Riding Too Hard

I use a heart rate monitor (HRM) when I ride. And I noticed that my heart rate stayed primarily in the Zone 2 range on the bike’s computer when I rode last night. Finally.

Maximum heart rate (MHR) can be estimated by taking 220 less your age. Another way to determine MHR is to get on a bike. Warm up thoroughly. On a long, steady hill, increase effort every minute for at least five minutes until you cannot go any faster. Stay in the saddle for the uphill climb. After the five minute minimum climb, sprint for 15 seconds. Stop, get off the bike and check your heart rate at its maximum level over a full 30 seconds. Double that number to arrive at MHR.

My bike computer tracks three zones.

  • Zone 1: 55 – 70 percent of MHR. This zone is considered recovery. Easy spinning.
  • Zone 2: 70 – 80 percent of MHR. This zone is effective for cardio. Moderate, higher intensity spinning.
  • Zone 3: 80 – 100 percent of MHR. This zone is classified as performance. High effort spinning.

Although three zones are okay as a rough reference point, most cyclists track five zones.

  • Zone 1: 65 percent of MHR or less. Recovery, easy spin.
  • Zone 2: 65 – 72 percent of MHR. Endurance riding. Long, steady effort.
  • Zone 3: 73 – 80 percent of MHR. Aerobic effort.
  • Zone 4: 80 – 90 percent of MHR. Lactate threshold. Hard ride.
  • Zone 5: 90 – 100 percent of MHR. Sprints.

Frankly, I was surprised at how much time I was spending in Zone 3. And based on the five zone model, I was spending significant time at Lactate Threshold. Too much time. I know better.

Training too hard by riding at higher heart rates all of the time significantly impacts overall cycling performance. Recovery is compromised and chronic fatigue will set in. I remember lots of coaches telling me to avoid training in the no man’s land at 80-85% of MHR. Exactly where I have been training over the past two months.

Having the technology is fine. A heart rate monitor gives important feedback. Failing to act on the feedback is not wise. Must remember to have some easy spins. Probably says something about my overall level of intensity.

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