Voted by many professionals and coaches alike as ‘the most innovative training aid’, the powermeter has become big news in cycling, but does it render our training monotonous and robot-like? No, certainly not, but we must use this piece of equipment to harness our links to the bike, to enhance our body and our mind to full effect and not just ride on a number set by our coaches or that of a laid out training plan.
Power training isn’t the epitome of training and this mustn’t be forgotten, therefore links to change of the heart rate or totally training on perceived rate of exertion (feel) should be worked on by all riders. This can be done as simply as observing how our heart rate responds to power changes and zones whilst we are training. For Instance you may note that in a threshold interval or another high intensity effort the effect of cardiac drift, the phenomenon where heart rate lags initially in an effort meaning it takes a few minutes to get our heart rate into the zone intended; or that on the final reps where heart rate is harder to maintain as fatigue is setting in.
The perception of effort from a lactate build up is an important aspect that can be assessed by visually linking the power displayed on the computer to the feel recognised, over time a clear understanding of the feel and the full range of zones associated will be achieved. Working on this internally can only lead to a better understanding of our limits.
There are riders under TT conditions which may be lucky enough to have power fitted but this is often not the case, so an experienced feel rider will have a definite advantage in riding at a pace he knows he will be able to sustain. This can be worked on in training by monitoring time spent in specific wattage areas and the effect it has on the ability to maintain that effort.
Racing, and training with a Powermeter and aligning the two can give a strong feedback link to the rider, enabling confidence and reflecting what has already been accomplished in training. Taking mental notes with regards to feel during hard sessions where high performance is attained will help a rider push on in a race even if they are not looking at the power during races. It can be as simple as remembering ‘well I know I’ve done this before’. Anything we can use to keep positive thoughts imprinted on our minds will make us stronger in a race environment.
Set up changes can also be noticed by the rider and reported back to a coach by observing power drops which are deemed incorrect after changes to the position. There are also times when the Powermeter itself can become faulty and require repairs, so it is important to have a back-up plan to make it feasible to continue to train and race as effectively as possible.
The Powermeter is a fantastic tool but it has to be used in the correct way or many of the added benefits of accurate power measurement are not used to the optimum capacity available. The most important thing above all is not to become a slave to the machine, keep smiling and we keep returning to the bike happy!
Kenny Wilson, EPiC Coaching