Guide to Cycling Training with a Heart Rate Monitor

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Written By Tom Weale

Passionate cyclist and content creator

Using both outdoor and indoor cycling has been gaining popularity because it is a low-impact form of exercise that can effectively burn calories. To maximize your workout routine, it is recommended to use a heart rate monitor while cycling.

Here’s what you need to know about using a heart rate monitor to become a stronger cyclist.

There’s a lot to go through – from zones to hydration to tech – so to help, we’ve added in an index to get you where you want to go.

Why should you use a heart rate monitor for cycling training? 

The main reason why people choose to work out with a heart rate monitoring device is that it allows them to track their progress in real-time. This means that they can see how much energy they are expending while exercising and when they reach certain intensity levels. It also helps individuals gauge whether or not they have reached their target heart rate zone.

In addition, it will help you determine which areas of your body require more attention than others. For example, if you notice that your legs feel fatigued after riding for an extended period, then you may be able to adjust your exercise program by focusing on improving leg strength instead of cardio endurance.

Heart rate training and the body’s energy systems

Heart rate training is a great way to monitor your fitness progress. The best way to do this is to use a heart rate monitor. This device measures your heart rate during exercise and provides feedback on how well you’re doing.

By training in different heart rate zones, you train different energy systems of the body. 

The three main energy systems of the human body are the aerobic system, the anaerobic system, and the lactic acid system.

  • Aerobic system – responsible for cycling as well as long-distance running, and other activities where oxygen is used up quickly.
  • Anaerobic system – responsible for sprints, weightlifting, and other activities where the muscles use up oxygen quickly.
  • Lactic acid system – responsible for short bursts of activity such as sprints, jumping, and other activities where muscle contractions occur rapidly. Training in different heart rate zones trains these energy systems differently.

What types of heart rate monitors are there?

There are two different categories of heart rate monitors: chest strap-based devices and wrist-based ones. The first category includes those that clip onto your clothing and measures your pulse through electrodes placed directly over your skin.

On the other hand, smartwatches use optical heart rate sensors to detect light reflected off blood vessels under the skin. These include Polar H10, Garmin Forerunner 305, Suunto t6, Fitbit Charge 2, Apple Watch Series 3 GPS + Heart Rate Monitor, Samsung Gear S3 Frontier, Xiaomi Mi Band 4, etc. Check out our piece on the best cycling watch for indoor and on the road for more on this. 

Choose an accurate heart rate monitor

The first thing that you’ll have to decide is which type of heart rate monitor will work best for you. There are two main types: chest strap monitors and finger pulse oximeters. Both can be used in conjunction with other exercise equipment such as treadmills, elliptical trainers, and stationary bikes.

The choice between these two options depends on how much time you spend riding outdoors versus an indoor trainer. If you’re spending more than half of your workouts outside, then it makes sense to invest in a chest-strap monitor because they tend to provide better accuracy when worn under clothing. On the other hand, if you do all or almost all of your outdoor rides inside, a finger pulse oximeter may be preferable since it doesn’t require any additional accessories.

indoor-trainer Guide to Cycling Training with a Heart Rate Monitor

Use a heart rate monitor with a smart indoor trainer

If you plan to train indoors, then you’ll probably benefit from purchasing a heart rate monitor that works with a smart trainer. Smart trainers allow users to connect multiple pieces of fitness equipment together to perform various exercises simultaneously.

They usually come equipped with a display screen where you can view information related to your current activity, including distance traveled, speed, calorie expenditure, elapsed time, pace, heart rate zones, etc.

Get familiar with your heart rate monitor 

Once you’ve chosen the right kind of heart rate monitor, make sure you understand how to use it correctly before starting your next bike session. For example, some models come equipped with software that allows users to set their target heart rate zones. This feature helps ensure that you don’t overdo things by setting too aggressive a pace during certain parts of your ride.

Other features include displaying real-time data like speed, distance traveled average heart rate, and calorie consumption. You might also find yourself wondering whether you should wear headphones while exercising so that you can listen to music without disturbing others around you. Some people prefer this option, but others feel uncomfortable doing so. It really comes down to personal preference.

Use your heart rate monitor wisely

When you start wearing a heart rate monitor, you’ll probably notice that it takes several minutes to reach a steady-state after getting started. During this period, your body adjusts to the new environment and begins producing less oxygenated blood. 

As a result, your resting heart rate increases slightly until it reaches normal levels once again. To avoid having to wait through this process every time you begin a new ride, try taking advantage of the “warm-up” function found on many heart rate monitors. Simply select one of the preprogrammed warm-up routines, press Start, and let the machine take care of the rest.

Don’t forget to drink water! 

It goes without saying that drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day is essential for overall health and affects your heart rate. However, there’s another reason why staying hydrated is vital for optimal performance. When you sweat, your skin produces heat and moisture. These substances help cool off your internal organs and keep them functioning at peak efficiency.

In addition, sweating causes your muscles to contract, helping to pump blood back into your circulatory system. So, even though you won’t necessarily see visible signs of dehydration, you could still experience fatigue due to low fluid intake.

