A Rant on Power-Based Training

A light bike doesn't replace good fitness.

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iheartbianchi
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by iheartbianchi

onemanpeloton wrote:
Mon May 20, 2019 10:20 am
I love this topic and I think it's great to challenge the "norms". I'm sure we can all agree or disagree whilst still being respectful.

My question is, if HR is such a reliable measure of what the body is doing, then why would efforts be adjusted dependent on caffeine, sleep, stress etc? Surely 65% of HR is exactly that, and the stress on the heart is exactly that, regardless of what other factors come in to play. And if you then argue that this isn't the case, how do you know if you're stressed or if the weather's having an effect and how much do you adjust your training for this?

Also, if there are a certain number of coaches that can take you to extremely high levels with power based training, then this suggests that all of your concerns regarding power based training should be aimed at coaches (which I know you've already done to some extent) and not at the nature of the training itself. Otherwise how could these power based coaches get such good results given that you say they have no basis in science, and only in experience?
These are brilliant questions (sorry for the circle-jerk), and conveniently moves us away from HR training 101!

The adjusting of efforts depending on caffeine/sleep/stress etc. is indeed an interesting topic. First, let's preface by stating that elite athletes are very careful about their diet and have very standardized sleep/workout/eating schedules so they are far less affected by environmental factors. However, obviously this is not the case for recreational or semi-serious athletes.

So, let's say it is 10 minutes before a ride, you are geared to go and your heart rate is 60bpm. But then you eat a burger (hypo). Your heart rate increase to 65bpm. What does this mean? Well, your heart is pumping more blood to your stomach and digestive organs - not exactly what we have in mind when we talk about aerobic exercise. What does this mean when you exercise? Well, your heart is still pumping blood to your stomach (but a bit less so), so your heart rate will be elevated relative to your actual effort and will in fact hinder your ability to effectively exercise within your Zone (although the range within each Zone somehwat minimizes this downside).

What about caffeine? Well now that's a bag of worms. Certainly it increases your heart rate, but it also increases the amount of fat released into your bloodstream as an energy source, along with certain neurological effects which delay fatigue and increases power.

Sleep? Well that's another bag of worms. Not only does a lack of sleep decrease your rate of muscular recovery and adaptation, it typically leads to an elevated heart rate. But oftentimes this means that your muscles haven't recovered sufficiently to be able to sustain effort levels up to the prescribed level of effort required for that particular day, or it means that you'll blow past your prescribed Zone, risking a vicious cycle of overtraining and not enough recovery.

Before I go further, all these issues have an equal impact on FTP based training. Afterall, FTP is meant to act as a surrogate for lactate threshold (i.e., the "do not cross line"). Essentially FTP is the power meter equivalent of LTHR (lactate threshold heart rate), and both really depend on your heart. But this leads to another very controversial question - do these "artificial" increases to your heart rate (diet, sleep, stress, etc.) accelerate, or decelerate the onset of lactate accumulation (i.e., lactate threshold?). The research seems to suggest, these environmental factors do not in fact accelerate the onset of lactate accumulation at lower intensities. In other words, it appears to be OK to be a few BPMs higher if you are doing say a Zone 1 - low Zone 3 level of effort. HOWEVER, the research seems to suggest that at higher intensities, these environmental factors DO accelerate the onset of lactate accumulation. Highly controversial, but hugely important to people chugging caffeine pills before an event right? :) Can someone please create a thread of the effect of caffeine on training? :twisted:

So what's the takeaway from this? Well I asked a lot of questions, without really giving you answers. The problem is, ultimately it depends on what you ate, how much, how much sleep you got, how much sleep you got the day before. And there is no formula that can quantify or compensate for these events.

Which is precisely why any good coach will tell you to have a routine before exercise - to eat well at the right time, to avoid heavy foods before exercise and try to get sleep. And this is also why people say a poor diet or sleeping habits can completely derail your training.

