Wattbike’s Eddie Fletcher on why you should consider training with power and heart rate

Eddie Fletcher Wattbike Winter

Wattbike’s sport scientist Eddie Fletcher believes riding technique is key to good tri performance

When we first met Triathlon Plus Editor Elizabeth a few months back to discuss helping her out with her winter training, one of the first question she asked was, “Why should I be training with power, what’s so special about it?”

It’s a great question and one that I’m asked a lot. Many think that training with power is something that’s just for elite triathletes but that fundamentally misunderstands the real benefits of using watts as a measurement of your training efforts.

Many of you will already be training using heart rate and some will be monitoring power; as an isolated method of monitoring your training they both have merits (note I don’t say advantages and disadvantages) but many opponents of either method point to disadvantages only.

Cycle training for triathletes, by a number of variables has only advantages. Training on a Wattbike indoors with both heart rate and power, coupled with pedalling technique and cadence are powerful combinations, is simply the most efficient and effective way to train.

With power meters on road bikes, excellent as they are, it is difficult to look at the data whilst keeping an eye on the road and therefore the full data profile is only available after a workout when downloaded to analysis software.

I liken this to driving a car by looking in the rear view mirror. In fact, at times the rider is not training with heart rate or power as they are simply responding to the terrain, weather and traffic conditions they encounter on their ride.

An even worse situation is riding without any monitoring of heart rate, power or cadence at all.

For me, the key variables to measure for every cycle training workout are:

  • Mechanical intensity (power)
  • Physiological intensity (heart rate)
  • Cadence (leg speed)
  • Muscle activation (pedalling technique) on an indoor workout

Bringing these together can provide a powerful impetus to improving training and race performance.

And let me deal with the cry I often hear, ‘but heart rate is so variable’. Of course it is! It measures the physiological, psychological and environmental conditions influencing the body at any moment in time and is therefore critical to the success of the training workout.
There is simply no point in riding at 200 W with HR at 65 per cent of max on one day and on another riding at 200 W with HR at 85 per cent of max – they are not the same training workout.

And while we are the leading advocates for training with power we believe that just training with power and disregarding heart rate ignores that important variation in physiological response.

So, using heart rate and power and then adding into the mix the ability to make sure that every pedal revolution is balanced and cadence is maintained, at the correct rpm and power output required for a workout, gives you have the most powerful training system possible.

And, triathletes also have to master the art of swimming and running. To avoid over training, illness or injury and general lack of recovery it is important to measure the both the mechanical and physiological intensity of cycle workouts.

Training on a Wattbike provides a unique opportunity to train with live, real-time and accurate data, visually represented on the Wattbike Performance Computer or, in the live running software (either Expert or Power Cycling).

No unknowns, the key variables, fully measured with precision and control, driving the effectiveness of the training.  Live feedback every single pedal revolution. As we track Liz’s training over time, her power and leg speed will increase and pedalling technique will improve – all for the same physiological effort.

And, it will make her faster on the road – look out for future articles in Triathlon Plus magazine as Liz continues her Wattbike Winter. I’ll also be discussing structuring a training plan in the coming weeks here on the blog alongside a live Facebook Q&A session.