Wednesday, January 12, 2011

How do you measure training effectiveness?

I'm always wondering why there aren't more riders training and racing with power meters.  For a lot, I'm sure it's because Power Meters (PMs) are still cost-prohibitive.  For others, I'm sure it's because they just don't know anything about em- although the stronger riders would never admit that.  For the rest, I'm sure they just don't know or care.  But, the more intriguing question I have lately is if cyclists don't train with PMs, how do they know if they're getting stronger?  So, I asked one of my elite athletes I coach the other day, "for your friends that don't train with a power meter, how do they measure the effectiveness of their off-season training?".  He said, "they base it on their in-season racing performance".

At the time, I thought it was a good enough answer.  But, the more I thought about it, the more I thought- how stupid is that?  Somebody is going to wait until they've performed at least 5 mos. of Winter training, that includes outside rides in cold/nasty weather and indoor ball-buster interval workouts on a trainer, to see if it was effective or not?  For me, I want to know in 4 weeks time whether my training program is working or not.  Because if it's not, I still have time to adjust it for maximum gains.  And, how would I know if it is or isn't working?  With regular/periodic testing on my PM of course.

Besides, what if I did perform well during the racing season?  Would I know for a fact the reason I did so well was because of my off-season training program?  Could I have performed well because my racing tactics had improved?  Could I have done well because I lost weight and it was a hilly course?  Could I have done well because my nutrition was better than the previous year?  Could I have done better because the competition wasn't as good?  Could I have done better because it was a hot day and I genearlly ride better when it's hotter?  There are so many variables.

For me, the PM and HR monitor are two tools that I just wouldn't ride (or train) without.  They just tell me everything I need/want to know.  Things like: how is my fitness level, how is my power output, am I getting sick, my hydration level, too hot, etc.  It gives me IMMEDIATE feedback on my training rides.  Just last night, I started an interval workout after working 12 straight hours at the office.  During those 12 hrs. I was drinking coffee all day long (just to stay awake).  So, I was fatigued but loaded up with caffeine so I didn't feel as tired as I actually was.  I got back to the hotel room and jumped on my bike/trainer and started a workout.  It was warm in the started at 71F and within 20 minutes was 75F.   At the 25 minute mark of the Sweetspot interval workout I noticed my HR was 183 bpm. Wow!  That's VO2max range (L5 level) for me.  But, when I looked down at my PM, my Power Output was only in the Sweetspot range (L3/L4).  So, rather than continue the workout..I shut it down at the 30 minute mark.  Why? 

According to Joe Friel, "having a high heart rate when power is low is likely to occur when aerobic fitness is sub-par. This also may be the situation after an illness or when highly fatigued. It may even be an indicator of overreaching and is likely to show up after a lengthy block of crash training. If so, rest is the most likely solution. But it could also be that more aerobic training is needed."  For me, I know it's not a lack of aerobic fitness because my aerobic fitness is actually pretty good this time of year.  So, in addition to being highly fatigued it could be an indicator of me getting sick or overreaching.  Everyone at work is either sick with a cold or recovering from a cold.  Regardless, I think I was smart in stopping.  Just tonight, I continued with another workout and everything seemed normal.  That is, there was a big overlap between my HR Zones and my Power Zones..what I normally see during training.

I could go on and on regarding the benefits of tools such as a HR montior and PM for racing and training.  As far as I'm concerned, they are tools that should be in every riders/racers toolbox.  If not, you could waste an entire off-season of training not only doing the wrong workouts..but over or under training. 
BTW, gotta check out the e-book from Dr. Medhus.  Power ON! Coach Rob

No comments: