Power training without HR

Discussion in 'Power Training' started by GaryWSmith, Mar 22, 2007.

  1. GaryWSmith

    GaryWSmith New Member

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    I've been training with power for a couple of years now and am quite pleased with the results (it's all relative). But to be honest there are a few questions that remain unanswered.

    The first relates to a topic which has been raised in another thread. Why is it more difficult to prodice the same steady state power on a trainer than it is on the road. I've read the majority of the postings and the most plausible answer to my mind is the intertial difference. It seems that this is still under debate though.

    Secondly, is training by power alone the best way to do things? For instance what about the old adage of "when you are hurting in the legs, take it in the chest and when you are hurting in the chest take it on the legs". So the question is whether the same results are achieved by training at a certain power irrespective of the cadence?

    The reason I ask this is that I find it much easier to do my 20m L4 intervals on a hill than I do on a flat road. The difference is quite pronounced. The flats are also where I usually get dropped when racing.

    My gut feel is that in addition to power HR should be used as a measure of the load on the aerobic system?
     
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  2. daveryanwyoming

    daveryanwyoming Well-Known Member

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    Not sure how you get from hills and flats being different to the need for HR based training. I agree it's easier to sustain L4 or L5 type power workouts on a climb than on the flats and outdoors vs. indoors. I figure it's more of a mental focus thing in the sense that hills keep you honest whether you're completely in the game mentally or not where flats require you to stay on top of things or you tend to ease off a bit. Similarly I think indoor workouts are tougher because you don't have a roadlike feel and let's face it it's just not as much fun to ride in your living room as outdoors. I can do steadier workouts indoors but they're tougher mentally and I think that keeps me from hitting my best power numbers.

    Folks tell you to ignore cadence and I see their point that it can be the wrong thing to focus on but I also think there's value in extending your personal power curve by riding above and below your natural self selected cadence. I don't make it the sole focus of my training but do challenge myself to do some L4 intervals in a lower gear from time to time. I haven't focused on doing them in a higher gear for low cadence work, hills seem to do that naturally. I'm still guiding my efforts with power but I don't see any reason not to work that power at different cadences. I don't have any good science to base this on but I do believe training to be comfortable at higher cadences is real useful in terms of responding to surges or being able to accelerate out of crit corners in a lower gear before upshifting. Maybe it's the time I've spent on the track in a fixed gear, but I'm convinced the ability to put out power while spinning fast is useful even if it's not the most important thing to work on.

    The only way I use HR these days is to keep myself honest on easy days and to see how quickly it drops after hard intervals. I do believe that's a good indicator of fitness. When my HR takes a long time to drop after hard intervals I start thinking about a rest or easier day in my schedule. When it drops like a rock into cruising zone I tend to push things a bit longer or harder. Other than that I haven't found a good use for HR since I got a PM. I still record the data and looking at power charts with HR visible I just don't see how it will help guide my efforts.

    -Dave
     
  3. GaryWSmith

    GaryWSmith New Member

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    Thanks Dave

    Ok, apart from the perception that it is easier to do L4 intervals on a hill than on the flat isn't there a physiologically different result between doing L4 intervals at say 65-75rpm and 100-110rpm? It definitely feels much harder to do the L4 intervals at a higher cadence and I know that I cramp more when trying to complete 2x20m L4's at higher cadences.

    So it seems to me that if the results/effects of training at high and low cadence are different and that higher cadence effort has a higher load on the aerobic system while lower cadence requires more muscle strength then would heart rate not be affected one way or the other and therefore be of some use when used in combination with power data. The assumption is that heart rate will be higher for the higher cadence sessions and I guess it could be a faulty assumption.
     
  4. daveryanwyoming

    daveryanwyoming Well-Known Member

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    I agree that HR is typically higher at higher cadences, but is that a problem or something you should use to taylor training? When I've used HR to limit or guide my efforts I've tended to undertrain in fear of the high HRs.

    Looking back at power/hr curves I can see that HR tends to climb steadily throughout a constant power interval. It takes about a third of a 20 minute L4 effort for my HR to reach the mean for the effort and it continues to climb all the way to the end. This is true for both indoor and outdoor rides regardless of cadence. The HR may actually be higher if I stay in lower gears and spin faster, but how will that information help me? I suppose I could stay in higher gears to avoid the higher HRs, but I really do believe that developing the ability to generate power at higher RPMs is real useful for racing.

    It seems that using HR to guide intervals leads to artificially limiting your efforts in fear of high numbers. Either you drop the power to keep the HR in some predefined range or you limit your cadence and drive bigger gears to get lower HRs. Either way it seems to place unecessary caps on your workouts. I guess the unstated premise is that high HRs are somehow a problem and should be avoided. I don't believe that, I certainly used to but no longer do.

    Physiologically there's definitely a difference like a tradeoff between higher force per pedal stroke and the need to fire your muscles more frequently at lower forces. It's those differences that convince me it's worth training to expand your useable range of cadences at the powers you need to produce to be competitive. I wonder if high cadences are specifically a problem since we tend not to train them as much. I have noticed when I ride ergs at constant power I tend to spin faster near the end of my long (20 -30 minute) intervals. I often find myself spinning 95 - 100 rpm near the end of a 2x20 L4 repeat when riding fixed power ergs. I haven't paid attention to HR at those times but I'd guess I'm happier putting out less pedal force at a higher rate as I tire. Maybe that comes from years of fixed gear and track riding or maybe it says something about my force/speed curve but I often spin fast in these situations. It doesn't seem to directly translate to the road where gear shifts are incremental and spinning a given gear faster requires more power.

    I see your point that HR might be related to physiological stress and therefore might be a second order gauge of some sort. I just can't see a way to make that data useful during a ride. Perhaps afterwards it could be a way to gauge whether the same workout on different days was more or less stressful and might be a way to keep tabs on overtraining and the need to rest or push. I'm just thinking out of the box here, but I don't see how HR is useful while you're actually in the field during your workouts. I guess I just spent too many years really believing in HR as a good gauge and all my power/hr data has shown me I was chasing ghosts and limiting my efforts for the wrong reasons.

    -Dave
     
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