There is some light at the end of the tunnel however. Few if any elite endurance athletes do their base miles with a heart rate monitor on. After a period of time of training with a heart rate monitor, you become very good at guessing your current effort level, at least within the confines of the rather generous lower aerobic effort zones (Zone 1, 2, lower 3). So you can make slight adjustments to your effort level on the fly, depending on how hard you feel your heart beating. Where the elites continue to use heart rate monitors are during hard sustained efforts, such as longer intervals or tempo rides. This is because it is crucial that you absolutely avoid crossing your lactate threshold, because once you do, your muscles quickly accumulate lactate acid which will essentially "freeze" your muscles from being able to produce the efforts required to complete the workout.

We can have this discussion for days, so I'll leave this here for now.

As to your last point, yeah I guess I should have been clearer that I should have directed my rant at the coaches who have spread this particular brand of misguided FTP-based training (i.e., completely dismissing heart rate based training as some antiquated, inferior form of training). Power is a brilliant way of measuring progress, but it is a very indirect way of communicating information as to how you are currently feeling. "I'm only pushing 150 watts today so I must be pretty tired, yeah I can feel my heart pounding OK let's ease it up..." <--- this is no good! Rather, "Man I'm only pushing 150 watts but my heart rate is 180bpm I'd better slow it down until my heart rate comes down to 130bpm" <--- smart training!

P.S. Since we're talking about diet, don't ever ever drink and exercise! It is extremely hazardous and damaging to your health!!!!
Last edited by iheartbianchi on Mon May 20, 2019 2:17 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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iheartbianchi
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by iheartbianchi

ichobi wrote:
Mon May 20, 2019 12:19 pm
From where I am from, most people that buy powermeter also check their heart rate. I thought that was a common understanding that you need to look at both to get the full picture of your performance? Like... a really rudimentary knoweldge. If anything, a lot of the cyclists around here (Bangkok) actually don't use powermeter because it's too expensive. I still have yet to see someone who use just powermeter to guage their ability, and definitely most of the well known coaches here rely on both to check their student's performance. They might pescribe certain watts for exercise but none that I know of won't check HR along side them, it that were the case then they'd be a lot more stupid than most of the amateurs. Actually I am surprised to hear of your experience but I guess different places people do different things. We have our fair share of weird superstitions and beliefs in training as well.
I did a google search for "cycling coaching power meter"....I've found coaches who actually say that HRM are a thing of the past and the power meter is better.

Glad to hear Bangkok seems to have some common sense. One thing that bothers me is as you pointed out, power meters are expensive. Very much so. I wonder whether the coaches are targetting power meter owners with the belief that they have the money to blow on coaching services, and would rather not waste time on "normies" who still training cost-effectively with only a heart rate monitor!
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Calnago
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by Calnago

Ok, first of all, I am not in “training” for anything. I just love to go out for a ride. I love having a finely tuned bike. And, I do like knowing and being able to see some numbers, some of the time, just as kind of a check on things. I was much more in tune with the whole physioperformance type metrics before powermeters were even a thing in cycling. And I use heart rate. Power too. But if I had to choose only one, as a measure of tracking my overall health I would choose heart rate over power, back then and today. As was mentioned, heartrate is the tachometer of your body, and really says more about the stress and changes your body is going through over time. Whereas power is simply a more accurate measure of “perceived exertion”, which in the absence of a power meter, is a subjective substitute. I don’t really need to know exactly how many watts I’m putting out, but I can perceive when I’m working hard, easy, or steady state. Before power meters and things like WKO (version 4now?) and Training Peaks, both of which I have, I had a pretty good grasp of efforts I could sustain, on feel, with just my heart rate. I did Alpe d’huez just by pegging my heart rate at my threshold, and yes, over time and via monitoring things I knew what that was and did a pretty respectable time without blowing up, which was my goal, and just for fun anyway. I even got the fancy Polar monitor (I went through many) that was able, so it said, to help determine when you were in an “overtrained” state by doing an orthostatic test in the morning, through monitoring a totally at rest heart rate as you go through the act of just getting up and seeing how your heart rate responds. The Polar Precision Performance software did this, which I had too.
Ha, the thing is, I like having my power meters because now I can relate to what 400w or 1000w actually feels like, and as I age can track my overall “strength” over time. And for serious athletes, it’s for sure indispensable. But so is heart rate imo. Telling me I put out X watts without a gauge on what my body was experiencing to produce those watts seems like you’re missing half, or more, of the story.
I don’t know, I like having a bike computer and good data. I have power meters. I wear a heart rate monitor. I like to know how much my heart rate drops when I stop for a glass of wine. And I like to know how many watts I pushed up certain hills. But mostly, it’s all for fun. And I’m not in the best of shape these days, but working on getting some of it back this year... maybe Image. Ask me again how I did come September.
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onemanpeloton
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by onemanpeloton

