Should you buy a Wattmeter?
The other day I was asked:
Q: I train around 5000 miles per year and is seeking to improve my performance. I use a pulse reader and are considering buying a Wattmeter, but I have a limited budget and they are expensive. Should I buy a Wattmeter such as the SRM and will it help me to improve faster?
My answer: Yes, it can help you to improve faster. Still this does not mean that you should buy one!
Think of your training as a stool with three legs, Power, Heart Rate and Your Perception of Exertion. Each leg is important.
- The Heart Rate tells how you respond to the training intensity
- The Power Measurement show the Intensity in Watts
- Your Perception of Effort - when you learn how to use it - lets you know both these things at once! It is your own measurement of the reaction in your body and soul to the stresses from training
I would argue that when you learn to listen to your body, you have the key "Measurement Tool" you can get!
This skill is achieved by having attention to signals that your breathing, body burning, feeling of wellbeing - mental status, ranging from "I am super strong!" to "I want to go home and rest my legs!".
It takes a long time to develop the ability to accurately perceive these signals and translate them into specific modification of training as you give yourself the optimum workout. But it is the most important element of all training tools.
You already have a Pulse Reader, continue using it to help you understand your perception of effort. Your heart rate can be misleading, since it is affected by many factors, including dehydration, temperature, fatigue, glycogen levels and mental state. Therefore, heart rate is not a number, which can be relied on when you compare your training days.
Wattmeters are excellent training devices because they give you an objective measure of your efforts. They are good to use in repeated sessions with exact effort, and to test your progress.
They can also allow you to analyze your workouts. Software from different manufacturers allows you to review your workouts in detail. That is a good thing.