#GetCycleFit – Heart Rate Zones

As I (very) recently decided to dedicate a month to cycling with a purpose, I’ve had to do some fast learning when it comes to the techier side of working out. In the past, the way I would try to get faster or stronger was very simple – I’d just ride my bike more and ride it harder and faster.

Now I have James helping me out, I’m looking to finely tune my rides to see whether this approach is better, well, I know it’s better, but I’m planning to find out by how much, and whether this approach could be something I’d stick with.

In the past I’ve been very anti-training as I prefer cycling to be fun, and completing grueling sessions sometimes isn’t. But what if I just haven’t stuck with it for long enough to see results, or to really ‘get into it?’ What if that’s why I’ve never liked it?

So for this month, I’ll be doing exactly as instructed, or at least trying as hard as I can to do so. And in order to really understand how hard I’m trying and the efficacy of the workouts, James has figured out my heart rate zones so he can tell me at what level of effort I should complete each part of the session.

So what exactly are heart rate zones?


There are six different heart rate zones that sportspeople generally work with, from Zone 1 which is very mellow indeed, to Zone 6 which I’ve never even managed to get to, because Zone 5 requires your heart to work like the clappers and normally means you’re in a world of pain! Working out in each of the zones has a specific purpose and if you know what you’re doing, heart rate zone training can be a very effective way of increasing fitness and achieving your targets, whether it’s to race or complete a long sportive.


Juliet elliott racing at Torbay Velopark


Which zone does what?


Zone1 – Active recovery. Training in this zone can help flush out waste products in the muscles. Also for used for some longish rides.

Zone 2 – Endurance. This is your base training zone. Riding in this zone can improve your efficiency.

Zone 3 – Tempo. Training in Zone 3 helps develop aerobic power and endurance.

Zone 4 – Threshold. Zone 4 training can improve your race pace.

Zone 5 – VO2 Max – Zone 5 training improves resistance to short term fatigue and lactate tolerance. Lactate is a waste product that builds up in your muscles when you exercise and makes your legs hurt, so resistance to this is a good thing.

Zone 6 – VO2 max and lactate threshold. Training in this zone ‘aids tolerance to the repeated high end efforts you will find in a crit. ’

PS I am not a personal trainer or qualified in any way, so if I’ve made a mistake here, feel free to (politely!) tell me.

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