Monitoring your heart rate during exercise is a great way to measure how hard you're working. That's valuable information because training within certain intensity zones can help you work more efficiently toward specific fitness goals, like extending your endurance, or becoming a better climber. Here are the basic steps to putting a heart rate monitor to use:
1. MEASURE YOUR RESTING HEART RATE
The best way to get your resting heart rate is to take it ﬁrst thing in the morning, every day for a week, and work out the average. Make sure you're well rested and not ill or under any stress. Put your heart rate strap on and just lie there for a couple of minutes, trying to relax as much as possible. Note the lowest reading you see and repeat the procedure the following day.
Once you establish your resting heart rate, you can compare it to future measurements to gauge how well rested you are. A reading that's higher than normal for you could mean that you're fatigued and need to take it easy before resuming high intensity training, or could indicate that you're getting sick.
2. ESTABLISH YOUR MAXIMUM HEART RATE
The most accurate way to measure your max heart rate is with a physiological test at a sport science center performed by and exercise physiologist. If you don't have access to an exercise physiologist, you can estimate max heart rate by subtracting your age from 220. For example, someone who is 30 years old would have an estimated max heart rate of 190 beats per minute.
3. CALCULATE YOUR TRAINING ZONES
Having established your resting and maximum HR numbers, you're now ready to work out your training zones, which are each calculated as a percentage of your maximum heart rate.
- Zone 1 (50-60% Max HR): For long, easy rides, to improve fat metabolism.
- Zone 2 (60-70% Max HR): The basic base training zone. Longish rides of medium stress, continue burning primarily fats.
- Zone 3 (70-80% Max HR): For development of aerobic capacity and endurance with moderate volume at very controlled intensity, burning fat but starting to utilize carbohydrates.
- Zone 4 (80-90% Max HR): For simulating pace when tapering for a race, burning carbohydrates.
- Zone 5 (90-100% Max HR): For raising anaerobic threshold. Good sessions for 10 and 25-mile time-trials. For high-intensity interval training to increase maximum power and speed
BEGINNING HEART RATE TRAINING TIPS
Some riders find it helpful to tape their zones on their stem for easy reference. You can also program most cycle computers and running watches for your zones.
Lastly, stick to the zone prescribed in your workout. Using your monitor to check "Average HR" at the end of a ride isn't a great measure of this because your effort can fluctuate a lot over the course of a workout. The more accurate way to check is to look through reports on how much time you spent in each zone.
This article is part of a series presented by Elite Performance Team.