A Basic Introduction to Heart Rate Zone Training

To get the most out of your cycling workouts, you should frequently monitor your exercise intensity.  This will insure that you are working within you heart rate training zone and, therefore, are getting the most out of each training session.  If you work too hard, you may cause an injury to yourself and, possibly, burn out.  If you’re not working hard enough, you  may get frustrated when you don’t see results over time.

Monitor Your Exercise Intensity

Take Your Pulse

Place your index and middle fingers directly under your ear, then slide your fingers down until they are directly under your jawbone, pressing lightly. Start with zero on the first beat and count for 10 seconds then multiply by six. Always check your pulse frequently throughout your training session to make sure you within your target heart rate zone.

Get a Heart Rate Monitor

Get a heart rate monitor!  It will monitor your heart rate throughout your workout via a transmitter worn around your chest and a watch on your wrist or attached to the handlebars of your bike. Most GPS devices now offer built in Heart Rate Monitors.


Heart rate training zones are calculated by taking into consideration your Maximum Heart Rate (MHR) and your Resting Heart Rate (RHR). Within each training zone subtle physiological effects take place to enhance your fitness. Most books recommend calculating your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220. For a much more accurate assessment you should hire a personal trainer to help you measure it.

The Energy Efficient or Recovery Zone – 60% to 70%

Training within this zone develops basic endurance and aerobic capacity. All easy recovery days should be completed at a maximum of 70%. Another advantage to cycling in this zone is that while you are happily fat burning you may lose weight and you will be allowing your muscles to re-energise with glycogen, which has been expended during those faster paced work-outs.

The Aerobic Zone – 70% to 80%

Training in this zone will develop your cardiovascular system. The body’s ability to transport oxygen to, and carbon dioxide away from, the working muscles can be developed and improved. As you become fitter and stronger from training in this zone it will be possible to cycle some of your long weekend spins at up to 75%, so getting the benefits of some fat burning and improved aerobic capacity.

The Anaerobic Zone – 80% to 90%

Training in this zone will develop your lactic acid system. In this zone your individual anaerobic threshold is found – sometimes referred to the point of deflection (POD). During these heart rates the amount of fat being utilised as the main source of energy is greatly reduced and glycogen stored in the muscle is predominantly used. One of the by-products of burning this glycogen, is the athletes worst enemy, lactic acid. There is a point at which the body can no longer remove the lactic acid from the working muscles quickly enough. This happens at an individual heart rate for us all and is accompanied by a rapid rise in heart rate and a slowing of your cycling power. This is your anaerobic threshold or POD. Through the correct training it is possible to delay the POD by being able to increase your ability to deal with the lactic acid for a longer period of time or by pushing the POD higher.

The Red Line Zone 90% to 100%

Training in this zone will only be possible for short periods of time. It effectively trains your fast twitch muscle fibres and helps to develop speed. This zone is reserved for speed and High Intensity Interval Training and only the very fit are able to train effectively within this zone.

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