The Myth of the Useless Heart Rate Monitor

Trevor Connor and editor Caley Fretz are joined by one of the world’s leading cycling physiologists, Inigo San Milan, to bust the myth that power is all that matters.

You thought you could ditch that heart rate strap since you bought a power meter? Think again.

In episode 4, coach Trevor Connor and editor Caley Fretz are joined by one of the world’s leading cycling physiologists, Dr. Iñigo San Millán, to bust the myth that power is all that matters.

Episode Transcript


Welcome to fast off the velonews podcast, everything you need to know to impress.



But in the meantime, yeah, Buhari is a truly physiological parameter and not using that to monitor an athlete is probably not a good idea.


Trevor Connor  00:21

Welcome to Fast Talk the velonews performance podcast cross me a senior editor Kelly fretts. And as always, I’m Trevor Connor, your velonews coach. Today we’ll do our first in a series of cycling Mythbusters. Our topic for this one is whether you still need a heartrate monitor if you own a power meter. You just heard the opinion of our guest today Dr. nugo Sol Milan, who is the head of the cu sports medicine Performance Center, and Hugo has worked with many of the world’s top cyclists over the years, he’s going to explain to us not only why a heart rate strap isn’t outdated, the why provides valuable information that watts don’t tell you that ultimately, it’s a comparison of the two that gets you the most valuable information. Helping us along the way will include interviews with pro tour athletes swing tough professional cyclocross rider L. Anderson, and talk with a group of domestic pros over dinner. Let’s make it fast. So Dr. Sol, Milan, we were going to do a quick intro on who you are. But you have such a long list and your resume. How about we asked you tell us a little bit about your background with cycling and where you’re working right now?



Well, thank you for having me here. today. Well, I’ve been working with that in cycling for about 20 years. And I’ve been also before I was a cyclist myself. And, you know, I’ve been working with different teams, and, you know, trying to come up with new methodologies for physiological testing biomarkers for training, fatigue, nutrition, and, and, yeah, and trying to be, you know, providing as much information about how the body works, and how the body can improve and how the body can recover and eat better,


Trevor Connor  01:55

that a lot of your research has been on lactic kinetics and heart rate response. So it seems like today’s topic is right up your alley.



So let’s start sort of, with the basics and from 10,000 feet, or look from 10,000 feet, what makes a power meter so good to begin with, because it is obviously sort of the preferred, preferred training tool, at least seems to be the preferred training tool for most cyclists at this point, particularly pro athletes are always talking about power numbers, you very rarely hear anyone talking about heart rate. What makes a power meter so powerful, first of all?


Trevor Connor  02:30

Well, so the one thing that I like about power, and I think why it’s so appealing to people is it actually gives you a point of comparison. So if you have two athletes go up a climb, and one says, Oh, I did 168 beats per minute, the other one says I did 174, it doesn’t really mean anything in terms of a comparison. But once as I climbed it at 300 watts, the other one says, I climbed it at 400 watts, you do have more of a direct comparison, at the end of the day, we’re competitive people. So you you want those comparisons? It does even as a coach, it gives a great value, because 300 watts is 300 watts, you get to see an absolute value in terms of how strong an athlete is. Thought similan. Do you feel?



Yeah, I agree hundred percent with with Trevor. And, yeah, that’s a great way to compare a ride performance. And he also is a great tool to address progress, right? So for example, you know, that you go up that climb, you know, and last year you were at 325? And do your 365. Right. So that’s a great improvement in performance, right? in something that or a decrease in performance, right, your lower 50 words like something is wrong, right? Or is that you cannot see that with heart rate, right. And it also is a good way to Yeah, just for coaches, right to be able to keep track of the performance or their athletes, I would add like something that we we saw like a very long time ago. So for example, during the time trial, right, people usually go at lucky thresholds. And that’s kind of where you close to where you want to be right. So people will come will come to the laboratory to establish their lactate threshold in heart rate, we didn’t have the power meters before or almost nobody used them. So people would take that to the race, right? And they would go the lactate threshold, let’s say 170 to 175. And they would be almost dead last, right? And like, Man, you know, like it felt too easy, but my heart rate was up there. So we’re starting to scratch our head like what in the world went wrong? You know? And as we have to realize that, that there’s the catecholamines, right at the catecholamines, when someone is intention and nervous, especially for a time trial that is short. The heart rate is much higher, like all of us when we’re nervous or intention or hurry 1520 bit spin rate higher. So that’s like that was a big interference, you know, so those 171 75 actually meant 160 or 165. So people would go much slower. So for a few years, people were trying to figure out how can have a method of perceived effort Right as opposed to just going by heart rate, until while the power meters came along, and that’s where people know quite well this is for 30 kilometres for Tana for 20 days the sustainable power up or they can afford this great weapon right to assess, to monitor yourself in the competition.



