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Training With Heart Rate

Training with heart rate is a method of measuring and adjusting the intensity of your exercise based on your heart rate and it is one of the most accessible and affordable means of quantifying how hard our body is working.

What can training to heart rate 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.


  • Heart rate: The number of times your heart beats in one minute, bpm.

  • Resting Heart Rate: Your heart rate while you are at complete rest. Best measured in the morning, lying in bed immediately after waking up.

  • Delta Heart Rate: The difference between your resting heart rate and standing heart rate.

  • Recovery Heart Rate: How many beats your heart rate drops in one and two minutes of recovery.

  • Maximum Heart Rate: The highest rate you can attain. Note that higher maximum heart rate does not represent a higher level of fitness, nor does a lower maximum heart rate indicate a low level of fitness.

  • Lactate Threshold Heart Rate: The heart rate value associated with your threshold power or pace. Usually the highest average for a 20 to 30 minute duration.

  • Heart Rate Training Zones: Heart rate values/zones based on maximum heart rate or lactate threshold heart rate test. You cannot accurately use age-based calculation to set your heart rate training zones.

How do you train with heart rate and a heart rate monitor?

Training with a heart rate monitor can be effective and provide a valid means of monitoring and measuring your training intensity and workloads. It is similar to other forms of training, but does require a bit awareness. Your body is full of different sensors and it is reacting to these sensors all the time, and sensors will send commands to increase or decrease heart rate based upon the changes it sense.

Your heart rate is affected by internal and external factors such as fatigue, sleep, hydration, body temperature, air temperature humidity, motivation, caffeine, altitude, stress. Be aware of the internal and external factors, and use the heart rate monitor to work towards targets based on your training zones that you have for that day.

Pros of training to heart rate...

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. It gives us great insight into how the body responds to the workload and the stress that we're putting it under.

Cons of training to heart rate...

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.

Getting Started

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? Consecutive days and weeks of hard training will put plenty of stress on your body - 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 and 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 (flat out 30 minute effort) or the highest number your heart contracts in one minute known as maximum heart rate. Before a test, make sure you are in good health, well rested and not injured...


  • Your heart rate is like your finger print, it is unique to you and to use it properly you need to do an individualized test.

  • Heart rate is reactive, it response to what you have done, not to what you are doing.

  • Heart rate is most effective during long steady efforts. For short high intensity efforts use RPE and or a powermeter.

  • Heart rate training zones are unique to the test used to establish them. You cannot take the zone from one test and use them with training that uses a different test.

  • Heart rate can vary according to internal and external factors such as fatigue, sleep, hydration, body temperature, air temperature humidity, motivation, caffeine, altitude, stress. Recognizing why your heart rate is higher or lower than normal will help you decide if you should press on or if you need to back off and adjust the training for the day or rest.

  • If resting heart rate increases by 10% or more then you may be fatigued, stressed or your immune system has been weakened.

  • A rise in delta heart rate could be as a result of over-training, increased stress, lack of sleep, battling a virus or reaction to new medication.


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 or partner up with a coach to help you get the most out of your cycling.

That is it. Thank you for reading. I hope you found it to be a useful resource.


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