How to use a power meter for recovery rides

How to use a power meter for recovery rides

We tend to think of using power meters to pace our high intensity training sessions like ensuring we hit our peak power during sprints, or pacing our 3-minute VO2Max efforts equally, but power meters can also be used to execute productive and effective recovery rides too. 

Many riders are guilty of performing their recovery rides too intensively and immediately forgetting the goal or purpose of such sessions, which is to rejuvenate and circulate blood around the body. 

So here are 5 simple ways that a power meter can help when it’s time for some recovery.  

KEEP IN ZONE 1

Perhaps the key to achieving the goal of your recovery rides is not to stray into higher intensity training zones and a power meter is the best tool for monitoring and mediating this intensity. It will tell you second by second which zone you’re riding in and can be set to alert you when you stray away from it. 

The power meter can also help post-ride too, where you can look at zone distribution graphs using Strava, TrainingPeaks and other apps/software to evaluate how well you did at staying at the correct intensity. You can then adjust your riding in your next recovery session if improvement is needed.

RIDE BASED ON KJ EXPENDITURE

Another way to establish a goal for a recovery ride is to set a workload for the session, which is measured in KJ or kilojoules. You might decide before the session that you will ride until 600KJ of work has been done. 

This number will be informed by your current state of fitness and the workload you have planned for the rest of the week or have already completed. With a power meter directly measuring kilojoule expenditure as compared to an estimate by a heart rate monitor, you can very accurately quantify how much or how little work you have done to recover. You can then monitor your body’s reaction to this and iterate the kilojoule goal for upcoming recovery rides if necessary.

MONITOR REAL-TIME TSS

In a similar way to using KJ as above, you can also use a power meter to measure real-time TSS or Training Stress Score to quantify the stress or lack of on your body as you ride. This is incredibly helpful to make sure you’re not over doing it when performing these kinds of rides. 

TSS is calculated using your current FTP or Functional Threshold Power, and assigns a value based on what percentage the average power of the ride was compared to your FTP number. Therefore, it’s important that this is set correctly and is regularly tested in order for you to do so. 

Plotting the TSS of all your rides, even recovery rides, helps to create a fuller picture of your fitness and form over time and can be used to plan a peak performance for a certain date.

KEEP CADENCE HIGH

Many power meters on the market have built in cadence sensors that can give you second by second metrics of RPM much like your power meter shows you watts. This data can be used to ensure that you are allowing your muscles to rest sufficiently to achieve the goal of the recovery ride. 

For instance, training with a low cadence or “grinding” the gears puts a greater load on the muscles and less on the heart. This is counter to what we want on a recovery ride, even though at low speeds, the temptation can be to pedal slowly out of the saddle. Instead, we want to use the power meter to keep us at a higher cadence of around 90 RPM, to use the heart muscle more than the legs. As it is the repair of our muscles that we’re trying to speed up, everything we can do to allow them to rest is going to be the best approach.

WORK ON LEFT/RIGHT BALANCE

We can also use a power meter to work on other things as we recover and make our recovery rides productive in a different way. One such thing is to work on our left/right balance and/or pedal stroke.

This is made easier by using a power meter like the Garmin Vector, which can show left/right balance, but we can also do some one-legged drills using other power meters and compare the power outputs of each one at a controlled intensity. 

Furthermore, if we’re using an indoor trainer like a WattBike, we can use the monitor to feedback to us about the shape and efficiency of our pedal stroke, using the visual model to create the sausage shape rather than the peanut shape.

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Do you use a power meter for you recovery rides or is it a time when you leave it at home?
Please give your two cents in the comments below!

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