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How much do you train "by feel?"
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Some super basic questions, here:

How much attention do you devote to training by feel?

Is it something you do alongside your training devices?

Is it something you do despite your training devices?

Do you think it's a useful skill? Do you wish you were better at it? Do you think it's not pertinent at all in the age of devices?

Thank you!
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Re: How much do you train "by feel?" [Baggage] [ In reply to ]
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Structured days will always be laid out by power/hr on bike and pace/hr on run.
Easy days (bike/run), I’m chasing an easy ‘feeling’ but respect a hr cap to take what my body is actually giving that training day.

I RACE off of feel primarily, and only use hr as a governor in longer stuff to stay patient and give me a more honest accounting of how my body is doing/ what I can get out of it on the race day.
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Re: How much do you train "by feel?" [Baggage] [ In reply to ]
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I basically stopped using my gadgets this year once I realized racing was probably a no-go.

Training by feel has been very nice! I still wear my watch or have zwift tracking my watts, but I don’t really look at those things while I’m working out. I’ve found that my internal pacing mechanisms are pretty solid at hitting the mark.

One thing that used to bother me was having a bad training day. I’d be miserable if I was supposed to hit 5x1km at 10k pace, or whatever and had a bad day. Being too attached to gizmos and gadgets caused that irritation and I don’t really get that when I train by feel.

I’m sure I will go back to specific metrics at some point, but I think training by feel has allowed me to get more in tune with my internal pacing mechanisms. Now is as good a time as any to practice it with most of us in limbo about racing.
Last edited by: Parkland: Nov 29, 20 8:09
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Re: How much do you train "by feel?" [MadTownTRI] [ In reply to ]
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Thanks, MadTownTRI! The answers are appreciated.
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Re: How much do you train "by feel?" [Parkland] [ In reply to ]
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Thanks, Parkland! I agree with you about the in-racing limbo and using this time as a way to focus on feel. I'm surprised that there is so little attention paid to it out in Internet-land.

What internal measures do you use when going by feel? Scale of 1-10? Something subject like "easy-moderate-hard-very hard?" Something else?
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Re: How much do you train "by feel?" [Baggage] [ In reply to ]
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Baggage wrote:
Thanks, Parkland! I agree with you about the in-racing limbo and using this time as a way to focus on feel. I'm surprised that there is so little attention paid to it out in Internet-land.

What internal measures do you use when going by feel? Scale of 1-10? Something subject like "easy-moderate-hard-very hard?" Something else?

Usually my breathing will be my first sign if I start pushing too hard on easy days. If I can’t keep a good, steady rhythm I know I’m pushing a bit too hard.

For harder efforts, I try to pay attention to breathing and the burn in my legs. Right now, I’m trying to hit mostly 5k or 10k pace on my intervals, so that’s easier to distinguish. I could see trying to hit marathon or half marathon pace by feel being a bit trickier.
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Re: How much do you train "by feel?" [Baggage] [ In reply to ]
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Generally I have two things when it comes to training by feel. If I go into a workout and it starts to feel bad, and I don't mean hard, I mean bad I bang it and just stop the workout. A bad quality workout isn't good. Often times the two disciplines I think this has affected me the most is Running and S&C. I definitely think it's easier to overcome the bad feeling one a bike or swim session due to the low impact/zero impact nature of those two disciplines.

Now, we go into the "feelings" during a workout. Rate of Perceived Exertion. This is when workouts feel hard or easy etc. I need to get back to this. I think this is where you can judge some of the quality, if the session is supposed to be really tough but only comes out to a 6 or 7 then you know you had a great workout. You shouldn't ever plan to do an RPE10 endurance workout to be honest, but that's when you know the workout was really really tough that day.

That's probably clear as mud.

Hooker training for the Sport of Scrum-Halves [Triathlon]
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Re: How much do you train "by feel?" [Baggage] [ In reply to ]
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I plan bike because bike is my weakness. Swims are always whatever I feel like doing. I only plan on the day to swim. Usually that means 50s or 100s hard practicing form. Maybe that means a 500 with pull buoy and snorkel. Runs are also always by feel and usually end up zone 1 or 2 HR. For some reason running is my strength so I don't push much intensity. If my body feels like pushing up a hill or doing some intervals then I go with it. Otherwise, low zone HR it is.

http://www.sfuelsgolonger.com
http://www.blueseventy.com
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Re: How much do you train "by feel?" [Baggage] [ In reply to ]
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Answers to the questions for me as an athlete.
  1. I train mostly by feel.
  2. Yes.
  3. Yes.
  4. It is pertinent because joy is important in training and aint nobody going to suffer if their "why" doesn't outweigh the pain inflicted by their devices/metrics/plans.