And it’s worth noting as well that power meters are cheaper than they’ve ever been, I mean, the the sort of the gold standard SRM builder, those are still quite expensive, but you can now get a power meter that will get you most of the way there for, you know, 500 bucks or so. And that’s, that’s really, really come down in the last couple years. I know that pro riders use them a lot for pacing themselves in real time. So for example, I heard a story from the Jiro, this is after talking to micheli Scarponi, on the day that nibbly ended up taking a bunch of time back from cosewic. And if you’ll remember correctly, Scarponi was up ahead and a breakaway nibbly caught him. And basically, as he came up behind him just yelled a number that was 375. And Scarponi knew that all he had to do was sit at 375. And that was exactly the pace that nibley wanted to go, he just did that as long as he possibly could. And when he couldn’t do anymore, pulled off. So powers that we used in racing, as well as in training. It’s obviously a very important tool.



It’s just I just want to throw that what you said with this pony. And he’s got the same thing with you with, with. with Russia, we’re just talking about him. So one of the things that we did, well, one of the things that we were just doing, you know, what is that that the pace that he could afford, you know, climbing, right, so we did our testing up claims, right, and the famous rocker Cobra, I will take your honor. And we were looking at the lactate, the heart rate and the power output. So it was a good educational process or that writer could don’t know the power up or he could afford in race situation. And that’s kind of what we saw to the to the JIRA where he was like, people were attacking him, he was maintaining because he knew that if he goes 10, powers, higher 20, it’s going to blow up. And eventually the others didn’t know that and they blew up, right. So that’s a good way as you very well said, For pacing.



Imagine that that’s similar to like what Bradley Wiggins is doing when he won the Tour de France, I mean, that was very much the same style, let let the guy let the little guys go up and up and down the road all they want, if he knows he can sit, you know, whatever that wattage is for him 50 watts or whatever, he can just keep going and going going. So obviously power meters are important. We love power meters, there’s no reason really not to get one. And I think this is just while this is the myth that we’re trying to bust right is that because power is so popular these days. And it has all these these uses and can be used in different ways from heart rate, people have sort of left heart rate monitors behind. We’re here to explain to you why maybe that’s not such a good idea, particularly in your training.


Trevor Connor  07:43

Before we address the question of why using power on its own might not be the best approach. Let’s see what pro tour rider Swain top has to say about it. Swain is a multi time tour racer and a podium finisher at the time trial World Championships. So if there was anyone who would place a big value and power, it’s Swain, let’s hear why he has a different



take. Yeah, unfortunately, our lives have all been come bombarded with this, this power output. And there’s not a lot of guys that can go by feel especially parent when you’re doing a team time trial, you know, guys will live and die by the by the SRM or whatever your chosen device is. And I think it’s, I think it can be very detrimental to base everything we do also this, this set number that we did in some physiology lab and, and I really believe that, okay, these things are important, and they are definitely a huge help in what we do. But at the same time, they they really disconnect you from the reality of where you, you might be at that given moment. And, you know, it’s more important to understand your body and understand where you’re at at that moment than to try and live up to some impossible expectation on yourself. And, you know, like I said, it’s very fresh in my mind because of team time trialing. And all the work we’ve done in the last little while and I see young guys just trying to push this incredible number that they all believe is necessary to win the World Championships, but it’s not sustainable. Right. And so that’s why I think a lot of times these things when you don’t understand your body and you you don’t understand the what’s what’s working behind the scenes there. You really run into trouble. And yeah, I’ve seen it many times. So for myself, it’s it’s more about understanding where you are at that moment, and what you are actually capable of so in the case of like, you know, we have to ride the front full to bring bring a break back. Okay, I’ll have a look at the power here and there but really, um Going by a feeling that I know I can sustain for, if it’s necessary, I might have to chase for 20 K, if I have to ride for 50 k is a totally different feeling. And that’s just lucky from years of experience that I see so many guys trying to, in a time trial or whatever trying to hold this this power output, and it’s never really the case, you know, it’s just never really how it’s done. And the time trial is all about picking your battles and, and understanding the course and yourself. So, yeah, numbers are great, but they don’t



win all the bike races.


