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Is heart rate training a thing of the past?

Last post 10-19-2013 10:28 PM by WildeOne. 13 replies.
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  • 10-16-2013 10:46 PM

    • jkase
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    • Joined on 10-16-2012
    • Posts 19

    Is heart rate training a thing of the past?

    All the recent blogs and experts seem to make the case that there is training with power and then there is everything else. Is HR training alone really that worthless? I understand for professionals and elites, a powermeter is a necessary tool but for us age groupers, is it really a game changer? I have used a PT in the past and found the data to be worthwhile and actually trained using a power based program. I like to analyze data and for that, it's wonderful. But did it make me a better cyclist? I dunno. I am again on the fence about whether to use power based training. My training can be somewhat inconsistent due to 'life' but I do have focused and consistent training periods and am willing to evaluate data. That said, if the gains to be made with power are marginal for me, what value does it have other than empty my wallet (if cost was not a factor, i would not be posting this)? I would appreciate this forum's perspective on this. I would also welcome recommendations for effective, non-power based training programs or approaches. It seems like all cycling training programs are power based now... Thanks for your input. Jason
  • 10-16-2013 11:49 PM In reply to

    Re: Is heart rate training a thing of the past?

    I don't think so... then again I also have a limited budget for all things cycling, so I dig for whatever training programs I can find at no cost. 

    I have entertained adding a PowerTap to my rear 303 or taking the plunge into a Stages PM.  The PowerTap would add weight to my rear wheel and the Stages would require me to run a different crank (Rival in my case) which is also heavier and would require a different BB/adapter for my BBright frame.  So, the conundrum continues and I simply ride as hard and smart as I can, while also trying to find faster group rides that push me further... that has helped and keeps me hanging just fine with guys that do run PMs.  I do use HR for intervals and definitely use it when I go on long (6+ hrs) mountain rides with climbs that are long and you need to manage your efforts.  That being said, usually the rides or specific riders I'm with determine whether I even look at HR... sometimes, it's just a number... you just go!

    Anyway, I reference a lot of the material posted on Pezcycling News "Toolbox"... here is one specific entry: http://www.pezcyclingnews.com/page/latest-news/?id=89559#.Ul9ZatI3vgo

    All kinds of good stuff on here, not just HR: http://www.pezcyclingnews.com/page/toolbox/#.Ul9c6tI3vgo

  • 10-17-2013 12:42 PM In reply to

    • Kronan
    • Top 50 Contributor
    • Joined on 11-15-2012
    • Alberta, Canada
    • Posts 300

    Re: Is heart rate training a thing of the past?

    I think it all depends on what you want to do with it. If your goal is racing or race related, it will help...but whether it is worth it will depend on how serious you want to be.

    Personally, I've never owned a power meter and don't plan on buying one (of any sort) anytime in the near future.

    On the turbo trainer, I use TrainerRoad....the virtual power may not be as accurate, but it is sufficient for me to experiment that way. For my fitness goals (losing weight, getting my legs stronger and upping my average speed on the bike) it helps and I find it is a fair bit faster to react than going with just heart rate. I use it for motivation and to have better training....but that doesn't mean the same cannot be done with heart rate alone....they are just different ways of getting to the same point for me. If you're more into racing, power may be a better tool...but I think it's ultimately motivated saddle time that leads to improvement, regardless of the motivation used.

    Out on the road, I don't really give a rat's butt if I am putting out 150W or 175 W while tooling along at a good clip...I'll generally just glance at my speed, cadence and heart rate % from time to time while concentrating on how I feel (pushing it, about average, chillin', and so forth).

    '18 Bowan Palace:R (replacement frame for S2)
    '12 Cervelo S2 (frame in need of repair)
    '09 Knolly Delirium T (frame up custom)
    '?? Mercury road bike
    '06 Gary Fisher Cake 2DLX (signed frame)
  • 10-17-2013 1:26 PM In reply to

    • jdais
    • Top 25 Contributor
    • Joined on 09-10-2008
    • Long Island, NY
    • Posts 737

    Re: Is heart rate training a thing of the past?