Primary rationale for above answers: I do this for fun, and have no serious interest in improving. I just like riding my bike and running for the fun and health of it.

Answers to the questions for the more analytical athletes I coach:
  1. Probably 25% of attention.
  2. Yes.
  3. Yes.
  4. Yes.

Answers to the questions for the less data driven athletes I coach:
  1. Probably 75% of attention. If I were a better coach, I'd be able to write workouts 100% of the time that were based entirely on feelings/sensations to still elicit the power outputs desired. Athletes are more joyful, intense, and motivated, when I do.
  2. Yes.
  3. Yes.
  4. Yes. Extremely pertinent unless you're a data junkie who is deeply motivated by numbers.
Exactly zero of these athletes who are less analytical would have a slowtwitch account. If you're on slowtwitch, you're at least in part, nerdy and interested in data. I suspect that your answers are going to be skewed in the direction of data-based training for this reason. Two of my athletes have a slowtwitch account. They are my two most data-driven folks. Hands down. For the athletes who are below-average data-driven, I'm quite certain that the idea of having a slowtwitch account would be utterly repulsive. My wife is one of them. Nothing against the forum. Just forums, where debate is common, in general!

Dr. Alex Harrison, USAT-1, USATF-3, CSCS ----- PhD in Sport Physiology, Author, Product Designer, Coach, Consultant
https://linktr.ee/DrAlexHarrison ----> Endurance Fueling Book, Macro Calculator, Customizable Lifting, & My Recent Article(s)
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Re: How much do you train "by feel?" [Baggage] [ In reply to ]
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Funny answers from my wife who would never be on this forum. (All-American AG'er & Cat 1 roadie)
  1. Less than I should. I would like to train by feel 100% of the time. I hate my power meter.
  2. Yes.
  3. Yes.
  4. Yes. Yes. I hate all devices and wish that I didn't have them but my coach needs the data so I do it. I don't really pay attention to my heart rate or power but when I do, I find them irritating and intrusive to my enjoyment. My awareness of them often results in poorer performance than if I trust my "feel."


Dr. Alex Harrison, USAT-1, USATF-3, CSCS ----- PhD in Sport Physiology, Author, Product Designer, Coach, Consultant
https://linktr.ee/DrAlexHarrison ----> Endurance Fueling Book, Macro Calculator, Customizable Lifting, & My Recent Article(s)
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Re: How much do you train "by feel?" [Baggage] [ In reply to ]
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All workout in all sports are done by feel except for one workout per sport every 1-2 weeks to correlate perceived exertion with data. When I come to my measured workout, I can pretty well tell from blind guessing exactly what the pace is. Certainly in the pool where there is no variation in conditions, but same on the run on the track.

Today I ran with a friend who had his GPS on. I did not have mine on, my watch was just counting steps. In any case from time to time I told him what our pace was and he checked his watch and I was right within seconds, be it uphill, downhill, flats, tailwind, headwind. I told him 4km from the finish what our final average pace was going to be and I was within 1 second of the average pace prediction for the entire run.

Many years ago, we would "tell time" with no watches. Just knowing what time we left and where we were on a known course and guess what the time of day was based on perceived exertion to that point. This was all part of pacing a perfect marathon. You don't need a watch, you just arrive at a given split (say 15km, 18km, 27km) and you already know what the split is based on perceived exertion and conditions.

My best Ironmans, half Ironmans, marathons and 10km runs were done blind. No watches, no bike computer, just mile markers on the course and perceived exertion. In my PB marathon first half was 1:23 second half 1:25 and the only reason second half was slower is it went from 23C to 33C. Last year I did a 12km marathon swim and split 1:46+1:47 (final time 3:33) for the two halves. I swam with no watch and just went at a pace I could sustain for 3+ hrs.

These days I compete in masters swimming and I pretty well know my 200IM, 400IM, 100fly, 200fly, 800 free, 1500free finish times before the times go up on the board.

