Training without Power

By March 19, 2017 Cycling

“Sorry guys I can’t go out of zone 1 today so I’ll just do my own thing”
“How many watts are you doing now? ….how many now? I’m only doing 250”
“I can’t believe his threshold is only 280 watts, mine is way higher”
“How was the ride today?” … “my normalised power was too low”

I’m sure we have all heard at least one of these comments from our friends when out on a ride. Hell, I’ve even said a couple of these myself. Embarrassing, I know.

I have been using a power meter for four years, during which time my training has been structured using specific power targets. Louise often jokes about our first date which included 1 minute intervals in Richmond Park (London). She would ride on my wheel while I gave it my all. Later that evening I showed her my……..power curve. Sad isn’t it?

I believe firmly in the benefit of measuring effort through power. Heart rate varies massively depending on tiredness, temperature, even weather conditions. On short efforts it’s simply not possible to gauge effort with heart rate due to that damn time lag. We’ve all been there.

My power meter broke down a few weeks ago. At first, panic set in. The kind you get when you lose your phone, but worse. It’s like losing a leg. How on earth can I cycle now if I can’t measure my power? I will never be able to do an interval. I may as well not ride. Then I slapped myself with a big wet fish and got on the bike.

It has been massively refreshing to leave detailed power measurement behind for a while. Ride on feel, increasing the effort when it felt right and decreasing it when I felt I needed to rest. Not constantly staring at a screen when doing an interval but looking at the road ahead and giving it everything no matter what the watts are.

So I want to share a few home truths about power:

  • In a race you never look at power, unless you want to gauge a TT effort off the front and even then it’s not always a good idea.
  • Your threshold power is not the only measurement of your ability as a racer. I’m sure an elephant would get a huge threshold power but would he have the skill and agility to win a race? Many professional riders hate power tests and similarly have low results. Road racing is so much more than brute force.
  • Cruising along with your friends at a slightly different power will not make an odd bit of difference to your overall training and performance. In fact, the mental benefits of a social ride every now and then far outweigh the drawbacks.

Personally, I will probably put the power meter back on and see how things are going. But I have seen a light and will be using it with a pinch of salt this year. If I’m not hitting that interval power I’ll just do what I can. If I feel like just riding I’ll do that instead of intervals.

Most of us are not professionals and the most important thing to measure on a bike is happiness. I can’t wait for somebody to invent a happiness meter because I will be the first to buy one!

Happy cycles to everyone!

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