September 29, 2017
Is your power meter holding you back? Are you so caught up in your power reading and what you think your power limits are that you may unintentionally hold yourself back in a group ride or race situation when you see numbers that you believe are not possible for you?
Recently, I participated in our local A group ride which is more like a race. I decided not to ride with my power data visible on the screen and what I discovered, is that I was more immersed in the process of racing my bicycle without any focus on perceived limits (what maximum power output I believe I can produce). The surprising outcome was that the ride turned out to be one of my best rides ever and I hit some new record heart rates! Without my live power data visible, I found myself freed from the perceived limits that focusing on power numbers had subconsciously instilled in me.
Now don’t get me wrong, I do love training with power and it’s an incredible tool to evaluate your progress and train in a more precise way. The problem arises when you look to the data to tell you what your limits are and then hold yourself back when you think you are cycling above your ability which may not be the case. The mind is so powerful, and when you expand your belief about your capabilities beyond what you thought possible, a breakthrough performance results.
Looking at the power data does work for some cyclists. I have clients who thrive on looking at the data and it helps them stay focused and on track in a time trial or breakaway. One of my clients, who just finished 2nd in the UCI World Masters time trial championships in Albi, France, is a great example of this. He fixates on the power reading and never lets up on his power target, no matter what. This is someone who can ride 4 hours indoors at 300 watts average and the power curve is an almost straight line. Most people have not developed that kind of mental toughness and focus.
I, on the other hard, am more of a “feel” and instinctual cyclist. During my professional racing career I would oftentimes cover up my power and heart rate readings to ensure I was not distracted from racing.
We are all wired differently and to discover what will work best for you is a process of experimentation. To discover what works for you try cycling without your power or heart rate data visible in your next race or competitive group ride and see if you find yourself more “in the game” and less focused on your perceived limitations. Concentrate on your breathing, staying relaxed, and focus fully on the game of competitive cycling. You may surprise yourself with a breakthrough ride and some record power numbers when you review your data!
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