Training with a Heart Rate Monitor, Power Meter, Power Software & Mobile Applications

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Chris on Zwift, successfully taking the Sprint and KOM jersey!
“It never gets easier, you just get faster.” Famously quoted by Greg LeMond. It’s the reason why we love cycling so much. The speed entices us, slowly luring us into this wonderful trap of cycling. So the question always is, “How do I go faster?” My answer is – train correctly!

There’s no better way to train correctly than to use the right tools for the job. As newcomers begin to discover data within cycling, keywords such as HR and Watts frequently appear in most conversation during rides as well as various news sources and articles on social media. As a result, what are HR and Watts? HR is known as heart rate and Watts is the measure of power output – in this case the power output of the cyclist.

Traditionally, cyclists use a heart rate monitor to train. One can always work out different heart rate zones from the measure of resting heart rate and maximum heart rate, and all these are measured in beats per minute (bpm). Up till about 5 years ago, heart rate monitors were more budget friendly. The downside of training while measuring heart rate as a gauge is that, human heart tends to have a latency or a delay in measure after an effort is done. For example, you would perform a maximum effort sprint for 30 seconds but in that 30 seconds, your heart rate would not raise to the maximum point.

A power meter on the other hand, measures a cyclist’s power output instantaneously, so you would know what effort you are putting at any given time. Also, the heart rate reading is not always accurate. Occasionally, you might be tired hence your heart rate reading is eventually lower, which might translate to some cyclist thinking they aren’t putting enough effort. This is a very dangerous method of training as it will cause more fatigue to the body.

At the end of the day, heart rate monitors and power meters are only tools for training. The basic knowledge on using them right is still needed or else you would be training blindly. For the beginner cyclists, I would always recommend using a heart rate monitor when training. Nowadays, fitness trackers and smart watches are very budget friendly that you can purchase one costing less than RM100. Check out the instructions from the internet on setting heart rate zones and training properly by using heart rate monitors! The prices of power meters have dropped drastically in the recent years, thus it is ideal to invest in one, especially if cycling is your forte.

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