Training without a power meter

Discussion in 'Cycling Training' started by dominikk85, Nov 3, 2012.

  1. dominikk85

    dominikk85 New Member

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    I read a lot here about power meters, watts and FTP. however I don't have a power meter so what is the best way to regulate my training without a power meter? Can I find out my FTP without a power meter? should I use heart rate, speed or cadence?

    what would you recommend to a beginner without a power meter and such stuff? just doing a lot of riding in the 60-70% percent of the max heart rate?
     
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  2. jpr95

    jpr95 Active Member

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    Perceived effort, heart rate and cadence are your available metrics. Speed is meaningless, save for overall progress if you regularly ride the same course in similar weather conditions (and small changes are still meaningless--only major time/pace/speed differences tell you of improvements or regression).
     
  3. 616fun

    616fun New Member

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    I use Heart Rate and Cadence to track progress. I'm a new cyclist as well. From my research cadence in the 90-100 range on average is what to shoot for. HR I tend to manage 80-90% max for short rides (25 miles or so).
     
  4. daveryanwyoming

    daveryanwyoming Well-Known Member

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    +1, with RPE and HR being the two big metrics for how hard you're working.

    Personally if I was starting from scratch and a power meter was not in the budget I'd train by RPE with particular emphasis on breathing:

    - On easy long days you should hardly notice your breathing at all and could hold a conversation at will.

    - On Tempo days you should notice your breathing, it should be moderately deep but steady and you could still talk to folks but perhaps a bit haltingly and not in long winded sentences. You should be able to sustain this sort of pacing for long periods if you have the open roads or long climbs so it's not so hard that you're getting exhausted but you're still riding quickly at your own best 'fast fun pace'. This is typically a fun zone to train in as you roll along at a pretty good clip but it's still totally within your personal capabilities and you're not really suffering.

    - On Threshold days where you try to sustain 15, 20 or 30 to 60 minute hard but sub-maximal intervals your breathing should be very deep, conversation would be limited to a word or two here and there but breathing is still controllable and not ragged or gasping. But this is about as hard as you can ride and still have controlled deep breathing.

    - Move it up to VO2 Max pace for 3 to 6 minute maximal intervals and after the first minute and a half or so breathing will be maximal, no conversation is possible and you will be gasping by the end of each of these.

    - Pretty much the same for really short hard efforts except the ragged maximal breathing comes on much sooner and then with full out sprints they're so short the maximal breathing happens after you shut down after ten to fifteen seconds of all out effort.

    I'd use those guidelines with attention to the durations for each training level (e.g 15 to 60 minutes for classic Threshold work, up to a couple or more hours for Tempo work, as long as you have the time, motivation and saddle tolerance for long endurance work) and not get caught up in HR based training.

    And that's coming from someone who trained religiously with HR for a couple of decades and worked with coaches who prescribed tight HR based training targets. Switching to power based training showed how often I under trained and how rarely I really did solid rides when I was spending so much time trying to stay in tight HR zones instead of just riding solid efforts for appropriate durations. If I had those years back I'd do as the old timers tried to tell me when I first started racing and before HR monitors first appeared on the scene and just ride my bike, ride fast on my fast days and ride hard intervals for preset times regardless of how my heart responded during those efforts.

    -Dave
     
  5. dominikk85

    dominikk85 New Member

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    thanks. would you recommend starting intervalls right away or should I get some miles at a moderate pace first?

    I'm really in terrible shape. I play baseball but that is not really doing much for conditioning. I could also lose like 20 pounds:).
     
  6. Felt_Rider

    Felt_Rider Active Member

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    One thing I like to remember is a simple phrase, "It's all relative" in a sense many of us are at different levels. I am much further back than someone like Dave and I am further ahead than you. So keeping this in mind and if you have no physical disabilities (like a doctor's warning for strenuous exercise) than training as Dave suggested will have an intensity relative to your current fitness. Doing intervals will be beneficial especially if you are limited in time. This is in context to the average person holding a job, has family obligations and so on. Many of us do intervals because our time is very limited and rather than waiting for the weekend to come we strive to be consistent as much as possible.