I think if you spent enough time as a track athlete or swimmer, you know what times you get at what perceived exertion. Biking you should be able to get to the same thing with power within 5watts or so.
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Re: How much do you train "by feel?" [DrAlexHarrison] [ In reply to ]
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DrAlexHarrison wrote:
Funny answers from my wife who would never be on this forum. (All-American AG'er & Cat 1 roadie)
  1. Less than I should. I would like to train by feel 100% of the time. I hate my power meter.
  2. Yes.
  3. Yes.
  4. Yes. Yes. I hate all devices and wish that I didn't have them but my coach needs the data so I do it. I don't really pay attention to my heart rate or power but when I do, I find them irritating and intrusive to my enjoyment. My awareness of them often results in poorer performance than if I trust my "feel."


I do wonder if being a Cat 1 roadie has to do with that, not sure if she's a triathlete. Roadies need to make the break or hang on for dear life with tons of surges, regardless of what your power readings - you definitely aren't racing or group riding by power targets as roadie (but you can look at the data after).
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Re: How much do you train "by feel?" [lightheir] [ In reply to ]
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lightheir wrote:
DrAlexHarrison wrote:
Funny answers from my wife who would never be on this forum. (All-American AG'er & Cat 1 roadie)
  1. Less than I should. I would like to train by feel 100% of the time. I hate my power meter.
  2. Yes.
  3. Yes.
  4. Yes. Yes. I hate all devices and wish that I didn't have them but my coach needs the data so I do it. I don't really pay attention to my heart rate or power but when I do, I find them irritating and intrusive to my enjoyment. My awareness of them often results in poorer performance than if I trust my "feel."



I do wonder if being a Cat 1 roadie has to do with that, not sure if she's a triathlete. Roadies need to make the break or hang on for dear life with tons of surges, regardless of what your power readings - you definitely aren't racing or group riding by power targets as roadie (but you can look at the data after).

"All-American AG'er" was my shorthand for All-American Age Grouper Triathlete (sprints and standard distance). Sorry for the confusion there. She was a triathlete before becoming a cyclist, and now competes in both.

Dr. Alex Harrison, USAT-1, USATF-3, CSCS ----- PhD in Sport Physiology, Author, Product Designer, Coach, Consultant
https://linktr.ee/DrAlexHarrison ----> Endurance Fueling Book, Macro Calculator, Customizable Lifting, & My Recent Article(s)
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Re: How much do you train "by feel?" [lightheir] [ In reply to ]
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ps. Completely agree with what you're saying about power and road racing / group riding.

Dr. Alex Harrison, USAT-1, USATF-3, CSCS ----- PhD in Sport Physiology, Author, Product Designer, Coach, Consultant
https://linktr.ee/DrAlexHarrison ----> Endurance Fueling Book, Macro Calculator, Customizable Lifting, & My Recent Article(s)
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Re: How much do you train "by feel?" [Baggage] [ In reply to ]
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I use a power meter for 100% of my training, so in that sense I don't train by feel at all.

However, what I do with said power meter each day is 100% dictated by "feel", so my overall "plan" as such is determined by whether or not I feel up to doing a workout or even riding at all.

At the end of the day, absolutely nothing can predict the day to day variance in sleep, energy, fatigue, stress, family commitments, work commitments, etc. As such, I full endorse a training plan that revolves around those things rather than those things trying to revolve around an unrealistic training plan.
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Re: How much do you train "by feel?" [lightheir] [ In reply to ]
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lightheir wrote:



I do wonder if being a Cat 1 roadie has to do with that, not sure if she's a triathlete. Roadies need to make the break or hang on for dear life with tons of surges, regardless of what your power readings - you definitely aren't racing or group riding by power targets as roadie (but you can look at the data after).

True that.
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Re: How much do you train "by feel?" [Baggage] [ In reply to ]
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I train by feel 100% of the time. I don't own a power meter or HRM. My only gadget is a gps watch, for tracking after the fact. At 60, I'll never be as fast or as strong as I once was, so it's all about slowing the decline, and just being happy to keep moving forward.

Athlinks / Strava
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Re: How much do you train "by feel?" [Baggage] [ In reply to ]
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Baggage wrote:
Some super basic questions, here:

How much attention do you devote to training by feel?

Is it something you do alongside your training devices?

Is it something you do despite your training devices?

Do you think it's a useful skill? Do you wish you were better at it? Do you think it's not pertinent at all in the age of devices?

Thank you!


Almost all of it (if we are talking effort, not technique).
Yes, but my training devices just provide data, not data governing my training. Threshold effort by feel => Threshold W for that day.