Trevor Connor  10:43

So Dr. savella, why do we throw that at you? is a heart rate monitor just outdated technology? is a power meter a better tool? Or is there something that you get from heart rate? They don’t get from power?



In a nutshell, why should I continue to wear that heart rate strap when I head out on a training ride?



Well, I would I would like to ask by another question. So I would as you know, we could we were to ask like, What if there was a device right there that could measure your physiological parameters do an exercise, right? Because at the end of the day, power output is that the end product, right? The ability of humans to create energy, right depends on the ability to transform chemical energy into mechanical energy, right? Like the power output is the end product, right? But imagine that there are so a way we can monitor right physiological responses to exercise in real time, it will be a great breakthrough, right. And a lot of people will buy, you know, these devices are heart rate is a truly physiological parameter, in fact, is the only physiological parameter that we can measure in real time at this point, you know, I’m very sure with the whole innovation of the biosensors, right, coming our way in a few years, we will be able to measure lactate levels, right representing the mme the cellular metabolism, do an exercise, that’s going to be a game changer in 10 years or less. But in the meantime, yeah, but heart rate is a truly physiological parameter and not using that, to monitor an athlete is probably not a good idea.


Trevor Connor  12:18

So as a coach, one of the things I love to say to my athletes, when they ask me, why do you want me to put a heart rate strap back on as I say, power is a measure of what’s going on on the bike heart rate is a measure of what’s going on in the athlete. At the end of the day, we’re trying to train the athlete, even what’s going on in the bike is gonna determine whether you win a race or not. But we’re not trying to train the bike, we’re trying to train the physiology and we need to see what’s going on with the physiology. And well, you can say going up a climate 350 watts is impressive. What we don’t know is, is that 300 watts 50 watts sustainable is that your threshold is that above threshold is that well below, it doesn’t give us that information at heart rate does. But as I remember from the research to determine your thresholds, lactate is one of the best best measures, you get you in a lab, take those lactate values, and we can you can identify exactly where somebody lacked it is but as I remember, heart rate and lactate correlate very well, do they not?



I Exactly. And this is one of the studies that I have where, you know, I was just wanting to challenge the hot question about what’s our watts, right? Because people say what’s her watts, right? Or what? You can change it? And obviously speed speed, too, right? So I wanted to see if the power output corresponds to what happens in the body. Right. So for that I, I put two different groups right at different power outputs. And and we observe right at the same power output, I would observe what happened in the body, right, looking at different parameters. So I would look at lactate metabolism, I would look at also view to right as well. And I would clearly see that over time, you know, this to power up with return a little higher to what was 70% of maximal power output, the other one was 75%. But clearly the body cannot sustain you know that homeostasis, right. So you would start at the same power output at let’s say, three millivolts, right, and 20 minutes later, you would be maybe at eight millivolts of lactate, right? Or you would start at 65% of your view to max and 20 minutes later you were at 90% of your view too much. So that clearly tells us that watts are not watts internally in the body. Right. And that’s something that one of the the other parameter that I throw there was heart rate, right? And, yeah, heart rate and lactate that correlate together go along, right, in fact, you know, because heart rate is a truly physiological parameter. So if lucky goes up as a result of metabolic stress, obviously, heart rate, which will go up as well. So that’s where you can correlate in a much better way what happens in the body, right with heart rate down with power output alone.


