areUfit 2 Ride? - Part Two

by Robin Akers

So what is your maximum heart rate (MHR)? Quite simply it's the maximum number of beats in a minute that your heart is able to attain. Note I said your heart, because it's a very very individual figure. It's genetically fixed and decreases as you get older! You will see many training manuals suggest that 220 for men & 226 for women less your age will indicate your MHR. This is nearly always wrong and can affect considerably training zones that you may want to set (more of which later). It can also be different depending on the sport you play. So your cycling maximum heart rate is a very specific and useful number to know.

So why do you need to know what your maximum heart rate is? Because it's the best indicator of the load that exercise is imposing on the cardiovascular system. In one number you also have an indication of your general condition. That's why it's useful to know and monitor your resting heart rate (RHR) each day especially if you train regularly. An increase in RHR of more than 10% your normal RHR can indicate the onset of infection or tiredness and it may well be advisable to alter your planned training session for something easier or miss it altogether.

MHR is also used to determine and monitor the load imposed on the cardiovascular system in training so that it is not over-stressed during moderate or easy training sessions but is actually being stressed as required during hard workouts. Training intensity is therefore classified in training zones. British Cycling recommend the use of six zones based on the percentage of MHR, you will read other training manuals that recommend only four.

So how can you establish your own maximum heart rate? Try this test. You will need a heart rate monitor or watch to time your heart rate by finding your pulse at the wrist or neck.

Find a hill with a nice steady incline, not too steep, one that will take about 5 minutes to climb. Importantly BE WELL RESTED & MOTIVATED FOR A HARD WORK OUT!!!

Warm up15 mins at a moderate pace i.e 75rpm.
Stage 1Get to the bottom of the hill and set off Increase effort by 10-15% every minute or so. You will need to increase your gearing as your effort increases, maintain cadence above 75rpm.
Stage 2Continue to increase effort by a further 10% in stages and maintain effort

When you reach the point that it is extremely difficult to maintain a pedal cadence over 75rpm sprint absolutely flat out as hard as you can.

Watch your heart rate monitor and you should see your maximum heart rate indicated. There will be a slight time lag because the monitor reads every 10-15 secs or so.

Final stage15 min cool down.

Robin Akers is a qualified British Cycling Coach. If you have any questions about training or fitness generally, Robin can be contacted via www.areUfit.co.uk or by email robin.akers@virgin.net