Using Heart Rate Zones to Achieve Your Cycling Goals
Whether you're training to ride faster or farther, to build strength or explosiveness, one smart strategy for simplifying your workouts is to follow your heart rate.
Heart rate training can help you better understand how well you're training and how much you're training while cruising at different speeds and distances. If your goal is weight loss, fitness, or stamina, heart rate training can help you achieve it.
In terms of results, it also visualizes how much progress you've made in your training if you use a heart rate monitor.
What is heart rate training?
In short, heart rate training involves monitoring your body's cardiovascular response to exercise. When you exercise, your heart works harder to provide blood and oxygen to your muscles, and the more intense the exercise, the higher your heart rate will be.
To train effectively with your heart rate, it is necessary to wear a heart rate monitor that tracks your beats per minute (BPM).
Nowadays, most smartwatches use wrist heart rate sensors to monitor heart rate. But you can also choose to use a chest strap or armband heart rate monitor. Coospo heart rate monitors are a good alternative because they are more accurate.
When you cycle at different heart rates, you can improve different parts of your body. These parts all work together, but training at specific heart rates can make certain parts work better.
There are three types of energy systems: the phosphagen phase, which provides explosive power and lasts for up to 30 seconds; the anaerobic phase, which is used when we feel exhausted and lasts for about three minutes; and the aerobic energy system, which is used for longer and more consistent periods of exertion.
Training by monitoring your heart rate and exercising in various heart rate zones can help you target one or all of your body's energy systems. This depends on your fitness level and what you want to achieve.
How to find your max heart rate?
The easiest way to determine your maximum heart rate is to use an age-related formula, such as subtracting your age from 220. However, this method is not the most accurate.
In order to accurately determine your maximum heart rate and ideal training zone, it is recommended that you complete a test, also known as the Functional Threshold Power or FTP test, on the bike, either outdoors or on a riding platform.
This takes around an hour to finish since it requires starting with an easy warm-up.
How to find your cycling heart rate zone?
To calculate your cycling heart rate zone, start by determining your average heart rate over two all-out rides. Choose the higher of those two average heart rates, and multiply that number by 0.93. The resulting number is your threshold heart rate, which is the point at which fatigue is about to set in.
To find your heart rate training zone, use the percentages below after you figure out your threshold heart rate:
- Zone 1: Recovery: 0 to 68%
- Zone 2: Stamina: 69% to 83%
- Zone 3: Speed: 84% to 94%
- Zone 4: Limit: 95% to 105%
- Zone 5: Maximum Oxygen Uptake: 106% to Maximum
As this is based on a percentage of your maximum heart rate, the zones for your maximum heart rate will exceed 100%. For instance, if your maximum heart rate is 195, your initial heart rate should be around 181.
Your heart rate zone 4 will be between 172 and 190, and your 5 zone (or VO2 max) heart rate will start at 191.
If your heart rate goes too high, you might get tired more quickly. To ride for a longer time, try to keep your heart rate below a certain level called zone 4.
How does heart rate training improve cycling?
Heart rate training is not just about the number, but also about your feelings towards your training in relation to that number.
During your workout, make sure to notice how each of the different training zones feels. Rate them on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the easiest feeling and 10 being the point of exhaustion.
To achieve your goals, you must train in particular zones.
If you want to get fitter, you should exercise in all training zones. Exercising in the threshold and tempo zones can help you improve your ability to do aerobic exercise.
For those looking to improve their competitive performance, it is recommended to incorporate more VO2 max (maximal oxygen consumption, Vo2max) training into their workout program.
Therefore, it is necessary to incorporate intense and fast interval training that can improve not only aerobic capacity but also anaerobic capacity and your speed.
If you want to lose weight by cycling, your focus should be on burning the maximum number of calories during your workout.
It will be necessary to complete all heart rate training intervals, but spend most your time in the threshold interval range (zone 4). This zone helps you burn lots of calories and makes you less tired than high-intensity workouts. This means you can work out more often without feeling muscle fatigue.
Using heart rate training for fitness, performance, and weight loss has a big advantage: it allows you to easily track and see how you're improving.
Retesting your FTP (Functional Threshold Power) can help you see if you're getting better at endurance. For example, you might be able to ride longer distances in the same time, or your heart might beat less fast while you ride.
So, creating a training program based on heart rate training not only makes training more efficient and targeted, but it also makes it more intuitive to show progress in numerical form.