Top Tips For Using Heart Rate To Guide Your Training

Let’s face it not all of us have power meters.

Not all of us need them either.

Particularly a fresh newcomer to the sport.

There are far more important things to learn when you start cycling over the likes of your functional threshold power (FTP).

Learn the basics and progress to that level when and if you need to too.

Believe me when you want start stepping up levels you want to be able to do so with equipment also.

It really helps knowing there’s still advancements you can make to different areas as you progress.

Other than more training !

Heart rate monitors

They’ve been on the market since polar launched their first in 1982, if I’m not mistaken.


They have been a staple component of the ‘cyclist locker’ for many years at this stage.

Yet still, many people don’t know how to use them – at least to their full capacity.

Although technology has hit ridiculous heights in regards to data recording in cycling, I still love and advocate the use of heart rate monitors.

Here are my tips to get the most out yours:

Complete a threshold test –

This can be done on your own or you can gather the info from your local time trial once its 25 – 30 minutes or more.

The subsequent data means you can plan the intensity for the rest of your rides.

Contact us, or post on the Facebook group if you’re not sure how!

Resting pulse –

Taking your resting pulse is such an undervalued tool for numerous reasons.

I for one was considered bradycardic i.e. in other words I had a mentally low resting pulse.

This was evident from the day I started cycling and it just got lower and lower as a result of my increased aerobic fitness to the stage it regularly dropped to 30 BPM.

Don’t I just get weirder and weirder as you get to know me?

You see your resting pulse can give you a heads up that you’re not recovering or that a bit of an illness is settling in.

Do recognise that there are some discrepancies from day to day, so if you get one high reading don’t have a conniption just yet.

This reading can and will be affected by several factors such as hydration, nutritional status, psychological wellbeing or if someone forgot to turn off the heating!

Understand the sources of variation

This is critical if you’re going to interpret heart rate as best you possibly can.

Stress, fatigue, dehydration all effect heartrate and this is why a lot of people think they’re useless.

It’s a limitation no doubt, but it can also let you know these variables are at play.

Which brings me to my next point.


To get the most out of your pulse monitor you need to understand or get the hang of using Rate of perceived Exertion.

Basically, it’s how hard you feel the effort to be.

RPE can change significant for the same heartrate values of the course of a training block e.g. 150 BBP was once a 6 out of 10 effort during week 1, but after a 3 week training block it’s now more of a 7.5.

RPE also become important when training for long hours due to a phenomenon known as cardiovascular drift.

You may notice over the course off a long ride your BPM will gradually rise. Over time, with training this will lessen. But if you are riding solely by heartrate you are more than likely slowing way down towards the end of the ride.

This is why you need to understand perceived exertion.

Short training intervals –

Intervals under 5 minutes in duration are pretty much impossible to do using a heartrate monitor for guidance.

Your heartrate won’t reach the value in time before the effort is over.

It is also important to note that you shouldn’t burst yourself to get your heartrate up to a particular intensity quickly, if you do this you are likely to be far above the target intensity thus eliciting a completely different response from your body as a result.

Once you get the hang of all this and start getting some data together, you will be able to use it to guide your future sessions or give you a target for your next time trial.

Until next time,

Aaron Buggle

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