iheartbianchi wrote:
Mon May 20, 2019 2:03 pm

So what's the takeaway from this? Well I asked a lot of questions, without really giving you answers. The problem is, ultimately it depends on what you ate, how much, how much sleep you got, how much sleep you got the day before. And there is no formula that can quantify or compensate for these events.

Which is precisely why any good coach will tell you to have a routine before exercise - to eat well at the right time, to avoid heavy foods before exercise and try to get sleep. And this is also why people say a poor diet or sleeping habits can completely derail your training.
Well it's easy to see why people choose power over HR. These factors make it clear that training with HR is far from an exact science. Like you said earlier, this is less of an issue for people with a routine, but for people new to a training regime, having all these factors affecting your numbers without any knowledge of how to deal with them is going to be off-putting.

What is a "good" coach? You've alluded to this a few times. Surely for many amateur athletes, a good coach is someone who can help you perform better. And a coach can do that without looking at HR at all (be that the "best" approach or not).
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Calnago
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by Calnago

But you don’t have to “choose”. I don’t get this one is better than the other mentality. It’s so easy to have both now. When I mentioned the old way of using “perceived exertion” (before powermeters became widespread), the problem was that your output was in fact “perceived”. The “perception” part is completely gone with the powermeter, you know exactly what it is so it is a tremendous tool to use in conjunction with heart rate. Not in lieu of. And if someone wants to use it as a “toy” or just to see how many watts they can push in a sprint or hold up a climb, then that’s fine too.
Last edited by Calnago on Mon May 20, 2019 5:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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ducman
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by ducman

For what it's worth, over the years, i know exactly what amount of time i can spend in a certain hr zone.
I know which hart rate not to excide. And i know for example, when i begin cramping, under what level i have to stay.
Several marathon learned me that.
For me its an ideal tool for deviding my available potential.

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by bikeboy1tr

I believe that we should use all the tools that are available to us if training is something that you take serious or if you just like to see numbers. I also think that the first thing we should learn is RPE before we use these tools so that we have a better feel for our bodies at hard and easy efforts. One of the biggest challenges for me when I got my HRM was trying to figure out why when I was fresh and rested I could easily hit my Max 190bpm, but as I did consecutive days of training typically low duration-high intensity on Tuesdays Thursdays and endurance-Wed why could I not hit my max by Thursday even though not overtrained, healthy, good diet and proper sleep. Some people told me that it was because I was becoming fitter but I always thought it was because of the number of training days in a row and at first I was taking days off so that I could hit my max when I did my high intensity training.
As time goes by I decided to use RPE as well as the HRM to know when I was getting close to overtraining and I would normally take days off along with periodization as well. Now that I have the PM I have a better idea if I am putting out proper power even though my HR values maybe on the low side for the efforts that I am making. And what I mean by proper pwr is if I am holding my current 100% FTP and how it relates to my RPE.
When I first got my PM I did wonder why I needed the HRM but as time went on I realized that I still needed it for measuring Cardiac Drift and to monitor recovery and fatigue as well.
To the OP I do appreciate all that you have put into these threads and hope you continue to challenge us as we continue into the future of training. And as for coaches I think just like doctors you will find that there are good ones and that there are not so good ones. I have had the opportunity to meet some very good National level coaches to pick their brains and have only come away with positive constructive info.
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iheartbianchi
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by iheartbianchi

