goal of these is to make each interval progressively harder simulating what is experienced in racing. The idea of getting below 120 is to assess training load. If my HR stays up, I may be carrying too much fatigue into the session.
Great info. Much appreciated, sir.
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Old 05-14-14, 01:41 PM   #16
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The key concept that I learned when I started training with power was that I was not working hard enough. Measuring power is a cruel taskmaster. Any slight downhill sections of road cause the power to drop as well as after cresting a hill and starting on the downhill. Before power measurement, I thought I would ride constant z3 but in reality, I got a lot of mini rests that my HR monitor did not record. A constant z3 power ride is very tough since changes in power must be immediately responded to with a change in pedal force. So as soon as I crest a grade, I shift into a bigger gear and dramatically increase pedal force. This keeps the power up until the bike accelerates and air resistance increases to increase power required. Mini rests are gone but the heart rate graphs look the same. And when I did hard intervals based on HR, my heart rate increased and my legs were burning which I thought was a good indication of performance. Power measurement showed me my power was dropping as my HR increased and perceived effort increased. Now I focus on power and turn myself inside out to maintain power much like I do in the gym trying to make those last couple of reps on the last set.
EXACTLY!!!

I'm not as experienced as many here, but when I first got my power meter all my local riding buddies asked how I liked it. I told them that it let me know I rested too much & didn't consistently try as hard as I thought. I could tell from their reactions and future comments that they are certain that they do not take any time off when riding. This may be true, but I highly doubt it. The power meter would let you know for sure.

At least now I'm certain that I'm putting out the effort I want/need to be when doing an interval.
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Old 05-14-14, 01:45 PM   #17
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On roads it's hard to gauge recovery and hard to decide what BPM you want to use as your recovery. Since hardly any roads are completely flat, and if you find a flat road with no lights it would be boring to go back and forth to get constant efforts. I find after a hard effort my heart rate will drop relatively quickly while lightly pedaling, but if I run into a slight 2% incline or so it will still stay around 140bpm and not drop into the 120's until I'm back on flat ground. In that case you could do another hard effort, or wait until the heart rate drops. I think people overall take these zones too seriously - the only way to get around variable heart rate training is to get a power meter, but for most it's pretty expensive.
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Old 05-14-14, 02:38 PM   #18
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I know there are more than a few disciples of training with power here. My question is...just how closely does power output line up with what your heart rate? I know there is some elasticity initially as wattage is increased...but say at a steady state output of 100, 200 and 300 watts, after a mile of riding at a particular wattage, does your heart rate tend to correlate to this wattage?
Thanks

PS: as a follow up, if heart rate does track wattage, then through your training regiment, how much have you changed this correlation by lowering heart rate for a given watt output?
Using both gives me a pretty good way to evaluate my fatigue. If my HR is in Zone 4 or higher, but I'm only cranking out 180-200 watts (assuming there's no other obvious reason, like wind or mechanical issue), I know I'm due for a rest day. By the same token, when I can see my avg power creep up while my HR stays steady over time, I can see I'm getting more efficient. More data more better.

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Old 05-14-14, 06:19 PM   #19
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My question is...just how closely does power output line up with what your heart rate?
Depends. Here are three plots showing power on the y-axis, hr on the x-axis for the same guy in three different types of races over about a six week period of time: a crit, a road race, and a TT. Now, racing is training but training isn't racing so the story isn't quite this simple but it shows that the correlation between instantaneous power and instantaneous heart rate isn't very good. If you average over longer periods of time the correlation improves, but just as the correlation between heart rate and power depends on the type of racing, it will depend on the type of training. So, bottom line, it depends.

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Old 05-14-14, 07:01 PM   #20
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To wax philosophic for just a moment among those that have experienced training with power and heart rate...to me the signature question.
With all the science...and perhaps some may take exception to that claim...of training with heart rate within targeted zones...and heart stroke volume and strength being a major contributor to sustained power, doesn't it make more sense to train to heart rate versus power? The reason I ask is because we each can pretty easily compile our heart rate zones or targets....but much more difficult to assign targets of power to train to. Who is to say any power target is ideal...or even a menu of targeted power zones for a training schedule. But training to heart rate zones...if the heart is the true engine...doesn't it make more sense to train in accordance with heart rate versus power? Yes, power will come by training to heart rate, but it seems that training to power zones maybe a bit less sound of a technique.
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Old 05-14-14, 07:11 PM   #21
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Watts are watts. HR is variable, subjective, and does not measure work.
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Old 05-14-14, 07:16 PM   #22
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To wax philosophic for just a moment among those that have experienced training with power and heart rate...to me the signature question.
With all the science...and perhaps some may take exception to that claim...of training with heart rate within targeted zones...and heart stroke volume and strength being a major contributor to sustained power, doesn't it make more sense to train to heart rate versus power? The reason I ask is because we each can pretty easily compile our heart rate zones or targets....but much more difficult to assign targets of power to train to. Who is to say any power target is ideal...or even a menu of targeted power zones for a training schedule. But training to heart rate zones...if the heart is the true engine...doesn't it make more sense to train in accordance with heart rate versus power? Yes, power will come by training to heart rate, but it seems that training to power zones maybe a bit less sound of a technique.
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Just look at the charts above for the TT. His HR is pretty much 180bpm the entire time, but the power varies from 200-800W. So where should your effort be? What good is being able to hold 200W at a high HR if you are still going to get dropped?
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Old 05-14-14, 08:07 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by Campag4life View Post
With all the science...and perhaps some may take exception to that claim...of training with heart rate within targeted zones...and heart stroke volume and strength being a major contributor to sustained power, doesn't it make more sense to train to heart rate versus power?
No because power lets you rack up more of the right training stress in less time.

