A rare day off from training clients today, so I set myself a challenge! To cycle 32miles with my heart rate remaining above 130bpm (that’s 70% of my maximum heart rate). For anyone who has read my article on Heart Rate Zone Training in Trail Running magazine you will know that this is the ‘Aerobic Training Zone’ – ‘running at this level is perfect for improving cardio-vascular fitness and increasing the size and strength of the heart and increasing lung capacity’
Basically if you keep your heart rate at this level you will get fitter and stronger and, over time, faster!
I wanted to see if I could maintain this level over a fair distance while still feeling comfortable. The aim of this is to test how my body feels when working quite hard for a couple of hours. If I can do this in training it will help me in racing.
Keeping my heart rate high was easy at first. The shock of starting to cycle was enough to cause my heart rate to rise- especially as I started uphill! In fact keeping my heart rate under 90% of my MHR became my biggest challenge for a while.
Going downhill was a bit trickier, as soon as I started to descend the number quickly reduced from 130bpm to 85bpm. I had to spin my little legs as fast as they would go to keep the rate high enough.
What I found was:-
1) The time went really quickly as I concentrated on nothing but keeping my heart rate high enough.
2) I felt comfortable cycling at speed – I maintained a decent average of 20mph which is pretty fast for me. I normally train at around 17mph.
3) I saved time.
4) I enjoyed the focus this challenge gave me. Instead of thinking about speed or distance I had a different aim – which was a welcome change.
I wouldn’t do this more than once a week. I’m a competitive being but cycling is also about enjoyment for me. Getting to places in half the time it takes to run and enjoying the views is what gets me out the door. But for pure speed and experimental purposes I loved this training session and would recommend it if you want to challenge yourself.
Fancy having a go? You’ll need some kind of heart rate monitor, either a watch and heart strap or by using an app on your phone. Next find your Maximum Heart Rate (220 minus your age), work out your percentages and off you can go.
Alternatively why not do some speed work, for example 1 minute at 90% of your MHR followed by 1 minute at 60% – repeat this 20 times and you’ll be ready for your protein recovery shake!!!