Running Power… go on then what do you think this actually means?
Power, is nothing new in human terms as cyclists have been developing this as a means of training to a high level for some time. Yet in running it is still very much in its infancy.
Garmin have had an app for a while yet the real pioneers have been Stryd. Yet when heart rate first came along back in the 80’s and into the 90’s it was a different story. Take you average sports watch and add in heart rate and away you go. Then speed and distance came along and really took over as a means of training for many a runner.
So before we even look at ‘Training with Power’ let’s take a step back review what we have today and how that fits with improving your fitness.
Heart Rate: The precise measurement of your heart rate started with an ECG accurate chest strap. They could in fact measure more than just your beats per minute, also the time difference between each beat to help tell you the impact your training was having on your cardio fitness and then your state of recovery – but only from a cardio point of view.
The only reliable way to determine your training zones has never been through some formula but from a Lactate Test or to see a coach who knows how to interpret your racing heart rate trace.
The key thing with heart rate is that it is an accurate ‘rev counter’ to give you a true and precise picture as to how hard you are working. Yet heart rate does lag behind your activity, the more so the fitter you are. A real problem for short distance runners, especially sprint specialists. You will notice it most as you change speed and your heart rate takes a moment to catch up to your increasing effort – often referred to as heart rate ‘lag’.
So training heart rate is a response to the work you do, yet it is still the closest we have had to monitoring actual work load for years and in so many ways it is still the most important parameter to accurate and successful training development, especially in moving through the aerobic and anaerobic energy systems whilst minimising injury risk and over training.
Speed: This is nothing more than an output of the work you put in. A measurement of how fast you cover distance within a unit of time. It makes no allowance for your state of fatigue, you’ll just run slower – probably at a higher heart rate than normal.
It is a tool for comparison, not really something to train by – well for most of the time.
Distance: Like speed this is again nothing more than an output. How far you ran for a given unit of time. In truth like speed, it’s great to know, yet on any given day we should always be asking ourselves, ‘Can I keep this effort up for the given distance, or time’. So we are back to ‘Effort’ and using heart rate as a rev counter to help with this. Altitude, falls into this bracket too.
Heart rate training has a massive benefit over training to speed, especially for recovery and aerobic into tempo runs. Here’s the thing, ‘Cardiac Drift’. So you run to a set speed for aerobic benefit, so nothing too taxing, your are out of breathe yet still talking. As you run, you fatigue. Your heart rate climbs and you become increasingly ‘anaerobic’ in you run. Fatigue levels and post run recovery are both exponentially increasing. As you become more anaerobic your body is attempting to force you back into an aerobic state, it is after all happiest and safer there.
Yet, if you had run to heart rate then as you fatigued you would have only slowed down. Less fatigue and much less recovery time, which has to be a good thing. Both the science and anecdotal evidence clearly shows that the point you slow down to maintain heart rate is pushed further and further away when you train to specific training zones. If that is the case then speed is maintained for longer so your average speed is shown as a much higher output, which is something we all would like.
All sounds pretty good, plenty of information at our finger tips and some very smart ways of training. Yet, heart rate as a training tool can so easily be better understood. Yes the Heart Rate levels are pretty unique to the individual and working out your training zones is often discussed as hit and miss. Yet by seeking out a little help and advice, the rewards of training by utilising your own personalised heart rate training zones is very well documented and for those that do the rewards and improvements speak for themselves.
So to add to the list we are seeing the introduction of ‘Running Power’ as a measurement. Yet, is it just another statistic and an output or is it actually something we can, like the cyclists, train by?
Now that is a very good question indeed and I am still to answer the very first question that I asked!
Now If I have caught you attention the second part to this post will take a look at ‘Running Power’ as a true metric, or is it still an output..?
Sorry, I think I just left another question hanging…