Trevor Connor  14:58

So this actually gets is a really good example of both the danger of only training by power and actually the the advantages of having both. So I often have my athletes go out and do very long rides. And whenever I prescribe those, I tell them to do it by heart rate, not power, because the danger of doing it by power is if you say, go out and do a ride, let’s say 180 watts at the start of the ride, that might be what people would typically call a zone to ride. But as you said that that heart rate is going to keep going up and up and up. And by the fourth hour, that might be pretty close to threshold, if they’re trying to just hold 180 watts. So sets, we’re trying to get a physiological response, I think it’s better to prescribe those long rides by heart rate, because if you say do this at 135 beats per minute, 135 beats per minute is still sets you in a particular physiological range, know where the power of having both comes in is, if I tell the athlete to go out and do a four hour ride at 135 beats per minute, and their power drops 70 watts over the course of that ride, then you say you don’t have a lot of sustainability, we really need to work on that, where if you took a pro tour rider and say do that, probably their power would drop maybe 10 watts over the course of that ride, and you see a side of their their training that often doesn’t show up in something like Strava and doesn’t show up at all, if you only have a power meter. What I what I’m getting out there is something called cardiac drift. And Dr. Sam lon, did you want to talk a little bit about that?



Yeah, that’s that’s a good question. And and many times, right, people throw that right, say, hey, yeah, but the heart rate is increases, because the cardiac drift, right. I mean, from what I’ve seen, both in the laboratory and real situations, the cardiac drift is is not very big at all, you know, you might have five, Tim between at the most under normal physiological circumstances. And that’s when we, you know, prescribed that that the training to heart rate, we give up a bandwidth of about 10 beats per minute, right. But if you have a very high increase in heart rate, you know, could be, as you were said, you know, the power output is not sustainable. Or it may represent dehydration, because when the athlete is very dehydrated, right, therefore, you know, that heart rate increases a lot is a big cardiac drift, which is excellent information, because it’s telling you that you probably are dehydrated, that is, imagine that you always do your power, your workout and your average, let’s say it’s hundred and 75 watts, for example. And, you know, it’s usually, you know, goes along with heart rate, right, so the heart is pretty good. But today, whatever, oh, my God, I’m 20 beats per minute higher, you know, it’s a hot day like outside today. That’s, that’s great information, because it’s telling you that probably you’re getting dehydrated. Otherwise, if you don’t use a heart rate, you’re missing that information. And you’re going to get dehydrated, you might pay for that for tomorrow and the rest of the week, too.



So is it accurate to say that the best use is his heart rate in combination with a power meter?



I agree, I think that it’s a combination of both. These are great parameters. On one hand, you have, as Trevor Very well said, what happens in the body of the athlete, the the heart rate, and then you see through the power output? What happens on the bike, what’s the end product? Right? I agree. That is the best combination. And I have to say to that it was refreshing when to hear from Ollie shawver. Right? He invented power meters, right? And it was like, it’s not anymore. But it was like a few years ago, was that heated debate right at the power output. It’s all school, the heart rate, and it was very refreshing to hear from only say, Hey, I am the first one who says that you need to use heart rate as well. There’s no question the heart is a physiological parameter. But the combination of both so it was very refreshing to hear from the inventor.


Trevor Connor  18:45

We caught up with L Anderson, the top five finisher and World Cup cyclocross racers who had some thoughts to share with us about using power and heart rate in combination. She also reminds us not to get so caught up in either data that we forget to monitor how we’re feeling.



Obviously, I use my powers Don’t be my animals. But I’m always looking at you know, when I’m training on the road, I’m always looking at heart rate to sort of gauge that perceived effort. So even if I know that for 10 minutes, I’m trying to hit threshold power, I’m going to be also looking at my heart rate to see how my heart rate compared to what I expect it to be for that effort. So if it feels really hard to keep that threshold power, and I see that my heart rate kind of low, that to me means that I’m tired, and it helps me kind of know whether to back off. Right? So you mentioned that in your email that it’s the comparison of the two that you find really valuable. That Where’s your heart rate relative to the wattage? What else do you see when you when you compare the two? I mean, I think in most cases, if I’m if I’m just training, and I have both my power and my heart rate connected, I’m definitely going to look at both, like if it’s a recovery right I’ll look at Yeah, I want to keep my watts within a recovery zone. But I also want to look at how my heart rates responding to that power zone. If I’m doing an interval, I’m gonna, you know, have instructions from my coach to be within a certain power and a goal, but I’m going to look at my heart rate to sort of interpret that effort. So the real the third factor in there is that perceived effort, because we all, you know, if you just took all numbers away, you’d be able to say, wow, I feel really tired, or Wow, I feel heaving, or anything in between. So it always has to start with, you know, how you feel without the numbers. And then I layer on top what my power says, and then what my heart rate says. So I think the primary reason that I that I’m assessing my heart rate is to sort of compare based on how, like my perceived feeling is and how the power to sort of bridge that gap in between.