If you want to stay well-hydrated, consider carrying a bottle of sports drinks along with you whenever you exercise outdoors. They contain electrolytes which are necessary for maintaining proper muscle contraction and preventing cramps.

Training with heart rate vs. training with power 

The answer depends largely upon what type of cyclist you are. If you’re an endurance athlete who wants to improve their aerobic capacity, then using a heart rate monitor will be more effective than relying solely on power output as a means of measuring progress.

On the other hand, if you’re looking to build strength in your legs, then focusing on increasing your maximum wattage may prove to be more beneficial. Regardless of which method you choose, remember to always strive for consistency when working out.

What are heart rate training zones? 

Heart rate monitoring devices allow cyclists to determine their current level of exertion by tracking changes in their pulse over time. This information helps athletes gauge where they stand relative to their target zone during workouts.

For example, if you’ve been trying to increase your average speed per hour, then you’d likely need to work within a specific range of heart rates before reaching your goal. The same principle applies to improving your lactate threshold, cadence, etc. You can use these ranges to create personalized workout plans based on your specific goals.

How to work out your heart rate training zones

Three zones

Intensity zones allow you to follow a more structured and precise approach to training, enabling you to target specific areas of your fitness, manage your workload to avoid overtraining and help you or your coach track your progress over time.

Three zones: The simplest model uses just three intensity levels: low, moderate, and high. This means each ride has only two possible outcomes: it will go well if you stay within the low zone, or badly if you stray outside this range. It’s simple, effective, and allows you to see exactly what percentage of your total distance was spent in which zone.

zones Guide to Cycling Training with a Heart Rate Monitor

What is the 7-zone training model? 

The 7 Zone Training Model was developed by Dr. Kenneth Cooper back in 1972. The idea behind this system is to help athletes train more efficiently while improving their athletic abilities. According to the theory, each individual possesses seven different physiological zones:

  • Fatiguing
  • Exhausting
  • Overheating
  • Tiring
  • Stressed
  • Recuperative
  • Refreshing.

Each zone corresponds to a particular range of heart rates.

For example, if you were working out at 70% of your maximum heart rate, you would fall into the fatiguing zone. This means that you could only work out for approximately 30 minutes before reaching exhaustion. On the flip side, if you were working at 100%, you’d be falling into the refreshing zone. You wouldn’t experience any signs of fatigue because you’ve already achieved your MHR.

How do I calculate my resting metabolic rate? 

To find your RMR, all you have to do is multiply your weight times 14. For instance, if you weigh 200 lbs., then your RMR will equal 2800 calories.

What is threshold heart rate?

Threshold Heart Rate, also known as Maximum Aerobic Power, refers to the highest amount of oxygen consumption possible while exercising at a given intensity. It represents the upper limit of how much energy your body can produce from fat stores alone. Your THR varies depending on several factors, including age, gender, fitness level, weight, height, and genetics. As such, it’s impossible to accurately predict someone else’s MAP unless they have already performed similar tests.

How often should I train with my HRM? 

You’ll find that most people have different opinions about how frequently they should train while wearing a heart rate monitor. Some experts recommend doing so only after completing a few rides under similar conditions. Others suggest starting each session with a baseline reading followed by several minutes of easy pedaling before beginning any intense efforts.

power- Guide to Cycling Training with a Heart Rate Monitor

Power meters vs. heart rate monitors for cycling training?

Power Meters: These tools measure the force exerted against the pedals through the rider’s feet. While this data provides valuable insight into one aspect of performance, it doesn’t tell us anything about our overall ability to generate power throughout the entire bike stroke. In fact, many riders report feeling fatigued even though they could maintain high levels of power output.

Why should you measure your resting heart rate? 

Your resting heart rate provides valuable insight into your cardiovascular fitness levels. It also serves as a good indicator of whether you’re experiencing stress from high-intensity activities such as sprinting or climbing hills. A higher RHR indicates more significant amounts of strain placed on your body. As a result, it’s recommended that you take this measurement once every week or two.

Is there anything else I should know about heart rate monitors? 

There are many things you should keep in mind when choosing one. First off, make sure that the device has at least three sensors. Also, look for models that offer both continuous readings and ones that require manual input. Finally, ensure that the unit provides accurate data via its internal clock.

Is maximum heart rate necessary for a cyclist? 

Maximum heart rate, sometimes referred to as maximal oxygen consumption, refers to the highest blood flow through the lungs and muscles at rest. To achieve this state, you must first reach your peak effort. Once there, you can continue exercising until you feel exhausted. At this point, your VO2 max has reached its limit.

However, many cyclists don’t realize just how much energy they expend during even short periods of hard riding. If you want to improve your performance, you need to increase your aerobic capacity rather than rely solely on anaerobic power. Aerobic exercise is typically performed at lower intensities. Anaerobic exercises include sprints, hill climbs, intervals, and other types of interval training.

What does “heart rate reserve” mean? 

Heart Rate Reserve, measured in beats per minute, represents the difference between your current heart rate and your maximum heart rate. When performing a cardio-based activity, you may be able to sustain a given level of exertion longer than someone who doesn’t possess adequate cardiac endurance. To determine what percentage of your total potential heart rate you can maintain without fatigue, simply subtract your age from 220. Then divide that number by 10.