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Getting Started With Heart Rate Training

Training Tips Blog

Getting Started With Heart Rate Training

Tyler Wren

By Dr. Jan Kasprowicz, Elite Performance Team

Your heart rate during exercise is a good reflection of how hard you're working. Using a heart rate monitor to train within certain intensity zones can help you work more efficiently toward specific fitness goals, like improving your endurance, or becoming a better climber. Here are the basic steps to putting your monitor to use:


The best way to get your resting heart rate is to measure it first thing in the morning, every day for a week, and then 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. It could also indicate that you're getting sick.



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 has an estimated max heart rate of 190 beats per minute.



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
Sample heart-rate training zones for a 30-year old

Sample heart-rate training zones for a 30-year old


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, a Featured Partner of the 2017 Farm to Fork Fondo Series.

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