Yes, see above.

Absolutely. Best to prevent burnout, have a positive mindset and to not let injuries creep up on you. IMO: Key to longevity in the sport.

Only downside: You may not eek out every ounce of performance you are able to give. So what? It's a hobby.

This, society goes to shit.
Last edited by: windschatten: Nov 29, 20 18:30
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Re: How much do you train "by feel?" [Baggage] [ In reply to ]
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By feel since 1986. I have never owned a Powermeter and still go with basic dumb trainers. I have one Garmin watch for swimming,running,hiking,etc and two Garmins on my bike for touring,bikepacking events,training,races,etc.
I am 57 and am not about to change now.
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Re: How much do you train "by feel?" [TheStroBro] [ In reply to ]
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Thanks TheStroBro. What did you do to get to that level of expertise/understanding from your body? Did you make any mistakes that you wish you had sidestepped in the process? Did this expertise come alongside normal training devices, or without?

Thanks for the info!
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Re: How much do you train "by feel?" [DrAlexHarrison] [ In reply to ]
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DrAlexHarrison thanks for the super-thoughtful and thorough answer. Great point about Slowtwitch users skewing the data towards the analytical side.
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Re: How much do you train "by feel?" [devashish_paul] [ In reply to ]
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Paul, same question I posed to TheStroBro: how did you arrive at this level of RPE expertise? What did it take to get there? If you could have gotten there sooner, would you have?
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Re: How much do you train "by feel?" [Baggage] [ In reply to ]
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Baggage wrote:
Thanks TheStroBro. What did you do to get to that level of expertise/understanding from your body? Did you make any mistakes that you wish you had sidestepped in the process? Did this expertise come alongside normal training devices, or without?

Thanks for the info!

Honestly I don't know. I learned this more from Heavy Weight strength sessions than any triathlon specific training sessions. Trust me when you're supposed to be repping 300lbs and it's not going well, you know. Also, when I was in the Army I definitely trained sick all the time, most Soldiers do, it's not a good thing at all as it prolongs being sick.

So really trial and error, but there is a fine line between the workout being an RPE 10 workout and what is a bad workout that you should just stop.

Hooker training for the Sport of Scrum-Halves [Triathlon]
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Re: How much do you train "by feel?" [Baggage] [ In reply to ]
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Baggage wrote:
Paul, same question I posed to TheStroBro: how did you arrive at this level of RPE expertise? What did it take to get there? If you could have gotten there sooner, would you have?


It is an interesting question, but I think the root of it was a bunch of years of track intervals doing 400's, 800's and 1600's and knowing my pace to the second per lap. Because on the track, you don't see a continous number versus pace, and only see it twice per lap (or we could say 4 times per lap every 100m), you end up fine tuning pace to pereived exertion to different points in a workout.

25 years later when I started doing masters swim racing, my coaches were suprised by how well I managed my splits in say a 1500m or 800m swim race, but that just came from fine tuning that at the track. On the bike the way to do this is actually put your speedometer and power meter away and do short TT intervals on a repeatable circuit and look at your split times....its a bit impefect, but if you have a power meter and you can cover it up and see what power you rode on each interval and try to get it as steady as possible without looking at the numbers (but look at the numbers post workout), it actually does not take that long to get there, because after a while without seeing numbers, your brain and body get tuned to what you can sustain. If we could not do this our species would be roughly extinct, because we would never be able to self calculate the maximum sustainable speed for a given amount of energy stores. Amazingly humans are very very good at this and self select a pretty good pace, but you have to train that.

The other one is mapping out a 5km run course and pick random landmarks and (could be a house on the road, a tree, a traffic sign) and try to guess the time that you arrive at each, but don't look at your watch in between. If you do it enough, that same brown house, you will arrive at within seconds of "last outing at the same effort". You'll get good at it, but you have to tune your internal guage.

I also have a 1km interval section on a local road where I know my exact split numbers at four intermediate points (and they are not evenly split apart) at different perceived exertions between 10K race pace, 5km race pace, ironman pace, warmup pace. Eventually you get all that dialed in, but you have to come up with some fixed landmarks and use a basic watch.
Last edited by: devashish_paul: Nov 30, 20 17:34
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Re: How much do you train "by feel?" [Baggage] [ In reply to ]
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I work in a world of constant data and numbers. Tri is my escape from that, so, for me, it's all by feel. I train hard, but use training as my reset/prayer/personal time.
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