How do we measure progress.
Heart Rate ?
There are so many variables that can be measured that it can be overwhelming. For beginners like me, most of us look at HeartRate. HeartRate is good but it is a lagging indicator of performance. It shows how hard the heart is working but not the output of the effort. I like to think of heartRate like the tachometer of a car. The tach will show you how fast the engine is spinning, but not the speed or power associated to it. For me, i do measure heart rate religiously. I kinda feel like Tony Stark, because my heart rate monitor is always on. But what I’m looking for is that over time my average heart rate is decreasing over a given duration of training. Training Peaks makes it easy to see your progress. Below the graph shows average HR for the past year, overlaid with this weeks training heart rates. Easily you can see that for this illustration my heart rate is lower for the week in question.
When I decided to start training for tri’s, I decided to take it pretty seriously, not all novices or beginners will have a power meter. But if you can afford it, you should get one. The best part of training with power, is that for any given moment of cycling you know exactly what your body is putting out. There is no more guess work. Coupling Power with HR becomes an incredible tool for finding one’s upper limits, and setting your training zones. It also is a very concrete way to show progress on the bike. Unlike speed where you measure the time it takes to perform a certain course, you now know how much effort your putting out. How many times have you felt great on a bike figuring to crush your best time, only to be hampered by a fierce head wind? In that case you probably had a great ride, just not with great speed.
Again using TrainingPeaks you can get a great idea of your progress by comparing giving date ranges. The other notable fact about training with power is that you can easily see where you need to improve, so if you have great short duration power, but lagging 20 min power, you can then tailor your training to address your weaknesses.
With most training we all have a favorite course for our runs or rides. So another simple measure is the speed you can complete that given course. Simple.
Are you spinning fast enough, in the old days it was always seen to be a better thing to turn big slow gears.. But science has proven faster cadence gives you more power, and more endurance. This is a great metric to track as it shows how one can gain an overall adaptation to cycling. Even with my cycling background (casual riding for the past 15 years) That the more comfortable I am on the bike, is a general result in a cadence of 80+ . If i’m tired, struggling, and dejected, my cadence is probably around 50-70.
There are hundreds of metrics you can track when training, For now i like to keep it simple, see results, and build on the work i’m putting in. With today’s devices you collect a lot more data, as the beginner, i’m focusing on my building my base, I can and will go back later an look at more advance features like VO2 max, and lactate thresholds. but for now simple is better. Progress is being made, and i don’t feel i am at a point where i can benefit from more advanced measurements. At least not yet.
Here are the tools i’m using to gather my data:
Power – Powertap G3 Hub
Heart Rate – Garmin 910xt
Speed – Garmin 910xt
Cadence – Garmin 910xt / Powertap G3 Hub
Recording – TrainingPeaks.com