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BP – Before Power

 

Running Power… go on then what do you think this actually means?

Power, is nothing new in sporting terms as cyclists have been developing this as a means of training to a high level for some time.  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.  When heart rate first came along back in the 80’s and into the 90’s it was a different story.  Take your average sports watch and add in heart rate – 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’, in this entry – let’s take a step back and 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’, giving you a true and precise picture of how hard you are working.  Heart rate does lag behind your activity.  More so the fitter you are – a real problem for short distance runners, especially sprint specialists.

You will notice it most as you change your speed and your heart rate takes a moment to catch up with your increasing effort – often referred to as heart rate ‘lag’.
So training with heart rate is a response to the work you do and it is still the closest we’ve had to monitoring actual workload for years.

In so many ways it is still the most important parameter for accurate and successful training development, especially in moving through the aerobic (process requiring free oxygen/breathing) and anaerobic (operating without use of free oxygen/utilising alternative fuel sources within the body) energy systems – whilst minimising injury risk and over training.

Old School… Heart rate and timing device. The Polar Vantage XL sitting on its docking station having its memory read and uploaded to your Windows 3.1 PC.

Speed:

This is nothing more than an output of the work you put in.  A measurement of how quickly you cover distance within a unit of time.  It makes no allowance for your state of fatigue (running slower as you go – 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 there’s ‘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.

Many still shy away from utilising heart rate training…  But here’s the thing… ‘Cardiac Drift’.  You run to a set speed for ‘aerobic’ benefit, so nothing too taxing, you are out of breath, but still talking. As you run, you fatigue.  Your heart rate climbs and you become increasingly ‘anaerobic’ in you run.  Here, 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 safest there.

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 show that the point at which you slow down in order to maintain heart rate is pushed further and further away when you train to specific training zones.  And 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.

But heart rate as a training tool can so easily be better understood.  With Heart Rate levels being pretty unique to the individual and working out training zones often discussed as ‘hit and miss’.  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 who do, the rewards and improvements speak for themselves.

So to add to the above, we are seeing the introduction of ‘Running Power’ as a measurement.

Is it just another statistic/output – or is it actually something we can (like the cyclists) use, as with time or effort level, to train by?

A very good question.  One which I am still to answer in the entries to follow.

The New Polar Vantage V and M. With both the ‘V’ and ‘M’ comes a massive step up in wrist based heart rate accuracy but also Power with the ‘V’.

 

If I have your attention – the next part of this post will take a look at ‘Running Power’ as a true metric versus being an output…

About Run Stu

Accelerate Performance and Healthy Run Coaching, Heart rate, Periodisation, Strength & Stability. Business owner @accelerateuk Coach to #TeamAccelerate The open road, fell, moorland and high places. Sunny days, days the wind blows and rain is horizontal - 'You're Alive!' Twitter and Instagram: @RunStuCoach
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