Monitoring effort with heart rate and power
Keeping tabs on your effort during a ride is an important factor to gauge your level of exertion, freshness, fatigue and to gain a general understanding of your body – including its capabilities and limitations. There’s no point in planning a four hour ride and then trying to smash it out at a pace you’re already uncomfortable with after 20 minutes. In general you should feel like you’re working on the bike but are still comfortable in conversation during such rides.
Regular use of a heart-rate monitor will quickly give an indication of where your heart-rate sits at a given level of exertion. Remember that we’re all different so if you’re riding in a group and your heart-rate is higher or lower than those around you don’t feel that you have to change your pace to match their ticker. It’s a good idea to perform a basic fitness test at the early stages of your winter training so that you can set your heart-rate zones and you know what limits you should try and work between for each part of your training.
Unlike heart-rate, which can drift depending on the elements (e.g. a nagging headwind) or how tired you are, power is a much more consistent measure of performance – literally the amount of force that you’re applying to the pedals and measured in Watts. Whilst it may be more consistent there are some limitations. To get the most from training with power you need to be prepared to analyse the data (or have someone analyse it for you) so that you can ensure you’re utilising it to full effect. Power units are also a lot more expensive than heart-rate monitors so don’t get carried away unless you have to. Whatever you choose never overlook your own built in monitoring system called ‘feel’. Get to know your body and you’ll be able to tell when to ease off or push on without a little box on your arm or handlebars telling you.