Trevor Connor  21:00

l mentioned the value of comparing heart rate and power to see if you’re fatigued, which is possibly one of the best uses of the two tools,



which is the other topic, we can talk about overtraining, because as you were saying about hiring,


Trevor Connor  21:10

so that’s actually what I was gonna ask you, because that’s another place where having both power and heart rates really valuable that again, you can’t see from a power meter. Because I know once you start overtraining, your heart rate response really changes relative to your power. And did you want to talk a little bit about that?



Yeah. So and that’s what we see a lot. You know, how many times we have heard about athletes right? In my heart rate doesn’t go up, right? It’s just I can’t get it up. I don’t know, I try a try. That’s a sign of fatigue, right and overtraining. And that’s, that’s a great information that you miss, you know. So if you don’t use a heart rate for that, it’s a big information. Now you’re going to finish your workout at, let’s say, 200 watts, as your coach has prescribed, but what’s up the price that you pay for it? Right. And that’s, that’s very typical. We can talk about the mechanisms of why that could happen, or it might be too much.


Trevor Connor  22:06

Absolutely. So let me start that actually with a story that I love. So the A lot of people don’t know about about your heart rate is, they’ve actually done these studies on animals where, if you disconnect the nervous system from the heart, but keep the heart beating, it will be basically almost exactly 100 beats per minute. And it’s our neurological system that that slows the heart rate down when you’re at rest and speeds it up. When you’re exercising. When you start to overtrain, your neurological system gets fatigued. So what you see is a rise in that resting heart rate, but you actually see your max heart rate come down. So it starts approaching that hundred beats per minute. And you again, you see that response out on the road? Do you want to? I’m sure you can take that much further.



No, I think that’s the apps exactly that makes totally sense. I think that there’s also another component, which is more that the substrate component, right. So when an athlete’s fatigue, you know, could be for many different reasons. But one of the typical thing that we see there’s not much glycogen content, right in the muscles. So we know very well. And this is recent research that, like glycogen controls muscle contraction, because he controls the calcium release and uptake from the sarcoplasmic reticulum, which is in the muscles, and he controls directly the contraction. So just a 25% decrease in glycogen content in the muscles can represent a decrease of 10% decrease of calcium release. So therefore, that contraction is going to be highly impaired, right? And that’s kind of what we see, I developed a methodology where we can look at glycogen content in a non invasive way with ultrasound. And we see clearly that many athletes are they, without depleting glycogen, they might only deplete like 30% 40%, therefore they’re not bonking or they have plenty of glycogen. But performance goes way down. Right and, and that’s probably because of these mechanisms we’re talking about. But one thing that happens is like, there’s a protective mechanism probably at the brain to the brain can only use glucose, right? And in that glucose comes from the liver, right? Mainly so and he can even come at some point from from the glycogen from the muscles, right? So when the brain detects low glycogen content, right, it starts getting into more defensive mode right in there’s some mechanisms where it’s telling the the liver in the muscles, hey, don’t shut down glycogen break down into glucose, because glycogen you have to break it down into glucose for energy purposes, punch it down because you kill me. But please save something. Right? So I can think and I can work and and so it slowed down the breakdown, right. So the mechanisms for that is the catecholamines. catecholamines are responsible for the breakdown of glycogen into glucose, right? So there’s a decrease in catecholamine activation, right? And guess what’s the collateral effect of catecholamines they also activate the heart. So you know, so the maximum or the higher higher rate they get decreased. So when you see There’s no hurry the hurricane Get up, which is very typical happens, as you will say. So my neurological response, but could also be a nice part of the whole neurological response like a lack of substrate,



just to make sure that I understand exactly what you’re saying. So essentially, your brain in order to sort of save itself will suppress heart rate, once you are glycogen deficient, even if you’re not totally you know bonking or anything like that. So heart rate, I guess back to our original question, would be an important indicator that you need more recovery or you just need to feel better, or, or what exactly is it telling us then the suppressed heart



