Triathlon Magazine Canada - - DEPARTMENTS - BY PAUL DUN­CAN

So Fit. So Strong. So Happy.

Is it bet­ter to use heart rate or power for gauge ef­fort on the bike? The an­swer is not ei­ther or, it’s both.

If an ath­lete is train­ing for the half or full dis­tance, the bulk of that ath­lete’s train­ing pro­gram should con­sist mostly of aer­o­bic train­ing. The only way to know if you are in an aer­o­bic train­ing zone is by hav­ing pre-de­ter­mined heart rate zones. Some coaches, how­ever, choose to set up these zones us­ing a power me­ter. In the­ory, this can work, but also can be a recipe for forc­ing the ath­lete to train too hard.

When us­ing power only, it’s hard to de­ter­mine just how much stress an ath­lete is en­dur­ing at any given time. Stress is an es­sen­tial fac­tor in de­ter­min­ing what is best for an ath­lete on any given day. The best gauge of stress is the heart. Heart rate is af­fected by de­hy­dra­tion, tem­per­a­ture, lack of sleep and the food you eat – es­sen­tially ev­ery­thing. So us­ing a mea­sure that takes all these fac­tors into con­sid­er­a­tion is cru­cial to en­sur­ing ath­letes avoid over­train­ing and burnout.

A power me­ter is a great way to mea­sure pro­gres­sion. Be­cause per­for­mance can vary day to day, ath­letes should use a power me­ter as a tool to mea­sure a given out­put com­pared to a spe­cific heart rate, then com­pare this to a pre­vi­ous work­out at the same heart rate.

For ex­am­ple, if an ath­lete holds 150 watts on the bike while in the mid­dle of zone 1 at the be­gin­ning of the sea­son, and one month later, holds 160 watts at that same heart rate, then we are see­ing progress. Some days fa­tigue will set in, along with other stres­sors, and hold­ing that same 150 to 160 watts may force the ath­lete to go into a zone 2 or 3 heart rate. If this is the case, the ath­lete us­ing both power and heart rate would know to slow down to get back into an aer­o­bic ef­fort (i.e. zone 1).

There are times, how­ever, where us­ing power would be ben­e­fi­cial as the main stan­dard of mea­sure­ment. As the ath­lete gets closer to race time do­ing some power-fo­cused tar­gets is a good way to push through some bar­ri­ers to see where the heart rate is when the ath­lete is rested and ready to put in a solid ef­fort. This will help pro­vide nec­es­sary guide­lines for race day. Over­all a power me­ter is a pow­er­ful tool and is best used in con­junc­tion with heart rate.

ABOVE The ath­lete’s quest to im­prove per­for­mance us­ing data mea­sure­ments is un­end­ing. Red Bull re­cently put triath­letes An­gela Naeth and Jesse Thomas through test­ing at Pro­ject En­durance in Death Val­ley, Calif., to an­a­lyze how mus­cle fi­bres are...

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