Day 239: Calculating heart rate training zones

30 08 2010

Ride Your Way Lean by Selene Yeager


I recently purchased a book called “Ride Your Way Lean: The Ultimate Plan for Burning Fat and Getting Fit on a Bike” by’s “Fit Chick,” Selene Yeager. Last year, when I was first getting interested in cycling, the first book I bought was her book “Every Woman’s Guide to Cycling.” Her books really do a great job explaining various aspects of cycling and training routines without getting overly technical and tedious. I’ll discuss “Ride Your Way Lean” in more detail once I finish it, but one of the things I thought was most interesting is the various training zones. I’m trying to not get bogged down in all the acronyms that seem to be prevalent in cycling: MHR (maximum heart rate); VO2 max (the max amount of oxygen your body can use); LT (lactate threshold); RPE (rate of perceived effort) and RBI (rest between intervals) just to name a few. 

To prepare for one of the training programs outlined in the book, I’ve figured out my maximum heart rate, which seems to be 179 (based on the common 220 minus your age formula). In case I haven’t mentioned it before, I suck at math. Like, I really suck. Sad, I know. Keeping that in mind, I’ve used the formula in the book (MHR x % of MHR) to calculate my percentage of MHR (of 179) for each training zone: 

— Zone 1 (recovery, easy day):
60-64% MHR = 107-114
(RPE scale 1-2) 

— Zone 2 (aerobic endurance):
65-74% MHR = 116-132
(RPE 3-4) 

— Zone 3 (high-level, tempo pace):
75-84% MHR = 134-150
(RPE 5-6) 

— Zone 4 (lactate threshold, race pace):
85-94% MHR = 152-168
(RPE 7-8) 

— Zone 5 (max effort)
95-100% MHR = 170-179
(RPE 9-10) 

Great. So now I’ve got that figured out I think. (I also found a heart rate training calculator online — good for people who have math-suckage skills like mine. The numbers seemed very close to what I found using the formula in the book). I realize these numbers are only rough estimates. Overall health and fitness, medications, diet, sleep, outdoor or indoor temperatures, and other things can affect a person’s heart rate. Judging on my heart rate monitor which I always wear while riding, I’m usually in Zone 3 for most of my ride. Obviously when I do hills, my heart rate increases pretty quickly into the Zone 4 range, then quickly drops back down to Zone 2 or 3 when I’m finished climbing. 

Here’s where you cycling people can help me out: am I correct in understanding that intervals help build not only endurance but strength, which will help my body more easily adapt to the harder efforts? And what happens if my heart rate reaches the 95-100 percent range for a short time? I assume I won’t just drop dead, but that seems like a reasonable question. Once I approach the 164 or 165 range, I tend to back off. Mainly because I’m panting like a wild dog by that point. 

What is your preferred method for training? Do you follow a structured training program? Did it take long before you noticed an improvement in your cycling (particularly climbing)? 

Today’s food journal: 

— Whole wheat english muffin = 1 point
— 1 Tbsp peanut butter = 2 points 

— Grilled cheese sandwich on wheat = 8 points
— Iced tea = 0 points 

— 1 soft pretzel = 5.5 points
— Iced tea = 0 points 

— WW fudge brownie = 3 points 

Life’s a journey. Enjoy the ride! 

…( ) / ( ) 

Thanks for visiting.



One response

22 03 2013
mark conway

You need to look at your nutrition, and balance diet up with lots more fruits and vegetables. Rehydration is also a great weight loss key.
October 2012 I recommenced cycling after 35 years.
Since that time I have reduced over 12 kilo,s

Recently I have taken up Heart rate monitor fitness training and use 6 zone calculator found on web. Currently I work mostly in zones 3 & 4. Also lesser of zones 1 and 2.

I also have regular recovery with 1 litre water rehydration, and 15 minute rest(standing up), or until my heart rate drops to lower fat burning zone which for me is zone 0ne start @ 103 , rounded say 100BPM, then I,m on the bike again. This extends “smart” fitness training(resting in fatburning zone) very effective for weight loss.

From top weight 3 years ago to currently, weight reduction is 16.67%

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