onemanpeloton wrote:
Mon May 20, 2019 4:19 pm

Well it's easy to see why people choose power over HR. These factors make it clear that training with HR is far from an exact science. Like you said earlier, this is less of an issue for people with a routine, but for people new to a training regime, having all these factors affecting your numbers without any knowledge of how to deal with them is going to be off-putting.

What is a "good" coach? You've alluded to this a few times. Surely for many amateur athletes, a good coach is someone who can help you perform better. And a coach can do that without looking at HR at all (be that the "best" approach or not).
I had hoped I made this clear, but I guess I didn't. The same variability that affects HRM-based training also affect FTP based training, since FTP is also based on lactate threshold, and as mentioned, things such as caffeine affect the onset of lactate accumulation. On the flip-side, HRM based training would tend to make you train slower than you should be. You see the elevated heart rate from caffeine, and so you go slower than you need to be going. Both are bad, but I think if you were just using one, FTP is the worst because it can lead to overtraining.
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DOUG
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by DOUG

Doesnt everyone use all three? HR, Power and RPE? Ok maybe not all 3 but at the very least if you are using power you should be tracking your HR. RPE is also important though if you're training seriously and want to progress beyond the Cat2-3 level as are a multitude of other factors which is why a coach is valuable. Not just for helping you set your training zones (anyone can do that) but for planning a season around target races/events. Reveiwing training data and figuring out what works for each of their athletes etc.

I think that @iheartbicnchi's ideas are certainly valuable and the discussion regarding Zone 2 training etc. in the other thread has actually been excellent (ive certainly taken a lot from it). But I feel as though the entire premise of the argument for choosing HR based training over power based in the OP is a strawman. i.e. people who train with power dont also train with HR. Its simply not true. The vast majority of people who train with PM's would use HR as a metric as well, especially for racing.

iheartbianchi
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by iheartbianchi

DOUG wrote:
Tue May 21, 2019 7:44 am
But I feel as though the entire premise of the argument for choosing HR based training over power based in the OP is a strawman. i.e. people who train with power dont also train with HR. Its simply not true. The vast majority of people who train with PM's would use HR as a metric as well, especially for racing.
I wish this were the case.

https://forum.trainerroad.com/t/do-i-ne ... tor/2585/6

https://powermetercity.com/2016/02/16/h ... wer-meter/

Just a couple of links I found after 30 seconds of Googling.

HRMs are described as something that is less important than power meters when it comes to training, and power meters are described as better.

This is a fantastic article:

https://www.bikeradar.com/advice/fitnes ... eart-rate/

"power meters are a “valuable addition to an amateur cyclists’ toolkit”, but are by no means essential."

"There’s a popular belief that heart rate training is ‘old school’ and power training is ‘new school’."

“Let’s say your coach tells you to train at 250W in zone two for four hours. They’re assuming your metabolic response is going to be the same throughout that four-hour period, but that’s not true in many cases.”

"A Spaniard teaching in the US, San Millan’s experience of seeing burnt-out cyclists has come mainly in his adopted country. “In Europe we have more of a tradition of physiology and a scientific approach to cycling. In the US there isn’t that sophistication. A lot of cyclists buried their heart rate monitor a decade ago.”

