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I assigned a power-based workout to an athlete. It is a standard workout that I use for several of my cyclists and triathletes. When I modified the power goals for her, I inadvertently put in a range that was above her current tested goal range.

She tried the workout and was able to achieve the power numbers on the first three-minute interval, but her heart rate was higher than her threshold values that I was looking for. (I use a combination of heart rate and power to build fitness for athletes that have power meters.)

When she decided that I really wanted her to be at her threshold power values (tested within the last few weeks), she dropped the power down to the range we had previously used. That range produced less of a biological response (heart rate lower than threshold heart rate) than was intended for the workout.

The result?

We adjusted the power range up and now she is pushing higher power numbers and getting the heart rate response we want. Her good power performance wasn’t a one-time fluke workout.

This isn’t the first time I’ve had a similar situation occur with an athlete. Though I do like time trial tests to determine power or pace ranges, those tests are not infallible. Sometimes fatigue, dehydration or other factors cause the test values to be too low.

Use your training zones (power, pace or heart rate) with a grain of salt. Be sure you are achieving the power output for the cost (heart rate) that you’re looking to achieve - or vice versa. Watch for trends and make small adjustments. Examine the results and change – or don’t change – training zones accordingly.



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