    I like power to see how you are improving when doing the same workouts.  Heart rate is still useful when trying to stay in aerobic training zones. On a ride I look more at my heart rate to gauge my effort.  I use power to pace myself, so I don't blowup. 

  • 10-17-2013 7:11 PM In reply to

    • racewatcher
    • Top 100 Contributor
    • Joined on 09-09-2011
    • Newfoundland and Labrador
    • Posts 215

    Re: Is heart rate training a thing of the past?

    I don't have a power meter, but winter is coming up, and I'll start riding indoors on the trainer. A heart rate monitor is great to make sure you are staying in the right training zone during indoor workouts. I watch TV or a movie while spinning, and always keep it above 130 bpm to make sure I'm getting some cardio work. I also like to watch TV and do "Commercial Intervals"; go at a moderate pace while watching the program, then hammer during the ads. It makes a great workout. During the summer I don't use the heart rate monitor nearly as much because our group rides are pretty intense anyways and even solo rides in my area are pretty hilly.
    racewatcher
  • 10-18-2013 1:22 AM In reply to

    Re: Is heart rate training a thing of the past?

    If you are top amateur or pro rider than heart rate training is past. For all the rest this is waist of money.

  • 10-18-2013 3:41 AM In reply to

    Re: Is heart rate training a thing of the past?

    it is a thing of the past...
  • 10-18-2013 3:52 AM In reply to

    Re: Is heart rate training a thing of the past?

    Why is it a thing of the past? I'm new to road biking and joined my college's race team this year. We just did a Conconi test to measure threshold heart rate. This info will then be used with our coaches to help tailor a training plan for the race season. I've never raced a day in my life but I'm training so I can start racing...so my question isn't meant to be sarcastic in any way. Thanks
  • 10-18-2013 8:58 AM In reply to

    Re: Is heart rate training a thing of the past?

    RichieE46:
    Why is it a thing of the past? I'm new to road biking and joined my college's race team this year. We just did a Conconi test to measure threshold heart rate. This info will then be used with our coaches to help tailor a training plan for the race season. I've never raced a day in my life but I'm training so I can start racing...so my question isn't meant to be sarcastic in any way. Thanks

    Richie - you have to understand that there are also folks out there who believe a slammed stem is the proper way to have a bike set up; regardless of the riders physiology, even though there are numerous places to go that say a slammed stem doesn't always work best.  It may look cool and give you the "pro" look, but just because a middle aged guy can buy a cherry red convertable doesn't mean he should.

    While I'm of the opinion and attitude that if cycling is your passion and you can afford the goodies (i.e. carbon everything) then you ought to do it.  Power meters are where I draw the line.  I don't race and I ride mostly for fun and fitness and for that alone, a heart rate monitor is what works best for me in that regard to gauge overall effort.  A pm just seems like a bit of overkill if you are an avid recreational rider.

    And even though I plan on tackling some TTs next year, that still won't be enough to get me to buy a power meter.

    Jens Voigt doesn't complain about what suffering does to him, but suffering constantly complains about getting picked on by Jens Voigt.
  • 10-18-2013 4:48 PM In reply to

    • jkase
    • Not Ranked
    • Joined on 10-16-2012
    • Posts 19

    Re: Is heart rate training a thing of the past?

    Thank you everyone for your input. It's like chocolate chip vs. oatmeal raisin cookies; with oatmeal raisin being the heart rate training advocates ;) Seriously, I appreciate the discussion. I guess the bottom line is making the commitment to train with either tool, HR or power, properly and consistently to make it worthwhile. A question that can only be answered by ones self. I have just felt all this 'pressure' to train with power or I am not training properly. Most of the guys I ride with, even the ones much faster than me, don't train with power. Once I start beating those guys, then I will reconsider a power meter. Perhaps I am over thinking the issue.
  • 10-18-2013 6:34 PM In reply to

    Re: Is heart rate training a thing of the past?