"Even at WorldTour level, Cannondale-Garmin boss Jonathan Vaughters supports riders who choose not to use power as part of their training. “[Power] is a great tool, if used correctly,” he says. “But if over-used and over-simplified, power measurement probably hurts training.”
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by Lewn777

Concerning alcohol. I've never thought it was detrimental to health the night before riding (except in large quantities), I've always thought it was detrimental to performance, but had little effect in moderation. What's the evidence for this health damage? I've recently cut back drinking to Saturdays after I've ridden, never before.

Also when I'm going max up a climb I never look at HR data, should I? I'm more likely to look at watts, or even a targeted average speed. I look at HR after the fact to be sure I was maxed-out at 178-182 bpm.

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by AJS914

Alcohol (actually ethanol) is a toxin to our bodies that happens to get us high. Your liver has to work overtime to process the toxin and get it out of your body. Under no circumstances is alcohol good for us, a performance enhancer, or even neutral.

The latest research suggests that alcohol is bad for us at any level of consumption. If you think about it, alcohol is not a food that generally appears in nature other than in minor amounts in fermented fruit. It's a chemical.

http://time.com/5376552/how-much-alcoho ... ink-study/

Even for moderate drinking though the absolute risk is low (like a handful out of 100,000 deaths) so one has to decide whether a life of moderate drinking is worth the small risk of various cancers or whether you want to not drink at all and maybe reduce your risk to near zero. Now I know that some people will rush in to defend alchol probably because they couldn't imagine giving it up. If that is you, then you have some level of addiction.

I don't want to be preachy. I still drink but I cut my consumption from 1-3 glasses of wine per night to 1-2 glasses per week. I also don't sleep as well when I consume alcohol so I never drink the night before a big ride.
Last edited by AJS914 on Tue May 21, 2019 5:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.

iheartbianchi
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by iheartbianchi

Lewn777 wrote:
Tue May 21, 2019 11:55 am
Concerning alcohol. I've never thought it was detrimental to health the night before riding (except in large quantities), I've always thought it was detrimental to performance, but had little effect in moderation. What's the evidence for this health damage? I've recently cut back drinking to Saturdays after I've ridden, never before.

Also when I'm going max up a climb I never look at HR data, should I? I'm more likely to look at watts, or even a targeted average speed. I look at HR after the fact to be sure I was maxed-out at 178-182 bpm.
Oh I never meant to say don't drink at all! I enjoy my wine and beer every so often :P But binge drinking is obviously bad for your health, and drinking even a single drink the night before can affect you the next day. But then so is eating delicious food, so I won't judge. Something generally on alcohol consumption and exercise:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15730339

But what about drinking right before exercise? This is what I am saying we should obviously avoid. The following link summarizes pretty well the biggest concerns:

https://www.indi.ie/fact-sheets/fact-sh ... rcise.html

Buries in this article is this tidbit:

"Most worryingly, drinking can increase the potential for unusual heart rhythms. This is a risk which significantly increases during exercise up to two days after heavy alcohol consumption. This risk varies between individuals. The physical activity itself increases your heart rate and with a lot of alcohol in your system your heart is put under further stress."

So it can be really really bad for your heart. We are already stressing our hearts enough as it is, alcohol (and caffeine!) makes it worse when you combine the two.
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by iheartbianchi

AJS914 wrote:
Tue May 21, 2019 4:46 pm
I still drink but I cut my consumption from 1-3 glasses of wine per night to 1-2 glasses per week.
1-2 glasses a week only shows quite a lot of restraint...Once I open a bottle of wine, I can't stop unless I've had at least 3 glasses...so my strategy has been to limit my drinking to one or two nights a week, but I don't really count how much on those night :) Wine goes bad quickly once you open the bottle so you just have to finish it all...that's my twisted logic.
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by AJS914

Yeah, been there done that. The 2-3 glass a day habit got to be an every day thing and it wasn't good for my health. The restraint came from taking a year off of drinking. After about 3-4 months dry I felt so much better not drinking. These days I usually just order a nice glass of wine at a restaurant and that's about it.

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