Wattbike training update – my recalibration phase

I’ve just started week four of my Wattbike training plan. After week one I caught a cold. I did a couple of rides in the second week, whilst I had the cold and then rode week two in the third week, if that makes sense.

Last week saw me complete week three of my plan which included four Wattbike sessions. Then for good measure I rode 100km with a friend on Sunday to finish off the week and I really was finished after that ride.

Today I’ve done my first workout of week four, which was 90 minutes in zone two and I’ve finally clicked about something I was finding incredibly frustrating. No it’s not to do with the tedium of training indoors, which I’ve not found too bad so far, although 90 minutes did seem like a long session today.

The way you train on the Wattbike is that you ride in both power and heart rate zones. So for example, if you’re riding in zone two you have both a power range and a heart rate range to ride in.

I’ve been getting increasingly frustrated that if I ride to the power zone, my heart rate pops over the heart rate zone – by up to 8 bpm, which is quite a lot. If I back off the resistance or the RPM to bring my heart rate down into the correct zone, I drop down a power zone. Frankly it’s been really winding me up! When I ride on the road, it’s always my legs that run out of power before my heart rate goes into the red. On the Wattbike, it seems to be the opposite – my legs feel fine at low intensity but my heart rate is blowing out (relatively speaking).

I finally clicked today on what the problem is. I had some guidance from a couple of people who said my heart rate would come down with more low intensity riding. The fact is, I do very little low intensity riding. Mainly I just crack on at zone 3 to zone 4 pace on every ride. Probably not ideal for my riding but that’s what I do and part of what this Wattbike experiment is designed to flush out. I also live in an area of rolling countryside and I’ve always found it very difficult to climb at low intensity. This is part of the problem – my body is not used to riding at low intensity, so more of it will hopefully help.

However, the problem’s actually more simple than that I think. My heart rate zones are different now. For example, the maximum for zone 2 that I always used before was 142bpm. It’s now 135bpm using the Wattbike method. My zone 1 now tops out at 117bpm and before it was 123bpm (I think). I think this is the big difference and why I’m struggling to recalibrate. I’m asking my body to deliver the watts effectively at a lower heart rate and it hasn’t been a light switch, so I’ve been feeling frustrated with myself.

To ride within the heart rate zone, I’m having to ride at a reduced resistance to maintain a good 90rpm. That’s dropping my power output down a zone. Today I was riding at the top of zone 2 for heart rate at the top of zone 1 for power. It was a 90 minute workout and for the last 20 minutes I managed to do a decent amount of riding in the bottom of zone 2 for power with my heart rate at the top of zone 2. That felt like a win. Progress.

So basically I’m going through a recalibration to increase the power I’m delivering at low intensity for a given heart rate. Part of it is that I don’t do much low intensity riding, so my body’s not used to it and the other part is my heart rate zones are now a chunk lower.

The funny thing about it for me is that you think of indoor training being about intervals and high intensity riding but for me, the low intensity part of my programme has been a real challenge to date.

I am really enjoying having the Wattbike, it’s so easy to just jump on and ride. Once my body gets the hang of the workouts, I hope I’ll be starting to get some performance benefits. I’ll write again in another couple of weeks and update on my progress.

Thanks for reading.