rate? So in this situation, yeah, that that, you know, you’re fatiguing to recover. And if you ever feel that situation where you are there and your heart rate doesn’t get up and you struggle, the watts are the same, right? So you pay the price, because the effort is much higher, right? So you keep digging the hole probably. That’s one of the things that we saw when people were so into the power output. First, we saw a lot of people getting over trained because exactly the situation, they didn’t have the hurry morning or anymore. Whereas if you go through that situation, and you see that, oh my god, my heart doesn’t go up. If you call the day, go home, recover it. Well, you know, in Carbo load Normally, the next day, you’re gonna feel like a million bucks, you know, it’s gonna be a big day big change. And that’s where a lot of people report, you know. So that’s something that if you don’t have the heartbeat you miss out completely.


Trevor Connor  26:27

The other similar mechanism to This Is anybody who’s who lives at sea level, if they go up to altitude and watch their heart rate, you’re going to see something similar where, because you can’t get as much oxygen to your muscles into your brain, you get that limiter. And what you’ll often find is your max heart rate comes down at altitude, you just can’t hit the same heart rates. There’s certainly no question that Dr. Sol Milan knows what he’s talking about. But an equally important question is whether this knowledge about heart rate and powers filtering down to the riders need to use it. To see if pros still use heart rate, I sat down with a few of the post race party for the reading 120, the last big pro race of the domestic calendar. Okay, so we’re going here’s the question. If you have a power meter, is there a reason to still have a heart rate monitor? Do you guys use one? Do you use both? Why, which one do you use?



And it’s no great again, and I use a heart rate monitor along with my power meter. I feel like power meter shows you the numbers that you do and just how hard you’re going. But the heart rate monitor really shows how your body is responding to the human effort. So I think they work pretty well together.


Trevor Connor  27:41

What do you guys say cuz you pull in it, or is that the two that



no, I agree. My name is Kai Wiggins. And I use both our and our re audio sporadically. And I think it’s a good idea to be more in tune with what’s going on inside your body, and to gauge your efforts in the context of what’s going on inside your body. So


Trevor Connor  27:59

that was good. Thank you. Yes. And of course, talking with pros that erase begs a question, what about heart rate and power in a race?



I would say one thing that we see, in the competition, it’s very typical at the pro level, especially. And even at the amateur level that someone starts our stage race, the first race, and they hit their maximal heart rate at 195. And the last stage or the last two stages, their maximal heart rate is 171 75. Right? It is very, very, very typical. And that’s something that you can monitor the adaptation of the race of that cyclists, right, the power output, definitely, you can see that maybe they’re not hitting that. But you can see there’s probably a fatigue component as well. is dangerous, though. Because if you give that information to the cyclists, and in the competition, they’re using the horns, Oh, my gosh, I’m dying, you know, so it’s psychologically it’s a double edged sword.



So is, uh, would you recommend that that athletes keep an eye on heart rate and power while they’re racing? Or is this something that, you know, if they’re working with a coach, they should primarily just sort of send to the coach at the end of the day and say, hey, how am I doing? What do you recommend? Or is this something that they can kind of keep an eye on in real time?



I think it takes it’s very individual, right, but it takes a lot of experience, there are things that for example, to happen with power output in the race situation that let’s say you go to a race, you know, and you know, that you’re gonna you’re training for the race is going to end up in that claim, right? So you go training in that climate, you know, you can put out 350 watts for the entire claim, right? There are four and your mind goes, Okay, the day of the race, I’m going to put out 350 watts. So you hit that claim at the end of the race, and you try to 350 you blow up because there’s a big difference in how you get to that claim on a training session or in a race situation where you cannot pull out more than 335 watts. So that’s why it’s important also to be able to play with that that that that you know, the power of will be just religious you go by it. You can A double, you know, in sport, too.


Trevor Connor  30:04

So I get to put you on the spot continuing with that. Good to give you a scenario, you have an athlete that you’re coaching, who’s a contender for the



World Championships in the time trial, they’re on their way at the time trial, they call you. And for whatever reason, they say, Okay, I can either use a power meter or heart rate strap. But I can’t use both, which one should I use? For a Tantra situation for me, without a doubt, I will use the power output, because what he said yesterday that I earlier that the heart rate is going to be in such intense effort is going to be 1520 beats per minute higher than normal, it’s not physiological, then it’s a big artifact with the power out for you now. So I would definitely use the power of influence situations, it’s more for like, training. Ryan, as you very well said for those like lower intensity, zone two, zone three, that’s where the heart rates, it’s probably more appropriate, but also keeping also that the monitoring of the power up.


