Training With Heart Rate

One of the most accessible and affordable means of quantifying how hard our body is working is to use heart rate.

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What can training to heart rate can tell you?

  1. Your heart rate is the number of times your heart beats per minute as it pumps blood through your system.

  2. The instant heart rate numbers that we see is a direct reflection of the effort our body is currently enduring.

  3. Quantify how hard each training effort or ride is.

  4. See how much time you spent in each zone.

  5. Help in monitoring fatigue levels, you can use your heart rate to gauge your recovery, you will be able to tell if you are fully recovered and ready to go or if there is some lingering fatigue and need a day off to be fully recover for the next training session.

  6. You can use heart rate to detect early signs of illness, you will generally see higher than normal heart rate for a given effort.

  7. You can monitor your progress by track your fitness via an online diary, such TrainingPeaks, GarminConnect, Polar, FitBit, Wahoo, etc.


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How do you train with heart rate?

It is similar to other forms of training. Use it to work towards targets based on your training zones that you have for that day. You will need to know your resting heart rate and a sustainable or maximal test value.

First find your average resting heart rate

This is how fast your heart beats while in a complete state of rest, which is monitored first thing in the morning, while lying horizontally. Do this first thing in the morning for 7 days and average the seven numbers together to determine your resting heart rate.

What resting heart rate tells us? A decrease in resting heart rate usually equates to an increase in fitness. An increase of 10% or more in your normal resting heart rate may indicate that you are fatigued, emotionally stressed or your immune system has been weakened.


Next, test for a sustainable or maximal value

You will to need this value to calculate heart rate training zones; these are based on a percentage of your sustainable heart rate also known as your lactate threshold heart rate or the highest number your heart contracts in one minute known as maximum heart rate.

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Before a test, make sure you are in good health, well rested and not injured.

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Lactate Threshold Heart Rate Test


What you need: Heart rate monitor/downloadable cycling computer to record the data and bicycle.

Test environment: An indoor trainer with optimal cooling or on a flat, uninterrupted stretch of road with little traffic and no stop streets, traffic lights or intersections.

Step 1. Warm up well, 15 to 20 minutes

Step 2. Ride flat out for 30 minutes. Go hard for the entire 30 minutes!

Step 3. Cool down, easy riding for 10 minutes

The last 20 minute heart rate average of the flat out 30 minute effort is your lactate threshold heart rate and you can calculate your training zones based on this number.


Zone 1 = less than 68% of LTHR

Zone 2 = 69% to 83% of LTHR

Zone 3 = 84% to 94% of LTHR

Zone 4 = 94% to 105% of LTHR

Zone 5 = above 106% of LTHR



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Maximum Heart Rate Test

What you need: Heart rate monitor/downloadable cycling computer to record the data and bicycle.

Test environment: An indoor trainer with optimal cooling or a long and uninterrupted steady hill that has wide shoulder.

Step 1. Warm up well, 15 to 20 minutes.

Step 2. This is a continuous effort of 6min30sec. Remaining seated, start off at race pace effort for 5 minutes, immediately followed by a 1 minute maximum effort and then an out of the saddle 30 second maximum sprint.

Step 3. Cool down, easy riding for 10 minutes.

The highest heart rate value achieve is your maximum heart rate or MHR.


Zone 1 = 50% to 60% of MHR

Zone 2 = 60 % to 70% of MHR

Zone 3 = 70% to 80% of MHR

Zone 4 = 80% to 90% of MHR

Zone 5 = 90% to 100% of MHR


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Let’s talk about the zones.

Zone 1

This is active recovery zone which is below 68% of your lactate threshold heart rate or 50% to 60% of your maximum heart rate.

Duration: 45 to 90 minutes

Perceived exertion: Very easy

Benefits: Training at this intensity will boost your recovery.

Zone 2

This is endurance training zone which is between 69 to 83% of your lactate threshold heart rate or 60% to 70% of your maximum heart rate.

Duration: 1 to 6 hours

Perceived exertion: Easy to moderate

Benefits: Basic cardiovascular training, training at this is the intensity improves aerobic capacity; in other words, stamina. Your body will get better at burning fat and your muscular fitness will increase along with your capillary density.

No matter what level of fatigue you have in your body you're still likely to be able to get your heart rate into zone 2.

Zone 3

This is tempo which is between 84 to 94 percent of your lactate threshold heart rate or 70% to 80% of your maximum heart rate.

Duration: 1 to 4 hours

Perceived exertion: Moderately hard

Benefits: Training in this zone will make moderate efforts easier and improve your efficiency.

Zone 4

This is threshold which is between 95 to 105% of your lactate threshold heart rate or 80% to 90% of your maximum heart rate.

Duration: 10 to 40 minutes

Perceived exertion: Hard

Benefit: Your body will get better at using carbohydrates for energy and you’ll be able to withstand higher levels of lactic acid in your blood for longer.

Zone 5

This is Vo2max training which is above 106 % of a lactate threshold heart rate or 90% to 100% of your maximum heart rate.

Duration: 3 to 8 minutes

Perceived exertion: Very hard

Benefits: Training in this zone will increase your anaerobic and muscular endurance, power and cardiovascular levels.


Training zones offer a quantifiable method of guiding workouts and determining intensity, so it is important to retest yourself to ensure that the zones are accurate.


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Pros and Cons of training to heart rate

Pros

It is very affordable.

It is possible to pair a heart rate strap to your mobile phone.

Heart rate is also relatively easy to understand and to use when compared to other means of training.

Cons

Heart rate lags, meaning when you suddenly increase the intensity, it takes some time for heart rate to climb to the target level.

It drifts upwards; this is a natural increase in heart rate despite little or no change in pace/speed.

Training to heart rate is still effective and provides a valid means of monitoring and measuring the intensity and workloads, it gives us great insight into how the body responds to the workload and the stress that we're putting it under.

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Need to know

Internal and external factors such as fatigue, sleep, hydration, body temperature, air temperature humidity, motivation, caffeine, altitude, stress can affect heart rate, but this doesn't mean you can't train; all you have to do is adjust the training for the day.

So now you have some background information to training with heart rate. If you haven't already done so you should consider creating a training plan to help you get the most out of your cycling.

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If you need some guidance, need assistance to prepare for an event, want to commit to weeks or months of training or have any questions then the easiest way to get in touch is by using the contact form or this email address: rideandraceinfo@gmail.com

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