    If you have more time and weather permits you can ease into fitness by doing a less intense recreational type pace for a longer duration and let your fitness and body weight improve in that manner. But intervals also provide many of us a consistent environment as well especially if we live in urban areas. My training indoors with intervals provides a place for sustained duration, whereas, outdoors those session usually get interrupted by traffic stops and other things. I eased into cycling in a recreational manner and that wasn't a bad path, but if I could go back I would have started with a structured training like intervals as suggested because I am finding it to be a faster path to success. IMO - consistency in training daily if possible being the best of the attributes and intervals provide that type of structure for my life schedule. The weekend is when I get to get outdoors and enjoy the recreational side of cycling with endurance miles.

    Dave's post is spot on for you and most of us. So it is relative to your condition as it is to mine. Whether is outdoors or indoors start trying to hold the intervals as he suggested and you will begin to improve your conditioning. As time and fitness improves continue to increase the duration of the interval session. There is no harm at all by not making those first sets of intervals. In time you will get the feel of your intensity level to get to the end of the interval. If you misjudge your intensity and have to stop then take a short rest and give it another shot until you have finished at least 60 minutes of total time. As Dave suggested start with 15 minutes and work from there.

    Another thing I would suggest is continue to lurk and ask questions regarding the terms of training with a power meter even if you do not own one. I did this for at least a couple of years before I purchased my first PM so that when I did get one I had some understanding of how to use it to gauge training. Plus there is also good amount training principles in those threads if you know who is giving the better advice. After a while you will start to see who's posts to consider and those you may want to ignore.
     
  7. daveryanwyoming

    daveryanwyoming Well-Known Member

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    Good advice above from Felt, but mostly just ride and focus on getting on your bike at least 4 days per week as riding consistency is the most important thing right now. But when you feel good there's nothing wrong with challenging yourself to ride a bit quicker or a bit further but like Felt said, focus on longer efforts on those days when you challenge yourself not gut busting short sprints.

    - Ride regularly as in at least 4 if not 5 days per week
    - Build up to some longer rides over time and explore a bit to find out where you can go on your bike, use MapMyRide or Strava to find new routes or find a cycling club that you can join for longer rides
    - Challenge yourself to ride at faster but still sustainable pace on days when you feel good
    - Take at least one if not two total rest days per week and not every ride should be a challenge, it's ok to just get on your bike to enjoy it, don't try for so much faster riding that you begin to dread your workouts.

    When you've done that for a while and want to continue to progress or if you do ride indoors on a trainer and want more focused work to help the trainer time pass then introduce intervals but focus on the longer versions in the Tempo or Threshold range (at least 10 minutes and ideally 15 or more minutes per focused interval) with the breathing guidelines above.

    -Dave
     
  8. limerickman

    limerickman Moderator

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    I come from the old school of training which was a tie when there were no power metres, speedometers, heart rate monitors etc.
    It was you and your bike only and a wrist watch.

    Even with that basic equipment you can derive a good training programme.

    Depending on what gear ratio you choose, I used to try to maintain at least 90 pedal revolutions per minute (prpm) in a moderately high gear (say 42x16 : 42 being the chainring and 16 being the rear sprocket).
    My target per training session was to reach a minimum 12,000 prpm per session using a specific gear within a given time period.
    Cycling 42x16 at 90rpm = 19mph.

    I'd monitor my breathing to as Dave suggested above to judge whether or not I could hold 90rpm or not. If I was feeling good, I might increase my prpm to 100 or 110.
    Or if I was having a bad day I might drop to an easier gear (42x17, 42x18) and still to maintain the same 90 prpm tempo.

    As my fitness levels improved, I would start training with higher gear ratios while trying to maintain a specific tempo (I'd try to maintain 90 prpm using 42x12 with a minimum target 15,000 prpm per session).
    I noticed that as my fitness improved my breathing became easier relative to the gear and effort that I was maintaining in each training session.
    But the important thing like Dave and Felt say is for you to listen to your on body. If your body is under pressure at a given level, ease down to a level which is making you work but which is not pushing you in to the "red".
     
  9. gudujarlson

    gudujarlson New Member

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    I am about where Felt_Rider is in my cycling "career". When I got started cycling, I focused on riding lots, riding further, riding to places I hadn't been before, and just enjoying the journey. I lost 20 pounds and got into the best shape of my life doing this. No power meter or heart rate monitor required. Eventually (~2 years), it got to the point that I could ride my bike almost indefinitely, at least compared to the amount of free time I had in my life. At that point my focus changed to riding medium distances faster and that's when I bought a power meter and started doing more structured training. So I think "riding lots" works great as a starting point. In fact, even though I do structured training 6 times a week during the work week, I still mostly just ride lots on the weekends (4-5 hours/day at low intensity), because I find that to be the most enjoyable thing to do.
     
