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How the Pros Train: Heart Rate and Power

It's a safe bet that all of the riders in this year's Amgen Tour of California have used heartrate monitors in their training regimen. But many are now adding an element to their training: Power measurement.

Power meters, combined with heart rate monitors, let racers refine their training and fine-tune their performance.

Why Power? Accuracy. Power is a far more accurate measure than say, speed. I might ride the same route twice in two weeks, but have a tailwind one day and a headwind the next. So speed wouldn't be a good indicator of performance. Power, though, will tell me my precise level of effort.

Power = Work divided by Time. One Watt is 6.12 kg meters of work, or kgm. Combine power with heart rate and you can tell not only how your body is dealing with the stress of training, but also how much power it delivers in relation to that stress.

So riders use a combination of power meter and heart rate monitor like the Polar S725X to measure how well they're performing at a certain level of effort.

Here's an example: In my Wednesday workout, I do a series of intense efforts called intervals. In each interval I am riding absolutely as fast as I can. I use a power meter to judge my power output, and compare that to my heart rate. If I produce more power at the same heart rate when compared to a previous week, I know I'm in better shape than I was. If I produce less power, I should re-examine my training routine: I might be overdoing it, or eating poorly.

Another example: In my Thursday workout I do a long, slow ride. I use my heart rate monitor to make sure I'm not pushing too hard. I use the power meter to see how much power I produce during that workout. Again, I can measure exactly how well my training regimen is working.

Either way, the combination of heart rate and power measurement provides a new level of accuracy in training.

Does it work? Judge for yourself: Chris Carmichael used this method to help Lance Armstrong win seven consecutive Tours de France.

Please have a look at Polar USA's web site. They offer two heart rate and power monitors with excellent feature sets for cyclists. Polar is also a sponsor of this year's Tour of California.