Intuition is a wonderful thing, often bringing on a good feeling when you follow your gut and let the rest fall into line but there’s a little more to it than that, especially when it comes to bike riding. With a whole host of tools and measures available to help track your fitness, and make the most of your riding, we’re now going to take a look at five different ways to judge your effort.
Getting to know your body is fundamental in understanding how it works, where it excels and ultimately where its limitations may lie. Despite all of the technology that’s available today, it’s important to learn from, and listen to, your body. After all, no one knows it as well as you do.
It’s important to learn from, and listen to, your body. After all, no one knows it as well as you do.
Perceived exertion is how hard you feel that your body is working and can be rated on a scale of 0-10, with zero being nothing at all and ten being very, very, heavy exertion. Although a simple means of judging your effort Rated Perceived Exertion (RPE) is an effective and low cost (it doesn’t get much cheaper than free) means of judging the effort that you’re putting in, but as it’s based on the ‘feel-factor’ it’s harder to use this measure alone to accurately monitor training and progression.
If you’re more serious in your approach to training, have specific goals, or are looking to monitor your effort more accurately then the next step in judging your effort may be with a heart-rate monitor.Through regular use you’ll soon establish what your heart-rate is at a given exertion level, tallying up with how you feel on the bike.
Knowing your heart-rate at a given exertion level is particularly useful so you have a more accurate gauge on what’s comfortable, tempo or on the limit.
For example a heart rate of 135 bpm may be ‘moderate’ whereas a heart rate of 165 bpm classed as ‘heavy exertion’. Knowing your heart-rate at a given exertion level is particularly useful so you have a more accurate gauge on what’s comfortable, tempo or on the limit. This can be especially handy if you’re in a group and can see your heart-rate creep up as the pace quickens. By tracking it with a heart-rate monitor you can quickly see if you need to back off before you go pop. In a way your heart is much the same as a revving car engine. You can hear if the engine is just ticking over, cruising or approaching the redline, similar to perceived exertion. It’s the car’s rev counter, like a heart-rate monitor, that shows you the exact exertion level.
Used religiously by most professional cyclists for both training and racing, a power meter is widely regarded as the ultimate tool for judging effort and performance. Unaffected by things like weather conditions or fatigue, the measure of power (in Watts) correlates to the exact amount of force that the rider is able to apply to the pedals. And since cycling is a power-to-weight sport the more power you can produce for a given weight the faster you’ll go.
Using a power meter from day-to-day will soon give you a general understanding of what power your body can produce for a given ride intensity and time, but for serious riders looking to improve their performance that’s where the story begins. It’s all about analysing and interpreting these numbers and then tailoring training specifically to increase this power – so be prepared to learn how to crunch the numbers, or have an experienced coach that can help with the analysis and planning. If you’ve yet to undertake a fitness test but are keen to know what they may entail then you can see first hand in this video from a day at Torq Fitness.
A power meter is widely regarded as the ultimate tool for judging effort and performance. Unaffected by things like weather conditions or fatigue.
Once you know your power-zones then power is a no-quibble gauge of effort. In some respect power-meters have been blamed for making professional racing less exciting and more calculated. In the past riders would go on feel and instinct, but today a team can control the peloton by sitting at a given power output, watching the number of Watts displayed on the little box on their handlebars, knowing that it’s impossible for a lone rider or breakaway to survive.
No matter what activity you’re doing there’s nothing more satisfying than seeing progress. From faster average speeds to higher power outputs at lower heart-rates each can act as their own motivator to help get you out the door and on to the bike, but it’s also important to record and track your ride data over time to ensure you’re moving in the right direction.
By uploading your ride data you not only track every workout but have the facility to check your progress, set goals, see personal records and train against a virtual partner on a course, and at a speed, that you have defined.
Garmin Connect offers an online platform for logging and analysing your training in a simple and user friendly way. By uploading your ride data you not only track every workout but have the facility to check your progress, set goals, see personal records and train against a virtual partner on a course, and at a speed, that you have defined – a great way to stay focussed if you spend most of your time training alone. All of this can be used to judge your effort both on the bike and as part of a structured training plan that you have full control of.
In an age when the whole world is becoming more and more connected Strava has seen a momentous rise in popularity, seemingly bringing out the competitive spirit in cyclists across the globe. Whilst it also offers the facility to track and analyse your training, in a similar way to Garmin Connect, the real heart and soul of Strava lies in the ability to easily rank your performance against others over a specific section of your ride (known as a segment) automatically placing you in your rightful position on the leader-board when you upload your ride data from a smartphone or GPS device. And, if that wasn’t motivation enough, you’ll also be awarded with a virtual King or Queen of the Mountains trophy against your name (along with infinite bragging rights) should you be the fastest.
Be warned, if you do get into Strava it can become addictive. You may never look at that section of road or hill on your normal training ride in the same way again!
Without question, Strava can be used as a great motivational tool for you to judge your performance both against yourself and others, and has seen riders morph from regular rider to Strava-junkie – sprinting up climbs, mapping segments and turning themselves inside-out on every ride in a flurry of intervals. Whilst an increased, and consistent, impetus on your exertion levels can bring on new found levels of fitness it’s still crucial to include enough recovery so that you get the benefit from your training. Be warned, if you do get into Strava it can become addictive. You may never look at that section of road or hill on your normal training ride in the same way again!
If you need any more advice on judging your effort the feel free to get in touch on Twitter @cottydale and I’ll do my best to help.
Ride safe all and enjoy the festive season!
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