One of the most recurrent debates in the world of cycling is whether or not to train by power. The use of power meters is becoming ever more frequent, as watts have become a big part of the planning of cycling sessions, but what if I train without looking at the watts? Let’s take a look at this question.
Training without looking at the watts
If you decide to train without looking at power, you will be training classically, by heart rate. This method seems to be losing ground in the cycling world, however, there are still many electronic devices that monitor heart rate.
Advantages and disadvantages of classic training
What are the advantages and disadvantages of heart rate training? Here they are:
The main advantage of heart rate training is the greater accessibility of the devices. A power meter is around 300-400 euros, while a heart rate monitor or smart watch is much cheaper. The price is much lower.
With a heart rate monitor it is much easier to detect excessive fatigue or overtraining. If your heart rate is not close to your maximum heart rate, you need to rest.
Influence of external factors
Conditions such as lack of sleep, high or cold temperatures, illness, etc. influence the value given by the pulse rate. It is therefore not a 100% reliable indicator.
Less control of effort
Training by heart rate makes it difficult to manage your effort. It is difficult to perform a series at a constant pace. Usually, seconds of work are lost because the pulse rate takes time to rise and fall.
Why do we now train by watts?
Until now, heart rate was the basic reference for measuring effort on the bike. However, power has become more accurate and allows you to precisely regulate your efforts in order to fine-tune and thus achieve your goals. The advantages of training by watts are as follows:
–No external or internal influences
Power is nothing more than the work you do based on the force you offer to the pedals and cadence, therefore, it is not conditioned by external factors. In the same way, it is not affected by internal situations such as dehydration, lack of training, tiredness, etc. as is the case with heart rate.
–Better effort management
Training by power helps you manage your effort, which means you can be at maximum performance without having to pay for it later. Setting the intensity which you can ride at without being too tired afterwards is an advantage for many athletes, especially triathletes.
Having power as a benchmark provides a variety of objective data that allows you to know your fitness level. This is an advantage when programming sessions in the BKOOL simulator, as you can design your training based on this information. The exercise will now be personalised.
How to train by watts?
Starting to train by power is not such a simple task. The transition from a classic training by heart rate or a session by power implies a certain calmness to avoid risks of injury and an excessive alteration in the sports plan.
The first thing to do is a strength test, a watts test, why?
– To make sure that we are in optimum physical condition.
– To define our training zones.
With the watts test we will know our aerobic and anaerobic thresholds and the different power intervals according to which we can train the different physical capacities (power, resistance, speed, etc.).
In other words, with this type of test we calculate our FTP (Functional Threshold Power). The most widespread test is the 20-minute test, consisting of intervals of: maximum effort – recovery – maximum sustained effort – moderate exercise.
These intervals are used to obtain an average watts that must be multiplied by a correction factor of 0.95 to give the watts threshold value. Another valid test is the Ramp Test, which we have already discussed.
Either method is not mutually exclusive. You can try both techniques and choose the one that best suits your goals. If you want to train more accurately to maximise your performance, watts training would be the most suitable. But, if you want to monitor your training at a lower cost and with a traditional method, a heart rate monitor will be your ally.