Let’s have a look at three prac­ti­cal ex­am­ples of the ben­e­fits of power within a work­out;

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Short and sweet: The im­age be­low shows the power and HR read­ings for part of a train­ing ses­sion that in­volved a series of short, 40-sec­ond fast hill in­ter­vals. The im­age shows that power has been able to pick up the in­ten­sity of the ses­sion but the HR ‘lag’ does not ac­cu­rately rep­re­sent the load­ing of the ses­sion with HR not ris­ing much be­yond a steady ef­fort. The im­age also shows how HR ac­tu­ally peaks af­ter the ef­fort is over. Us­ing power for short, faster ef­forts like this pro­vides a much more re­spon­sive and ac­cu­rate work­out mea­sure.

Find­ing your ‘thresh­old’: Com­bin­ing power and HR data can be a highly ef­fec­tive train­ing tool. The data in this im­age shows a sim­ple test run of 10-minute,

8-minute or 6-minute ef­forts – all run on the flat at a HR (red dots) that cor­re­lates to anaer­o­bic thresh­old ef­fort as de­ter­mined by a re­cent lab test. This has al­lowed us to de­ter­mine a power mea­sure­ment when run­ning at anaer­o­bic thresh­old ef­fort (around 400 watts). This data can now be used to run thresh­old and tempo ses­sions much more con­sis­tently in the hilly train­ing en­vi­ron­ment in which this ath­lete finds them­selves, us­ing power as guid­ance, not pace or HR.

Find­ing the hard in the easy: Many ath­letes run their re­cov­ery ef­forts too fast. Some­times ego can get in the way of al­low­ing your body these cru­cial eas­ier pe­ri­ods be­tween hard ses­sions, to adapt and progress – with run­ners of­ten end­ing up per­pet­u­ally fa­tigued. HR is of­ten used as a tool to keep easy runs easy but, for faster run­ners, un­der­stand­ing the ‘ex­ter­nal load’ of, for ex­am­ple, com­plet­ing an easy run at 7-minute miles as op­posed to 6-minute miles can be very use­ful, even if your HR is low for both ef­forts. These two im­ages show sec­tions of two ‘easy’ runs ac­cord­ing to HR. One was un­der­taken at a rel­a­tively steady power out­put as it was run on a traf­fic-free route. The other was run in a town which led to ‘surg­ing’ of power through­out the run. Av­er­age HR was the same on both runs, but power al­lows us to see that the first run had less mus­cle load.

Is it ev­ery­thing? Like all data, whether HR, GPS or re­cov­ery mea­sure­ments, power is a tool for ath­letes and coaches. It can al­low more ac­cu­racy in mea­sur­ing the ef­fec­tive­ness and load­ing of ses­sions and help give a fuller pic­ture of an ath­lete’s per­for­mance but it shouldn’t be used blindly. Coach­ing isn’t a purely tech­no­cratic process of as­sign­ing plans and check­ing sta­tis­tics. Per­ceived ex­er­tion, coach­ing craft and of course com­mu­ni­ca­tion will re­main at the heart of all good coach’s prac­tice. Used wisely and with care, power can re­ally add to a coach or ath­lete’s tool­kit.

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