Heart rate and power are two terms that get used often in triathlon training. At World Tour Indoor Cycling studio in Burlington, Ontario, triathletes and cyclists are given personalized programs to ensure they can use their heart rate and power numbers to train as efficiently as possible on the bike. With a virtual ride projected onto the screen before them, cyclists use power meters and heart rate systems during the variety of cycling classes. Whether it’s hill climbing, sprint work or low threshold training, riding with data helps build stronger triathletes.
As an avid cyclist, owner Andrew Thistlethwaite found indoor cycling 15 years ago. At the time, “spinning” classes were most popular but they lacked focus in their training methodology. Without any data tracking, there was no way for riders to create benchmarks in their training. The use of power meters was on the rise in the professional cycling world. The pro cyclists of Team Sky had begun using the Stages crank-based power meter. Thistlethwaite decided to bring those same power meters to an indoor cycling studio and combine power training with heart rate training. This would help athletes of all levels learn how to train efficiently at their personal fitness level. Nearly four years ago, WTIC was born.
When athletes start at WTIC, they perform an FTP test to get their functional heart rate and power numbers. From there, Thistlethwaite helps them develop “training zones” — these give them numbers to work with in each class.
“The FTP test delivers results in the form of wattage and heart rate numbers. It gives us a snapshot of a rider’s fitness level. We use the rider’s data to develop five heart rate training zones and establish comfortable wattage that they can sustain and max wattage they should aim for in sprints. Knowing these numbers, wearing a heart rate monitor and using a power meter, we’re able to train efficiently at every RPM, intensity level and ride duration,” he says. Riding efficiency refers to staying within a heart rate zone and at a wattage that is sustainable for the duration of the ride.
A combination of power and heart rate training, especially during indoor cycling sessions, helps triathletes become stronger riders outdoors. “The information you learn about your riding efficiency can be transferred over on race day,” Thistlethwaite explains. “You can plan your race so that you don’t fatigue too early, because you’ll know what wattage is sustainable and what heart rate zone is comfortable. Monitoring those two numbers is what’s going to get you to T2 or the finish line as efficiently as possible. Average speed is irrelevant out there, as so many factors get in the way.”
In this video, Thistlethwaite leads a class that teaches riding efficiency at different RPMs. Riders were instructed to maintain their wattage through a ride that cycles through three 10 minute blocks of 70 – 75 RPM, 80 – 85 RPM and finally 90 – 95 RPM. In doing so, their heart rate zones projected onto individual screens should have formed a horizontal line develop across the duration of the ride, indicating steady heart rates in a low zone. The goal of the ride was to stay efficient until a final sprint in the last five minutes. Therefore, heart rates and wattage should not have deviated much despite the change in RPM. The final sprint allowed cyclists to hit the big watts they were capable of without much difficulty. Riding efficiently for the majority of the ride meant that they had lots in the tank for an all-out finish.
This type of ride reflects a real triathlon bike course with hilly terrain that demands change in RPM to maintain comfortable wattage.
In these videos below, two WTIC riders talk about how riding with heart rate and power numbers has helped their training. Bill Glennie is a cyclist who can now ride faster and further outdoors since adjusting to this method of training. Stephanie Rayner is a former competitive swimmer who used WTIC’s methods to lose weight and gain back her high level