Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Powermeter talk

I have had PowerTap for 2 months or so now so it is time to share my thoughts. I hate it!!!! But read on:)

For first couple weeks I did not really use it to “train” by it, because my aerobic endurance is pretty much pathetic so I continued doing my rides by HR and I needed to “test” myself to see what my power numbers are. But in those first 2-3 weeks it help me to see how inefficient my pedaling is (not steady, watts varying too much, low cadence) so that was useful.
Then for the last ~3 weeks I have been using powermeter for all the intervals and tempos and I stopped using HR monitor for those. I still use HR for steady aerobic rides though.

I think that powermeter is a very useful tool. When I want to become a faster runner I do intervals by pace. It is easy to run by pace because all you need is track and a stopwatch. Or GPS watch. Swimmers do the same for swimming; they time their intervals in pool. So when you want to become a faster biker you should ride by pace as well. But because you cover longer distances by bike it is difficult to go by pace (or speed) without any outside factors coming into play. For example uphills and downhills, wind. Track has no hills (although there might be wind), pool has no hills. It is very unlikely that you can find a loooooong stretch of a road or a loop where you can do any ride or intervals and the intervals being comparable. Road would have to be pretty much completely flat or you would have to do all your intervals on the same segment of a road so the hills come at the same time, wind blows at the same same etc. Not feasible. Thus bike computer with speedometer is not that useful here. Ok, you can use speed as a good metric when you are on a trainer because there are no outside factors but nobody does all the rides inside.

Sure, a lot of cyclists go by HR but no runners or swimmers do their intervals by HR, do they? They might do their aerobic workouts by heart rate, but not fast tempos or intervals. So why should cyclists do that?

Powermeter makes me work the intervals/tempos much harder than going by HR does and I think that it keeps the workout more honest.
For example when I used to do tempos before it meant keeping my HR in a certain range, for example ~170-175 range for 20min. It was not easy but to do that I had to get my HR up quickly and then hold it stable and holding it stable there meant that I slowed down eventually and was working easier and easier because if I kept the same effort my HR would rise. However, when I do the tempo by watts I do not have to slow down and I am able to push harder, my HR increases more gradually and goes over 180. Although my effort get higher and higher as well. And I think that this is better, you are supposed to push yourself in intervals, right? And not slow down to keep your HR in check.

Therefore I think that powermeter is essential for intervals, tempos and pretty much everything except aerobic rides. Thus I am very glad that I have it.

Although I hate it. Why? Because it is so freaking hard going by it! It hurts. Maybe my prescribed watts are off and therefore I cannot hit some of my intervals but even if they were lower it would still be more difficult. I used to not like swimming very much and dreading my workouts because I was not able to hit my prescribed paces. Now I do not like biking and am dreading it because I am not able to hit my prescribed watts and it makes me frustrated. Yes, yes, I know that with consistent work I will get there as I did with swimming. But I would prefer to be there already! :)
Is powermeter worth its price? Of course not! Nothing is worth $700+. Also GPS watches are not worth what they costs. But like with everything else until it becomes more common-flow gadget and more manufacturers start to make it there is nothing we can do about it but to suck it up if we do not want to wait couple more years.

By the way, I submitted law school applications to UCLA, Stanford, Virginia, Colorado-Boulder yesterday. I am still working on scholarship essays for NYU and application essays for Michigan and Georgetown but I should have it done by the next week. Cornell and Columbia did not give me application fee waivers and I still have not received UPenn’s decision. Those damn Ivy Leagues! Well, their loss, I cannot pay $100 per school application. LSAT score should be in on Jan 6th and then I will see whether I have a real chance to get into one of those school or whether I just need to wait for a miracle.


  1. That's a great assessment of your power meter. Spot on! Those hard bike intervals are making you faster, even if they are miserable to do. ;) And for the record, some GPS watches (like the Garmin 305) you can get on sale for $129 (that's what I got mine for) and I would say that is worth it. $300-400 not worth it. But then 'worth it' is always going to be relative.... for people who make $100,000+/yr, $700 is nothing (would THAT be nice?!? Lol)

  2. I like the whole concept of the powermeter but agree with your assessment that I might hate it because it's so hard! haha