Heart rate zone training is one of the most effective ways to get to know your body and what you’re capable of. It’s easy to stop doing something when it’s hard, especially if you don’t have a tangible goal. Using your heart rate zones, you can push yourself further than you may think possible, while also ensuring you aren’t overtraining.
As a cyclist, you always want to be improving. Whether you’re aiming for a 100 mile race or want to keep up on group rides, making the most of your time in the saddle will get you there. Here are some sample training sessions, using heart rate zones, to increase your efficiency and get you flying up those hills.
If you are unfamiliar with the heart rate zones, please first go read this article on how to determine your perimeter beats per minutes and define your zones from there.
The long slow distance
3-4 hours in Zones 1-2
Breakdown: This one is pretty self explanatory. Plan out a long distance ride with moderate climbing, and be sure to stay in HR zones 1-2, even if this means getting into your climbing gear earlier than you usually would.
Everybody loves LSD! And no, I’m talking about the drug. The long slow distance ride is your entry into heart rate (HR) training, and the perhaps the most overlooked because let’s be real, it can seem slow and boring. It’s hard to be disciplined enough to stay in these lower zones, but it will pay off in the long run. It seems counterintuitive, but these relaxed rides build up your endurance and overall fitness, and will make your faster.
It may be a good idea to ride alone for these ones to avoid your more competitive side getting in the way. Sit back, enjoy the scenery, and spin those legs!
The high intensity intervals
40 minutes in zones 1-7
Breakdown: 10 minute warmup (zones 1-2)
3 sets of 4 x 30 second sprints (zone 5) with 40 second recovery (zone 1-2)
5 minute cool down (zone 1-2)
No pain no gain, right? This ride is short, but it will burn fat, improve endurance, and increase your overall fitness. Intervals may not be a whole lot of fun, but if you mentally prepare yourself, the pain really doesn’t last that long. Take it one interval at a time, and make the most of the rests in between!
A little bit of both
2 hours in zones 2-3 with zone 4 intervals
Breakdown: 50 minutes (zone 1-2)
10 minute sprint (zone 4)
40 minutes (zones 1-2)
10 minutes (zone 4)
10 minute cool down (zone 1-2)
It’s all about endurance. This ride will build both your strength and endurance over time, and the ten minute sprints are actually a whole lot of fun. Don’t cheat yourself, but stay focused and within the zones if possible. If you’re just starting out, try two hours in zone 3 instead, and work up to this ride.
Keep in mind, the more riding you do, the better you’re going to get. Even if you do the same ride twice, it may take you more effort to get into the different zones than it did before as your body becomes more efficient. Once you reach a certain level of fitness, many cyclists tend to plateau, but using HR zone training you can avoid this and keep pushing yourself each and every ride.