Training on Perceived Effort

I once rode a bike and then I started riding it faster. My step-brother bought be a heart-rate monitor one year and I went even faster than before. A while later I got myself a power meter and I was still going pretty fast, but because it was a Garmin, I had lots of problems with it and I started to become frustrated with the numbers when they either didn’t upload, or recorded wonkily (data is only meaningful if it is correct, or at least consistent). Now, my power meter is someone else’s problem and my heart-rate monitor collects dust on the shelf my bike inhabits on my wall. Me? I’m just riding my bike, probably not very fast.

But I’m going to be coming up against a conundrum soon because, unlike this season, which had no BHAGs on the calendar, next year I’ll be 50 (how that happened, I have no idea) and I’ll most certainly have an objective of some sort to achieve. This means a structured training plan that will have me riding in all those zones I used to hate so much, but without the help of a HRM or power meter to tell me I’m in them.

What I’m going to try is to do is a full program on Perceived Effort, probably not using the below Borg’s Scale of Ratings of Perceived Exertion (except for the concept), but by remembering what Zone 4 used to feel like, for example, and pedaling into the pain cave in analog instead of digital.


I’m aware of conventional wisdom about power meters (and at least HRMs) and I know that ‘the pros do it’. But I also know that the pros ride 30,000 km a year or more. That is, they put in the work regardless of what they have on their chests or their bikes. I could do more miles. Pros are also impossibly thin and I know I could go faster by losing a few kilograms.

There’s also the little issue of me not being a pro, or even having a history of being an elite athlete. What I want to say here is that even though I’m going to be 50 next year (really, where did that come from? I was 30 just the other day) I have a near infinite range of potential improvement ahead of me in my cycling career – if I want it.

We’ll see how it turns out. At least I’ll have something to write about for the next 12 months.


13 thoughts on “Training on Perceived Effort

  1. Welcome (back?) to the “I’m just riding my bike” party! I’m with you on the PM and HRM side of things. What worked for me, in getting prepared for crossing the Alps (last summer) and Pyrenees (earlier this month), was indoor training with TrainerRoad. That meant several days per week, one hour or maybe 90 mins each with virtual power, and then “just riding my bike” outside during the weekend. I got fitter and didn’t stress over numbers when actually riding.

    • I’m glad to be back, at least while I’m not training. The Training Road is where you got that structure, which I think is essential. I might go back to indoor training in the winter (never did once last winter), so I could be getting onto them, too. Or, just choose one of Rob’s old torture programs and spark up some pro races on the computer for company. Looking forward to it already.

      • For me, the secret sauce was using the trainer all year around, not just in the winter. It’s just what I did during the week. After a couple of weeks off for vacation, I’ll be back on it next Tuesday morning, following to pattern.

        • Karston, I’ve oftened thought of using my trainer on those off days but as you know here in Canada last winter was long. That being said, next year i will certainly of doing thst as i plan a race in Europe and Haute Route tbe year after.

  2. I would be dead in the water if I went by this scale. I’ve been known to feel pain at 50% of perceived effort which sometimes feels like 100%.

  3. No wonder you were racing up those mountains in Haute Route, you’re just a young whippersnapper ( I’m not sure I’ve ever used that word before but definitely the first time I’ve tried to spell it). A near daily ‘commute ‘ whether to work or on a turbo trainer does wonders. I may have to haul mine back out of the cellar. By the way Gerry i did mont Ventoux almost twice a couple weeks back. Technically I’ve done all three main routes now. Met a guy who had just completed the triple on same day. I think you have too.

    • Luc, I guess the obvious question is why didn’t you tell me you were climbing Ventoux!? There’s a good chance we were over there at that time.

      Anyway, I’m glad to know that my audience here is even older than I am. That always helps.

      I had a teammate in HR 2015 who trained for the event basically by commuting. I was sure he was going to blow himself up on the first day, but lo and behold he was one of the strongest on the team. My commute is from my bedroom to living room, so I will need another solution.

      • A friend of mine who used to commute about 10km one way to work now works from home and has noticed a significant decline in his conditioning. We were supposed to go to Loire but found suitable accommodation hard to book as it was late. So found a last minute solution to go to Laroque-Alric. About 10km from Malaucene. If you’re looking for accommodation for your tours I can give you a name. You live in a beautiful part of the world. And the vuelta starts in your city n’est pas?

  4. My new band name – ‘Analogue Pain Cave’.
    I’m not your best source of advice, but I’m with Luc – the daily commute was the thing that kept me strong and ready-to-roll at a moment’s notice. Thanks to the fact that I now have a car, I’m nowhere near as able on the bike…

    • You can’t have it. That’s my band….you’re definitely more ‘digital’ anyway.

      How is the car culture after all these years, btw?

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