Trevor Connor  31:01

So what other difference between power and heart rate that you see is actually a consistency through the season, that could become really valuable. So meeting, if you went into the doctor saw Milan and got tested in January, and let’s say I said, Okay, your threshold heart rate is 171, your threshold powers to 80. What you’ll see over the course of the season is as your your fitness goes up and down to 80 will not stay your your threshold wattage, it might at some point go up to 320, it might come down to 260 at some point, but that heart rate that he gave you, you will know that’s always going to be at least for that year, that’s going to be your threshold heart rate. So you could always make sure with heart rate that as your fitness improves, you’re still training in the right zones.



So that’s a that’s about 20 minutes on on attempting to convince our listeners that they should go out and buy a heart rate strap maybe for the first time in a couple years. If they’re going to do that. And if they’re going to start training and racing with heart rate as well as their power meter, what what should they be doing with those two devices? And how can they get the most out of them.


Trevor Connor  32:08

Let’s start with a couple tips from Elle,



kind of the advice, but it’s really helpful to do a little research on what your heart rate zones are, I know, I’m not super expert, but I have I kind of know approximately what my heart rate is at the lactic threshold using so that’s helpful for me, I’d like to kind of have that number in mind to like know, when I crossed that line. And, you know, I think it was helpful to, you know, show things like Strava can help you kind of estimate those zones. But I think there’s other ways you can really kind of get to know what your heart rate zones are a bit better. So without kind of knowing about yourself personally and about how your heart beats, it’s kind of hard to utilize a heart rate monitor to, you know, the maximum extent. So when you’re training,


Trevor Connor  32:58

and let’s say you’re doing intervals, you’re out doing a long steady rise.



Are there some times where you’re, you’re more likely to use power to train by sometimes you’re more likely to use heart rate Are there times that you just you don’t want to use either power meter is fine. In such real time to those changes in efforts that you’re going to see your heart rate response lowered, you know, the minute you start that 32nd interval, your heart, it’s going to take a few seconds to ramp up to a higher rate. And then obviously, when you stop intervals and take a few seconds to recover. So it’s a bit of a different indicator than your power meter. But over that longer distance interval, you’re going to be able to see your heart rate pinned to more consistent rate for the entire duration. And I’ll definitely look at that, you know, as a compliment to my power. I find her to be much more helpful in my cross races and looking at a power meter. Because Yeah, like what you especially want to strike across. It’s also hard because your powers to be inconsistent. About to say you’re either doing 500 watts or zero, right? Right. I mean, you’re gonna have moments in across race where you’re not pedaling because you’re going around corners, or you’re not even pedaling because you’re running over barriers.



Right, that’s even extra daunting.


Trevor Connor  34:14

So one of the first suggestions I going to make the that’s not very glamorous, but actually really important is use heart rate as a bit of a default guide meeting. So I’ll give you a quick story. I started coaching an athlete this winter, who only went by power, and I had him doing these threshold intervals and one week he did them on a trainer the other week, he did them on his own bike. And the the difference in those two power meters was extreme. So he taught me he’s like I don’t get it. When I did it the one week they were incredibly easy way to do it. The other week, they were incredibly hard asked him to send me his files. And even though they were the same power, the one week his average heart rate was about 150. The other week is average. Heart rate was 175. And I said you didn’t notice this because I don’t look at heart rate I went, well, the calibration was completely different, you are actually doing very, very different interval. So when you have that heart rate, and you know your threshold heart rate, then you can identify, okay, my heart rates at 175. And the power meter says, I’m doing 150 watts, you know that something’s up with the power meter?



Yeah, I mean, I, I totally agree with you. And it’s something that we haven’t sold the time people get come to our laboratory, and our machines are more accurate than average power meter. So they get different parameters, you know, then grow the power meter, like the power meter is different, you know, and then they have the trainers and the same thing where the heart rate doesn’t change. That’s a matter of you do in the laboratory and your trainer outside, right. So that’s where like, it’s more reliable, because easier on body, as you said, very well, Trevor, the beginning, the heart tells you, what’s going on in your body and the power up what happens in your bike.