  10. vspa

    vspa Active Member

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    this is funny... you totally discarded breathing as a useful tool a couple of days ago for not being scientific enough,
     
  11. daveryanwyoming

    daveryanwyoming Well-Known Member

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    Link please....I've said many, many times that both breathing and RPE are useful and IMO are more useful indicators of workout intensity than HR.

    I don't know what comment or post you're referring to and sure I'm not beyond contradicting myself, but I suspect there's some missing context or some other misunderstanding as I've advocating tuning into your breathing for folks without PMs many times over the past few years.

    -Dave
     
  12. vspa

    vspa Active Member

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    in the round pedalling myth thread, check it out
     
  13. daveryanwyoming

    daveryanwyoming Well-Known Member

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    Are you referring to this:


    If so, I stand by both statements and they are not in the least contradictory.

    Healthy riders are NOT limited by pulmonary function or depth of their breathing. We take in a lot more air than we can utilize and exhale quite a bit of usable oxygen even at high intensities. The size of our lungs does not determine how much oxygen we deliver to our working muscles which has a lot more to do with cardiac output and transport (hence the appeal of blood doping).

    That said, monitoring depth of breathing to gauge relative workout intensity is perfectly valid and ventilation rate is proportional to aerobic exercise intensity so depth of breathing is very useful for gauging workout intensity up to and including VO2 Max workout ranges and not so useful above that albeit you should reach maximal and ragged breathing during most L6 work and often immediately after intense L7 work.

    But even at that maximal breathing performance is not limited by how much your lungs can take in and lung volume for healthy riders exceeds how much oxygen their hearts can pump and how much their muscle mitochondria can extract and utilize. In a standard lab VO2 Max test utilizing a gas exchange mask the amount of oxygen exhaled is subtracted from the amount inhaled to determine how much was actually utilized the key thing here is that even at VO2 Max respiration rates we still exhale unused oxygen and do not utilize all that we breathe.

    Do we breathe harder as we work harder, yes of course we do. Is the size of our lungs the limiter to our athletic performance, no.

    Make sense now?

    -Dave
     
  14. vspa

    vspa Active Member

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    yes it makes sense, breathing is important and a useful skill or parameter that people can include (and eventually train) into their cycling program, don't get too carried away with all the new power meter terminology, most things you already know, they are presented to you more in depth, thats all,
     
  15. DaveLeeNC

    DaveLeeNC New Member

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    I don't have a power meter and use HR and RPE to judge what is going on. I find results from this to vary to a surprising degree and sometimes varying results seem to have no (discernible) reason for being.

    My 2'ish hour ride last Sunday and today are a typical example. These were the identical route, similar temps, similar wind conditions (not much), and same biker/bike. RPE was (to my way of judging) identical. Also the total weekly workload in the two weeks were similar (and typical for me) and the workout the day before was pretty much the same. On both Sundays I felt "OK but not fresh'.

    Last week I averaged 17.8 mph, average HR of 149, and max of 161. Keep in mind that I am old (65), my max HR is around 170, and LTHR is around 157. My perception of this effort was 'strong' but there was clearly something left in the tank at the end.

    This week I averaged 18.3 mph, average HR of 143, and max of 158. My perception of this effort was 'strong' but there was clearly something left in that tank at the end.

    0.5 mph is a pretty meaningful change in speed (IMHO). But an average of 6 bpm is a HUGE change in effort for me (on a given day) when you are operating at over 90% of LTHR.

    I suspect that this is common and that if I had a power meter I would see similar variations in what I can do on a given day (compared to 'identical' given days).

    dave
     
  16. DaveLeeNC

    DaveLeeNC New Member

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    My apologies for opening up an ancient thread. I had two windows open (one old for review and one current) and just got confused.

    dave
     
  17. SolarEnergy

    SolarEnergy New Member

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    Grrrrr... I hadn't noticed.
     
  18. Cbastjan

    Cbastjan New Member

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    If you are new to cycling, just go out and have fun. Don't do too much to soon. And when you are ready and want to improve ride more ;)
     
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