Heart rate training

I found an article in the latest Cycling Plus magazine by Harry Blackwood and thought I’d share it.
The best way to get the most from your cycling is to understand heart rate and the different zones. Eddie Fletcher of Fletcher Sport Science is often amazed how many people own HR monitors and don’t know how to use the information they provide. Men are by far the worst as they like to brag about how high their heart rate gets during a session or for how long.
Maximum HR
The formula normally used for working out maximum heart rate is 220 minus your age. For some people this may be accurate, but for many it will be wildly out. A much more accurate formula is 210 minus half your age, then subtract 5% of your body weight in pounds. Add for for a male and 0 for a female.
The only way to get a truly accurate max HR figure is to get a physiological test at a sports science centre. Max HR is sports specific.
HR Zones
There are many calculators on the web for heart rate zones but the 6 zone method is preferred by the Association of British Cycling Coaches. There is also a recovery zone. You can find a 6 zone calculator at tinyurl.com/hrzone.
Short rides (non-training) for recovery
Zone 1
Development of economy and efficiency with very high volume, low stress work. Very long sessions improve the combustion and storage of fats. Combine with Zone 2 for practical unstructured low stress rides.
Zone 2
Development of economy and efficiency with high volume, moderate stress work. An important intensity for establishing a firm base for all riders. Combine with Zone 1 for practical unstructured low stress rides
Zone 3
Development of aerobic capacity and endurance with moderate volume work at a controlled intensity. Should be done alone or in a small group to stay in zone. Possible (but boring) on a turbo trainer for up to one hour in bad weather. 'Modules' can be incorporated into Zone 1 or 2 rides to increase intensity whilst maintaining volume.
Zone 4
Typical 'mean' intensity of most road races. Useful for tapering and as preparation, to simulate race pace, rather than as training. Sessions should be ended when the effort starts to tell.
Zone 5
Raising of anaerobic threshold, improvement of lactate clearance and adaptation to race speed. Should be done alone and:-
(1) as a specific road or 'turbo' session or
(2) for controlled periods within a shortened Zone 1 or 2 session or
(3) in a 10 or 25 mile time trial.
Zone 6
High intensity interval training to increase maximum power and improve lactate production or clearance. Probably best done on hills or a 'turbo' trainer.
NOTE 1. Should be done only when completely recovered from previous work.
NOTE 2. Heart rates are not the best guide for this type of training. Intensity should be such that the effort can just be held to the end of the interval. Ride on feel and use heart rate for feedback.
Average HR
Beware your average heart rate. You need to keep your HR in the desired zone at all times. It’s not about averages. Make sure you discipline yourself to spend 90-100% of your ride in the right zone. This may mean getting off the bike and  walking the hills in the early days. Stick with it. You’ll be amazed with the results.
Training Sessions
Training to be good at different disciplines of cycling or to achieve certain results requires different training methods.
Go slower, get faster
It sounds impossible but this is the basic starting point for HR training. I started off by doing long Zone 1 and Zone 2 rides. It was slow, boring and tortuous at times. What happened over a period of months was amazing. In a nutshell I was still riding in Zone 2 but I was zipping along compared with when I started. By going slower I'd made my body more efficient. It was like a light being switched on: if I can go this fast in Zone 2 then just how fast could I go in the higher zones?
Fletcher, who's an exercise physiologist, is adamant that by going slow you will get faster. The Evesham-based coach even has a mug on his desk emblazoned with the words 'slow is the new fast'. But he has some sage words for anyone who thinks that HR training is like waving a magic wand. "Training is boring. Anyone who says they can make base training sessions more entertaining and can introduce fun is kidding you. Just accept it that those long, steady rides on the bike will be boring but they will bring results. There are no shortcuts and no quick fixes.”
Because discipline for these slow rides is so important, it's probably a good idea to ride them on your own, without the temptation of trying to keep up with faster mates, or rising to the bait of village sign sprints or traffic light grand prixs.