Once you cross your lactate threshold it accumulates in proportion to the fourth power of exertion so starting an interval a little too hard significantly limits what you can average and how much work you can do.

Unfortunately heart rate lags; so if you're pacing off it you over-do it in the beginning.

Heart rate also drifts upward so by the end you're not working as hard as you could.



(my Garmin stopped crashing like that after I upgraded from the original 2011 firmware)

Heart rate is also influenced by other factors like unseasonably warm weather. On Monday when it was 93 degrees I went for a ride at a comfortable endurance pace but after an hour was a couple beats shy of my LTHR although averaging just 130W not 184W. Obviously if you pace to what your heart rate monitor says in situations like that you won't work hard enough. Sometimes that's obvious because it doesn't feel hard enough, but other times it just feels tough because you're tired and you should dig deeper as long as you're not over-reaching or over-training which you don't know to do without more reliable instrumentation.



That sort of erroneous input to your training data can impact multiple workouts.

In exercise physiology we model training stress as decaying impulse responses over a long term (6 week decay) representing fitness and short term (1 week) freshness with the difference between them stress balance with some sustainable maximum.

When you inflate your short term or acute training load due to higher heart rate from environmental conditions you may dial back following work-outs when you don't need to.

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The reason I ask is because we each can pretty easily compile our heart rate zones or targets....but much more difficult to assign targets of power to train to.
Hardly. To calculate heart rate zones I go out, ride a little harder than the last time I checked for 30 minutes, take the average over the last 20 minutes, hope I didn't set an unreachable target because my heart was a bit fast due to heat or minor illness, and dump the resulting number in my computer.

To calculate power zones I ride shorter and longer intervals then click "save" on the critical power screen.

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Who is to say any power target is ideal...or even a menu of targeted power zones for a training schedule. But training to heart rate zones...if the heart is the true engine...
It's not.

Your muscles are the engine and you're interested in all the physiological changes that improve their performance through more oxygen and less lactate like growing more mitochondria and capillaries.

Heart rate is just a side effect, and for most durations of interest (note the gulf between LTHR and maximum) how much blood it can pump is not the limiting factor.

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Yes, power will come by training to heart rate, but it seems that training to power zones maybe a bit less sound of a technique.
Training with power often produces significant power gains over training with heart rate alone.
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Last edited by Drew Eckhardt; 05-15-14 at 09:05 AM.
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Old 05-14-14, 11:45 PM   #24
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Training with HR is IMO, misunderstood and incorrectly promulgated as a training method by many writers in the sports world. When you train with HR, you are really training by RPE while using HR to assess your current physical condition. Much of the time HR will give a reliable indication of aerobic/anaerobic stress. But it contains a lot more information than that which may cause some to characterize it as unreliable. That's a feature, not a bug. If I had to choose one, I would rather ride an event by HR than by power. HR reports on how you are doing and that's critical information. You want to know if it's going right or if something is going wrong, and if so what is it and what do you need to do to fix it. Power and HR together would be the best.

As a little for-instance, I do some long intervals on my rollers (with resistance). So I'm doing them essentially by power, because I hold speed and therefore power constant. I also watch HR. From HR I can tell if what I'm doing is a good idea given my current training state. If my HR is running way low, I will normally back it off and do the workout at a lower effort. If my HR is running high, I know to go for it. I can also assess my training state by watching HR drift, the object being to have little or no HR drift, etc.

HR is a great tool, but it's not the same as power.
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Old 05-15-14, 04:35 AM   #25
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Thanks Drew. A great explanation and appreciate you sharing your knowledge.

Last edited by Campag4life; 05-15-14 at 04:47 AM.
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