Heart Zones Cycling workouts
Cycling workouts really depend on the individuals goals and fitness level. Also, there is a big difference between indoor and outdoor cycling workouts. When training indoors I focus on heart rate based programs. Training in specific zones (a percentage of max heart rate) are important to me. Each training zone has a very specific metabolic and physiological response associated with it. If you do group fitness and are lucky enough to have an instructor and a facility that offers specific zone training you can really maximize your training sessions. This maybe hard in some classes as they may offer this type of training.
What is a Zone?
So, what is a zone and how do we figure it out? As stated, a training or cardio zone is a percentage of max heart rate. To determine your zones, you will need a heart rate monitor and a stationary bike. The protocol I like to use is the Foster’s Talk Test (developed by Carl Foster- UW La Cross: search google for the parameters of this test). It is an easy test to administer and base in part on perceived exertion. This assessment is good and puts you in the ballpark for setting your zones and associated heart rate thresholds for each. I start with 3 zones only (its the simplest). After testing you can figure your upper and lower heart rate limits as well as your performance thresholds (T1,T2).
Heart Zones Training for Cycling
Now that we have our zones, how do we use them to maximize training and conditioning? For the beginner I always recommend warming up in zone 1 for 10-15min.
Blue Zone | Zone 1
Zone 1 is really important everyone and is often overlooked because it’s a easy zone and you ‘feel’ as though you are not doing anything. Try to spend at least 15 min per day in Zone 1. This is a recovery zone. When I train the DePaul University Cycling Team we have 2 training sessions per week dedicated to this zone.
Yellow Zone | Zone 2
Zone 2 is where the biggest gains can be shown. Whether it’s for weight loss, general health or performance, Zone 2 is vital in the success of your training program. You should spend most of your training time somewhere in this area. Towards the top of Zone 2 we really can stimulate Lactate Threshold barriers to increase fitness and endurance. In the lower area of Zone 2 we can stimulate fuel source metabolic rates for weight loss. I recommend 3-4 days per week over time (30-60min or even longer is better) in this Zone to clear excess or unwanted weight.
Red Zone | Zone 3
Zone 3 is all about performance. This area gets you fast! Whether on a bike, running, swimming, Ice hockey, or whatever Zone 3 is near or at or above max. I only recommend this zone for well trained athletes and those who are looking to compete. Zone 3 aids the control early fatigue and when used properly with a good plan will seriously reduce recovery times. Zone 3 is hard!
Final Thoughts on Cycling Training
Developing an understanding of these heart rate zones and how to use them will really make the difference in your cycling training. When using a monitor you will find (as I did) that it makes the workouts very interesting and really fun. You will soon have a good grasp of what your body is telling you. Very your cycling workouts from hard to easy on alternating days. The use of this and your monitor and zones are the most effective ways to reach your goals.