     HR training still has its place. IMO, with the lower cost hurdle to start, most riders and amateur racers can make gains working with a coach or structured program on either system. I had quite a bit of success last millennium using HR training, and only just recently eclipsed those performances using power. For long tt efforts, I have seen some amazing graphs of hr variations while maintaining a steady power output (examples where holding a constant hr would not have been as effective as watching the power). In most mass-start events, though, I don't think it matters as much, and I typically don't even use the computer during races (but my races are only 12sec to 45min anymore, not 100 mile road races!). 

    After 5 years racing and languishing around in the pack without HR or power, a coach & HR training took me from a Cat 5 to a Cat 2. And that was simpler- there were never any data files to look at post workout, just do the workouts in the prescribed zones. My experience with power training has just made me more competitive & incrementally faster, still at the same race category, but I think most of that difference is due to my current coach and how he reads & uses my data to tailor future workouts.  If you are just getting started, a prescribed hr plan can yield results.  Again, all just my single data point and opinion.

    John
    2012 S5 Team with Di2/Powertap/Psimet
    2005 Cervelo Dual TT
    2002 Custom Merckx Pista (lusting after a T4)

    Turn Left & Hammer
  • 10-18-2013 7:42 PM In reply to

    Re: Is heart rate training a thing of the past?

    This is a very interesting question and it does depend on your goals. HR is not a true reflection of your effort and, at the very least, there is always a lag in HR changes with increased or decreased effort. Furthermore, HR is useless to gauge effort for short sprint-like intervals. I would recommend reading Allan & Coggan's "Training and Racing with a Power Meter" to get a better understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of training with HR and PM. Most of the research has shown that if you are able to calibrate your HR zones with a PM initially, then you can use HR for effective training as others have highlighted (for intervals > 1 min). This would also require you to use a PM intermittently to measure your improvements and readjust your HR zones. For me, I produced my best results with a PM and a coach. As JohnTex pointed out, a good coach will also be able to use whatever data you give them to make an effective training plan. As Hutch pointed out, challenging yourself with either partners or groups who are better than you is also a good method for improvement (and is more fun IMO). It really depends where you want to spend your money and how much - HR monitor, PM and/or coach. Investing in "Training and Racing with a Power Meter" would be a good start to try and determine which is the best method for you and your goals.
    Road: 2006 Lynskey Level 4 Road, Zipp 303 with PT, Ultegra Di2
    Road: 2012 Cervelo S2, Zipp 404 with PT, Ultegra
    Cyclocross: 2010 Stevens Team Ultegra Cyclocross
    Travel: 2012 Ritchey Breakaway, 105
    Commuter/Tourer: 2014 Salsa Vaya 2, 105
    MTB: 2001 Giant XTC NRS1
  • 10-19-2013 8:38 PM In reply to

    Re: Is heart rate training a thing of the past?

     My thoughts,: if you can afford a power meter, you probably can also afford a HR strap and a monitor. 

    Mike

    My 2014 R3

    Keep Calm and Crank On
  • 10-19-2013 10:28 PM In reply to

    Re: Is heart rate training a thing of the past?

    Like many above have said - if budget is not an issue, get a power-meter (cost is dropping down and you can find some starting in the $700 area). The main difference between HR and PW is that the former is an indicator to the effort you are putting in (the higher the heart rate=more effort) while the latter provides you with the actual work (watts) that comes out from your effort which is more accurate. However and as some stated in other threads - the most important factor is the engine (rider) and not a gadget, a component or even a frame. In one of the century rides I did last year, I saw 60+ year old ladies passing me on their steal bikes ;-) while I was dropping others who were riding their fancy Dogma Think2 et al with deep carbon wheels. Bottom line - if you have the budget and/or you plan to ride competitively, get a PM. If cost is an issue, but you still want some sort of a yard-stick to measure effort/progress, get a HR. The most important thing - ride hard, ride long to build power and stamina...
    2009 S2, SRAM Rival, 50/34 Rotor Q-Rings, Mavic Cosmic Pro Carbons / Mavic Ksyrium SLs 7.2Kg
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