Trevor Connor  35:55

So what are suggestions to athletes in terms of training? When is it better to use heart rate? When is it better to use power? I think



that heart rate, it’s, as you said, is like the default, right? It could be for like lower intensity base aerobic training, like the zone two. And, and that’s where you can also see where your power output, I think that for the competition, and for higher intensities, right? I think the power output is more reliable tool, maybe. But you also want to see what’s your heart rate responded


Trevor Connor  36:32

greatly. They’re completely if you’re doing minute intervals, or 22nd intervals, heart rate takes time to respond. So you’re not gonna see anything with heart rate, you have to look at power at that point, though, if you’re doing 22nd intervals, you’re probably not looking at either. You’ve seen a lot of red. Yeah. So what are your suggestions to athletes, if they go out for a ride, they’re they’re not feeling great. And they look down and they’re doing 200 watts and their heart rates, 10 beats per minute lower than what they would normally see.



So that that’s, that’s a great point. And that’s what heart rate is, is of tremendous information in those days, because that’s where you know very well, they usually at that power output, you normally are on, let’s say, 150 beats per minute. And today, you’re struggling to maintain the power up when your heart doesn’t go above 130. So without a doubt, you’re tired, and your heart is telling you. So the best, it’s a great way to hate call the day, go home and recover weather. If you didn’t have that heart rate information, you would continue pushing it and you will pay for that.


Trevor Connor  37:34

So the flip side of that, what if they go out there doing 200 watts and their heart rates 10 beats per minute above what they would normally see what would that mean?



So that could that could be that maybe there’s like a dehydration process there. So it’s great information to sometimes when also it could mean that when the body is it’s going through an infectious process incubating even in the incubating phase already happening, the heart rate is going to be elevated, you know. So that’s another information to be alert that something’s going on, if it’s if it’s very cold outside and your heart rate is 1015 beats per minute higher, or really, you’re not dehydrated, but something might be going on in your body. Right? So that’s that’s why it’s a physiological parameter, heart rate response to what happens in the body.



Really, real quick follow up question to that. So we’re talking about, you know, at a given power, your heart rate being 10 beats high or 10 beats low. What’s the window of sort of normal variance in heart rate? I mean, at what point do you have to be worried? Or what point do you have to go home? You know, is it 10 beats? Is it 15 beats? How much? How much different doesn’t need to be from normal before you just call it a day?



whack? We can go But yeah,


Trevor Connor  38:49

well, so I will start my answer with to this with. Back when I was training full time, what I used to do is go for a ride and about 20 minutes into the ride, I would do exactly that I would set myself at 200 watts and look at my heart rate response. But I would look at other factors. I generally had about a five beat above or below tolerance where I just went, Okay, that’s just normal day to day variance. Once I started seeing over below that then I started asking myself questions like how do I feel? And if I felt like I was struggling with something felt off, then yeah, I would say Okay, time to turn around and go home. Would you agree with that,



or? Yeah, I agree. I think I agree. And I think that that small window that is not super high. It’s it’s very safe, you know, and I agree. So I mean, the other thing that it’s important is like you know as all this technology is going to be advancing right? We will have you know in a matter of years right a more accurate information, you know that we can monitor what happens in the body especially with all those biosensors. So we will get to know your lactate levels right? In real time, and the lactate is the best parameter to know what happens at the cellular level at the metabolic level, right? So we can dial in trainings even better at the way we have done before. And that’s going to be the next revolution in monitoring training. But in the meantime, we need to find out or we need to use a parameter, right that we can use on a daily base, right? that relates to what happens at the cellular level. And again, I can’t we always have to remember that. That heart rate is a truly physiological parameter is the only parameter physiologically speaking that we can monitor and relates very well to what we see in the laboratory with lactate.



There you have it you thought you just bought your power meter and that’s all you need. Turns out, no, you should also be writing with a heart rate monitor for all of the reasons that we just mentioned. I thank you again, Trevor Connor Coach Trevor Connor, as always, thank you and good, Milan. We will have any go back on at some point. I hope he’s local to Boulder here. So that is it for Fast Talk.