Heart meter or power meter. Which one should you choose for measuring your training sessions?

jim cissel September 05, 2023

Heart meter or power meter. Which one should you choose for measuring your training sessions?

When it comes to cycling, monitoring your power and training can have many benefits for triathletes. You need to better optimize the effort and time you spend on your training sessions. But which one of the two: Heart meter or Power meter should you prioritize in your training?

We’ll discuss both in detail, how they work, and which one is the best fit for you.


Understanding what heart meter actually measures:

A heart meter checks how fast your heart beats in a minute.
It's not hard to use and can tell you a lot about your body when you exercise.


Here’s the good thing about heart monitors:

  1. Shows you the whole picture:  It shows how hard you're trying overall, including things like being tired or hot. This is useful for long races where you need to pace yourself.
  2. Biofeedback help:  Heart meter data helps you know when to go faster or slower. It stops you from training too much and getting hurt or not working as hard as you planned.
  3. Measure all the factors involved:  Heart rate can change because of stress, sleep, weather, and food. It tells you if your body is ready for tough training.


Here are some Not so Good things about heart meters:

  1. Slow to Change: Heart rate takes time to show changes when you exercise harder. So, it might not be great for short, really tough moments
  2. It’s not always the same: Things like not drinking enough water, performance anxiety, hormone releases, or having too much coffee can mess up heart meter readings. It might not give you the accurate data you need to make critical decisions during your training



Understanding and learning to train with a power meter

Cyclists and triathletes must know how powerful they are during the training.

A power meter measures your actual output in watts, giving you a direct indication of the work you're doing on the bike

Think of it as a device that only looks at how much power you're using. It's like seeing how hard you're pushing the pedals and how fast the pedal is rotating.

Power meters give you more accurate, important hidden data that you need to refine your pacing and see how much power you are actually applying to the bike.


Pros to using a power meter:

  1. Right data at the right time: Power meters quickly tell you how hard you're working. This helps you train just right for your power level.
  2. No other factors involved: Data isn't affected by other factors like sleep, fatigue, or your anxiety level. This means you can measure your progress more accurately.
    For example: A 50-year-old with performance anxiety and 2 cups of Coffee before a race might have a higher heart meter reading while having the same power reading.
  3. Great for Intervals: If you do short, hard bursts of speed, power meters help you stay on target.


But it also comes with some downsides:

  1. Costs much more: Power meters can be expensive but If you want to level up your training, investing in a good power meter is not a bad option at all. Power meters aren’t just for the pros or racers anymore.
  2. Need to Learn: If you’re looking to get one, then you’ll probably have to learn to train with a power meter. Just having a power meter won’t do you any good if you don’t how to read and use the information and how to use this information improves your training efficiency



I’ve been a triathlete for the last 10 years and in my experience, as you attempt to improve as a triathlete, power becomes a better and important parameter to measure than heart rate. On a long cycle, looking down at my power is more inspiring than a heart rate. Looking down and seeing that I’m not pushing out my target watts forces me to work a bit harder.


How to choose:

Picking a heart meter or a power meter depends on what you want to achieve, how you train, and how much you want to spend.


Here are some suggestions:

  1. For Long Racers: If you're getting ready for a long race and want to keep your energy steady, heart meter is helpful.
  2. Getting Better Performance: For serious improvement and tough training, a power meter can help you improve your workouts. You'll be better able to analyze our peak performance and track fitness changes more accurately and reliably.
  3. Money matters: If you're tight on money, a heart meter is a budget-friendly way to track your training.


Whether you choose a heart meter or power meter, remember to match your choice with your goals.

No matter what, understanding your tools helps you become a better triathlete.

You also need to learn how to apply these insights and data to your training to gain big and better performance benefits in road races, time trials, and triathlons


The goal is to get better every single day. Keep pushing and reaching for your best!


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