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How accurate and important is power measurement?Pedalling with power

 

Early competitive cyclists trained with the Borg Scale, a system of measuring training intensity based on the Rate of Perceived Exertion. This was subjective and solely dependent on an individual’s perception of effort and intensity. With the advent of Heart Rate Monitors and Power Meters, riders and coaches can accurately measure the effects of high-intensity training on the body and chart appropriate sessions to manipulate the body’s response and achieve better fitness levels and performance. The data points that we can look at are many: for starters, Cadence, Heart Rate and Power would be apt. Aswe progress, measuring Training Stress Score (TSS), Acute Training Load (ATL) and Chronic Training Load (CTL) offer better insights.

Not every evening do you find a motley group of adults trying to beat the weekday traffic to catch a lively discussion on the role of power in cycling. If you’re thinking this is about electric bicycles, you are off the mark. Coimbatore Cycling organised an interactive session with Volker Maier, an Elite Cycling Coach from Germany’s Peaks Coaching Group. This was in collaboration with Srinath Rajam, a data-munching, pedal-pushing cycling coach from Chennai. The event was a prelude to a three-day cycling coaching camp aimed at teaching cycling enthusiasts about Training with Power, i.e. measuring the power produced by the body and training with data for increased efficiency and performance. We caught up with the coach for answers to some common questions that seasoned and amateur cyclists often ask. Excerpts from the intervew

.Not like chalk and cheese! Heart rate tells us the effect of our training effort on the body whereas power quantifies the result of that effort. For increased performance, we should have an insight into the power produced as well as its result on the body. The right training plan must be built around Power and Heart Rate measurement. Both are equally important.With the advanced systems available in the market, both Heart Rate Meters and Power Meters throw up accurate numbers. The difference is that power data is instantaneous whereas heart rate data is affected by the heart rate lag.

This is the difference in the time taken for the heart rate to increase or decrease when there is a change in training effort. This is critical, as one can quickly fatigue if this sudden and prolonged increase in heart rate is not observed and controlled.

Plateauing occurs when the body gets used to the training effort over time and performance stagnates. Consistency in training increases body conditioning but does not necessarily guarantee continual performance increase. Variation and shocking the body with surprises is key. Having a bouquet of training sessions offers a surprise element. As training is continuous and fitness increases, some amount of fatigue sets in. So easy weeks or even a week of complete rest followed by weeks of hard training reduces the Acute and Chronic Training Loads (ATL and CTL).

There’s not ‘one size fits all’ rule. Each individual’s response to the training stimulus is different. Cycling at lower intensities in the aerobic, ‘fat burning’ zones has proven effective for some. But, in any case, we need to watch consumption of calories for fat loss to be effective.

First, a child is not a miniature adult. The coaching should not take short-terms benefits into consideration. Instead it should be about long-term rewards. Too much too soon will lead to loss of interest or injury. Kids can start early on skill-building routines where having fun is an important element. Riding with friends would be the best fit in Indian conditions. Training routines and activities should be initiated only around 11-13 years for girls and 12-14 years for boys. Power training can start around 15 years. This may seem late compared to other sports but, if skill levels are built through normal riding as kids, then this will be a natural progression. Cycling as an activity is pure fun due to its simplicity. But for thrill seekers who are keen on performance, the ride just got Powered.

 

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