In order to take my training to the next level, I took the (rather expensive) plunge and invested in a power meter and a Garmin 1000. Although I had a power meter some years ago when I was doing triathlon, I didn’t really understand how to use it in order to maximise the potential gains from my training. When it broke, I went back to training by heart rate and this served me well during my preparation for Ireland.
The problem with heart rate, however, is that whilst it gives you a guide to how hard you are working it isn’t very specific. There are lots of factors that can affect it from one day to the next; time of day, heat, how tired you are to name but a few. It’s also not very quick to rise which means that it’s of no help for very short intervals.
I worked very hard last year on all the sessions set by my coach Nick to boost my aerobic and anaerobic power and big improvements were made. I now need to take those improvements to the next level; realistically the gains will get smaller as I get stronger and in order to do that, every Watt in training must count.
I decided to invest in the Rotor InPower system. It measures your power output through the left crank. Other systems are available but I needed one that wouldn’t break the bank and would also stand up well to rain (both in the UK and eventually in RAAM). Pankhurst Cycles in Pangbourne gave me some good advice and then fitted it on the trusty Bianchi along with the Garmin 1000 which reads the power output.
I’ve now been training with power for nearly 2 months and boy does it make a difference! What became immediately obvious is the variation in my power output during hard intervals whilst my heart rate is barely changing. I can think that I’m working at the same intensity but if I don’t keep an eye on it, my power will drop considerably without my heart rate decreasing by more than a beat or two if that. Whereas before I would have thought that I’d done a solid interval, now my work rate is even higher to ensure I’m staying in the correct power zone. Whilst it hurts, it’s the only way I’m going to improve.
The other bonus of the power meter is at the other end of the work spectrum on the “Zone 1 rides”. When I’m supposed to be doing a steady, low intensity ride I would think that I was doing ok keeping my heart rate in Zone 1 but what I wasn’t seeing was the little peaks as I went up hills. Each of these take just a little out of the legs and in the long term, this is termed “training in the grey zone”; too hard to be of benefit as a low intensity ride and not hard enough to work the top end, resulting in fatigue and no improvement in performance.
Only time will tell how much difference training with power will make but it certainly is making me work!!