Saturday, December 17, 2005

Training with Power

One of the must have items for cyclists these days is a power meter. Even though they still aren't cheap (~ $600-$3k) they offer a view into your training that a heart rate monitoring simply can't offer.

A power meter tells you literally how much power you are producing at any moment. It is a direct measurement of the amount of work you are doing. Where heart rate is influenced by many factors such as temperature, fatigue, etc, power is absolute. Your heart rate also tends to lag behind the amount of work you're performing. The classic example of this is climbing a hill. Even after you crest the hill and head down the other side, your heart rate will still be high.

Building a training program (and there are many ways to do so) allows you to be more precise about your training and gives you better insight into how fit you really are. Fundamentally, in a race if all things are equal, the person who can generate more power will win.

Power meters also help with gauging nutrition requirements and fatique levels. At the end of a ride you can look at the total number of kilojoules of energy expended during the workout. Through a bit of conversion, this correlates about 1:1 to calories and is much more accurate than the calorie estimates given by heart rate monitors. In addition, over the course of a training cycle you can calculate the total energy expended to know if you're really doing the proper amount of work.

On a somewhat related note, I was curious if I worked more during indoor trainer workouts so I looked at my total energy expenditure per hour for both indoor and outdoor workouts and found that I generally expend about 9-10% more energy inside.

Interesting stuff, eh? Want to run out and buy one? :)

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