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Training with Heart Rate

In the Zone…….

Using your heart rate to fine-tune your training efforts can help you reap big fitness rewards.

When starting cycling or any other sport, motivation is high while fitness is low. It’s a combination that means large gains can be made in a relatively short period, which helps with the philosophy that hard work pays dividends. Unfortunately the ‘go hard or go home’ approach might sound productive, but increasing your effort doesn’t automatically translate to increased improvement. The fitter you get, the smaller the margins for improvement become, so measuring and understanding your effort is crucial.

Many of you would have heard terminology along the lines of ‘3 hour ride in Zone 2’ but do you really understand what this means? The prescribed zones are there to help athletes understand the effort required for the session and they define the target effort allowing you to assess that effort through monitoring.

How to calculate my zones?

To work out your training zones you need to know your current Functional Threshold Heart Rate (FTHR) which is basically the highest Heart Rate (HR) that you can hold whilst cycling for 1 hour. A note to mention here is that your cycling threshold will generally be lower than your running threshold due to the fact that in running you are using more of your full body rather than mainly your legs in cycling.

Now riding for 1 hour flat out is tough both mentally and physically so you will be pleased to know there is another method. The alternative way is to complete a 30min all out effort and take the average HR for last 20min so you will need to just press your lap button. The other method that I have found to work well is to complete a 20min effort and use that figure which although includes a slight lag at the start with the HR rising it does however average out to approximately what the athlete can hold for an hour. Now both methods are just a guide and should be within a few beats of your true figure but due to the fact that you will be working in zones this is enough to get you started so don’t get too hung up on it. You can always update this figure going forward as you have more data.

Unlike your power threshold you will find that this figure does not change significantly during the season and therefore the need to retest is less than if using power. As you get older you will find this figure reduces but does not mean you are less fit!

Click here to download your training zone template which can be used for both power and heart rate.

Hope that helps and if you have any questions then please post in the comments section!


James Walsgrove

My cycling career started in 2005 when I purchased my first road bike and I was immediately hooked. Since then I have completed numerous cycling challenges including Ironman, Lands’ End to John O Groats, Mt Ventoux (all 3 ascents), London to Paris, the BBAR challenge which included a 12hour TimeTrial and more recently the Mallorca 312.

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