Triathlon Trainiask Podcast Logo

How to use heart rate instead of a power meter – Trainiask 037

On today’s Trainiask podcast, Tristan from Munich asks, for those who don’t have a power meter, how can they use rate of perceived exertion (RPE) and heart rate zone together in training.  Taren explains how and why you can use your heart rate/RPE for many years before you need to get into a power meter.



Triathlon Taren: What’s up triathlon trainiacs? Triathlon Taren here with another edition of the Trainiacs Podcast, where I answer your triathlon questions five days a week. Today’s question comes from a very generous Tristan.

Tristan: Hi Triathlon Taren, Tristan from Munich here. I sent you a message recently about for those who don’t have power meter, is using RP and heart rate zone together in training. My question now is basically to do with Amazon and affiliation with you. I hear on one of your podcasts about using it when buying some things. I was wondering whether you have a similar thing for Amazon.UK or Amazon Deutsch because I’d like to be able to give you as a bit of affiliation with when I do buy stuff. Thanks. Cheers.

Triathlon Taren: Hey, Tristan. Yes. Thank you very, very much for your question, and even more for being willing to go out of your way to support me through Amazon affiliate links. I do have a Amazon affiliate account with, I think, the UK and Germany, I believe. But, the quick answer to it is I set it up and I think you’ve got something like 90 or 100 days to recognize affiliate commissions or they disable your account. I’ve tried it twice. And unfortunately, there aren’t as many trainiacs out there who are as willing as you to support that or I just don’t have enough traffic from the UK or Deutschland because within that period of time, nobody ended up buying anything. But to be perfectly honest with you, you know what, taking part in things like this, like the trainiac’s broadcast and watching the videos, that’s all that I really ask of anyone. Don’t feel like you have to go out of your way. You’ve taken a few seconds here to submit a question and thank you for that. Just taking part in the community is enough. Don’t feel any differently. So thank you very much for your question.
Let’s get to it. For those of you who don’t have a power meter, I would start with, 1: Going and listening to the podcast that I did with Daryl Hurrie on the triathlon Taren podcast. He explains really well how you can use heart rate for quite a number of years before you even get into a power meter. And I think this serves a huge amount of benefit to learning your body. And like you say, when you start pairing heart rate with rate of perceived exertion and doing a lot of your training around that, you get to know what race pace feels like, what hard feels like, what really hard feels like, what too much feels like. You start listening to your body as opposed to just looking at a number and saying, “Well, I’ve gotta hit that power number,” and being a slave to it. You’ve gotta self manage and it develops a lot of, I think, toughness and awareness. Because when you start pushing yourself really hard, you can recognize when really hard is still sustainable but just feels really hard, or when you need to back off on, say, an easy training day.

Myself, I’ve been in the sport now, I think I’m going into my ninth season or eighth season thereabouts. It wasn’t until after, I think, seven seasons that I had a power meter. And I did almost all of my training off of rate of perceived exertion and heart rate. So the way that you can do it is very similar to how I recommend you do a FTP test and you actually work off of watts and an FTP number, and you get your race pace that way. But if you substitute an FTP test with a max heart rate test, and then develop your zones based off of that, you can still use zone based training. And the only down side to it is that occasionally, when you feel sick, your heart rate is gonna be one of two things. It’s gonna be through the roof and you’re gonna be shooting your heart rate up into zone five or six, even before you really warm up, or you’re not gonna be able to push your heart rate up because it doesn’t want to rise. It wants to stay low and steady. And you’ve gotta feel your body. And that kind of develops that body awareness of: Are you sick? Are you over trained?
But, you can still use zone based training and pair that with perceived exertion very very well. Daryl Hurrie explains it quite a bit better than I can in that triathlon Taren podcast. His name is spelled D-A-R-Y-L H-U-R-R-I-E. And he’s the sports scientist that I work with locally who’s trained a number of Olympians. And he explains why and how you should be using heart rate as opposed to power meters in your first few years. So, yeah, definitely, definitely go with that. Start with it. And I think that it has a lot of benefits that people who start just training with power meters right away, they don’t get. If you can develop body awareness, if you can develop being in tune with your heart rate, being in tune with pacing, being in tune with perceived exertion, you have an ability to get into a race and know if you’re able to push it or not. And this is really beneficial, because often after a taper, you’re able to push insane watts that you weren’t able to push in training.
And because you’re just used to looking at a certain number in training, you’re not gonna push yourself very hard. But if you get into that race and you see that you’re able to push more watts, and it feels easier because you’ve gone through a taper, all of a sudden, you have that awareness to push or hold back based on what your body is telling you and what you’re actually going through, not just what this number on a screen says. So, give it a shot there Tristan. Thank you for your question. Thank you very much for being willing to support through affiliate links. If you do really want to try to support through affiliate links, I think if you go to, it might root you through to your geographic affiliate link with all the products that I’ve put in there that I use day to day.
So, thank you all very much for doing that, not just Tristan but anyone else who does click through the affiliate links. It’s very much appreciated. If any of you wanna get your question answered here on the Trainiac’s podcast, go to, ask your question here. Feel free to give anyone a shout out. I wanna hear about the training partners and people around you that support your triathlon journey locally. So give ’em all a shout out. While you’re there, odds are really good that you will like what we’ve got. If you’d click up at the top at free resources, you can download all kinds of free training guides that we’ve got for swimming, cycling, running, strength training, nutrition, all that stuff. We try to give you a new download, that you can access just by entering your email, at least once a month. So, check that out. And if you are liking this podcast, please head over to iTunes, give us a review there. It helps future and aspiring trainiacs find us. Thanks for listening. Catch you in the next episode.