Heart rate monitoring has always intrigued you, but been too intimidating for you to take the plunge. All these training zones—what do they mean? I was overwhelmed too and never monitored my heart rate until I realized what a powerful tool it can be to accomplish my training goals.
Professional athletes have access to coaches and doctors that are trained to help them maximize the potential of their body. Because of this, some of the methods for heart rate training available to them will not be feasible for you and me. One of the most effective ways of mapping heart performance consists of pedaling with an increasing resistance spinner while blood samples are taken to measure the amount of lactate in your system. This process determines your personal lactate threshold, which can then be used to find optimal training levels for different intensities. Luckily, there are other methods to determine training zones that don’t require drawing blood and do a fairly good job at estimating training thresholds.
To start, we need to determine our maximum heart rate. There is a lot of disagreement in the field of sports science regarding the determination of heart rate zones and maximum heart rate. The formula for determining heart rate is always changing and evolving as we learn more about the human body. The Department of Health and Human Performance at the University of Houston published a paper in 2007 detailing how to determine maximum heart rate using the formula listed below.
[ HRmax = 206.9 – (0.67 x age) ] 1
From this, you can find different heart rate zones as a percentage of your maximum heart rate. There are a few different variations on zones, but for this article, we will use the chart below that is specific to cycling.
The training benefits for each zone are listed on the right side of the chart. The zones range in intensity from one to five. Training plans that include heart rate monitoring will exercise the heart in different zones for varying periods of time depending out your individual training goals. One recovery day a week is recommended in most training plans. When using a heart rate monitor, you can work out in zone one for short periods of time. This light workout will expedite the muscle recovery process compared to just resting without any activity. Zone two is considered the best zone for burning fat. When exercising in zone two for extended periods of time, your body will burn fat before it burns carbs and proteins. Understanding this will allow you to fine tune your workouts to burn fat by using it as a main source for fuel.
The next step is in the process is to determine a training plan. Weekly workouts will revolve around these zones. Your training plan will be different than mine; it will depend on race or fitness goals, hours a week spent training as well as a variety of other factors. For these reasons, you might consider joining a club or gym where you will have access to a coach that can help you build a training plan around fitness goals or races dates.
If you already have a Garmin computer, chances are you can add a heart rate monitor to it. Most ANT+ compatible devices allow for the addition of a heart rate monitor. Check your device for compatibilities. If you don’t already have something, there are several options to choose from. First consider whether this will be a bike specific device or if you want a monitor with a wristwatch that can be used while running or participating in other sports.
If purchasing a device to be used on the bike only, most Garmin devices can be bundled with a heart rate monitor for a discounted price. The Garmin Edge 510 Performance Bundle includes a heart rate monitor as well as a cadence sensor.
The Garmin Forerunner 910XT can also be bundled with a heart rate monitor. This is a great watch for triathletes since it can be used in the water and on the run.
Heart rate monitoring is a great next step towards reaching fitness goals. This powerful tool might seem complicated and overwhelming, but there are people and resources all around to help you. Go grab yourself a heart rate monitor and give it a whirl. I guarantee you will learn a lot about your body and how to train smarter and harder.
1. JACKSON, A.S. et al. (2007) Estimating Maximum Heart Rate From Age: Is It a Linear Relationship? Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 39(5), p. 822-829↩
Rubber Side Down is a weekly column dedicated to the fledgling cyclist in all of us. Art’s Cyclery Web Content Editor, Brett Murphy is not a professional cyclist, and doesn’t try to masquerade as one either, but he does love to ride bikes. Whether you are clipping in for the first time or counting down the days until your first race, read on, learn from his mistakes, and keep the rubber side down.