KEY SESSION 3hrs in Zone 2. Stay in the zone and stick to it. Don't be tempted to push on the hills
Burn fat, save time
We all have to manage our work-life balance but don't think that wanting to burn fat means you have to go out for five or six hours on the bike riding in Zone 2. By using HIlT methods (high intensity interval training) you'll burn far more fat and become a fitter and faster rider into the bargain. Yes, it's going to hurt but it will do you the power of good and the whole session will take less than an hour.
Make sure you do a decent 15-minute warm-up and you are ready to go. Depending on your level of fitness you are going to do 4-6 all-out sprints of 30 seconds with 4-5 minutes of easy pedalling.
During these all-out efforts expect to see your HR rise to 8S-90% of your HR max. Give it all you have right through the 30-second burst. Do these for 6-8 weeks and marvel at the fat you've lost. Try it - it really works.
But don't think that training hard means you can eat like a pig. Fletcher has a word of warning for those who think they can ignore their diet and just ride to lose weight.
"Weight control has to be about diet," he says. "If you want to lose weight you'd be better off concentrating on what goes in, and concentrating on quality rather than necessarily reducing quantity. "
KEY SESSION 15 min warm-up and then 4-6 30sec sprints with 4-5min rest
Become an endurance monster
Hands up if you've got to the last 20-odd miles of a big sportive and found that you're absolutely done in and can barely turn the pedals. That sinking feeling can be attributed to a number or factors such as going off too I fast, insufficient fuelling or hydration, or just too many hills. But the main culprit is likely to be a lack of endurance, which is where targeted HR training comes in.
What you need to do is LSD - no, it's not a mind-altering drug, it stands for 'long, steady distance'. By doing one session of 3-4 hours in Zone 2 and another session of 2
hours in Zone 3 every week your endurance will come on in leaps and bounds. Add a few long intervals once your base is more established and you'll develop both endurance and speed. This is an area Fletcher specialises in. Endurance training is his forte and he cautions those who think unfettered big miles will produce endurance no matter what.
"It's amazing how many cyclists do lots and lots of junk miles," he says. "It's all about getting the balance right between the length of the session and the zone you are riding in."
KEY SESSION 3-4hrs in Zone 2 with 10min burst of Zone 3-4 every hour
Easy does it
I have a confession to make: I've spent a lifetime as a serial over-trainer. I've trained too hard at every sport I've ever done, which means I've suffered loads of injuries and too many lacklustre performances. For the past few years I've been training smarter, though: my hard days are very hard and my easy days are very easy. In the past the easy and the hard seemed to blend into one. I know that riding at a very low HR is actually doing me good by allowing my body to recover. Make sure you have at least one rest day per week and another day that is a really slow recovery ride done in Zone 1 or even lower.
A common cause of poor discipline in moderating efforts is riding with stronger, faster riders, says Fletcher. "Many cyclists go out on the Sunday club run and try to keep up with the faster riders. Then they probably need five or six days to recover from the effort - their training is going nowhere."
KEY SESSION 1hr flat ride with HR constantly below Zone 2
Testing, testing ...
As you get fitter and stronger, your cardiovascular system will get more efficient so that you can do more work for the same effort. In heart rate terms, this will mean at a set HR you will be able to ride a set distance faster as you get fitter.
One of the most well known of such aerobic improvement tests is the Maximum Aerobic Function, or 'MAF' test, named by heart rate training pioneer Or Phil Maffetone, and it's a great way of proving to yourself that all those long hours of winter base training are actually working. Regular testing might also reveal any performance drop-offs that can be the early warning signs of over-training or impending illness.
Maffetone suggests planning a route that initially takes about 30 minutes to complete and then, after a warm-up, riding it at a precise heart rate, while timing yourself.
"The important thing is to pick a heart rate that falls within your base training zone and to stick to it," he says, "both throughout the test and in every subsequent retest." This sub maximal aerobic effort is typically 65-75% of your Max HR - in Zone 2.
"Perform the test regularly to chart your fitness progress," says Maffetone, "perhaps once a month. Doing it more frequently won't realistically reflect your progress and might lead to obsession with the results, while any less frequently means you'll miss out on the other benefit of this kind of test, which is to flag up any underlying health or oven-training problems."
KEY SESSION Time this monthly test ride over a set distance at a set aerobic heart rate in Zone 2. Record your times so you can chart your progress over the months

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