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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So I've just started biking a bit over a month ago... not really any kind of an athlete before that. I just installed a bike computer with heart rate, cadence and speed sensor to it to see how I've been doing and hopefully use it to track my progress and fitness.

I went for a 45minute ride yesterday for which I would call as intense for me with a generally flat with one big hill. Mapmyride stats showed a total gain of 406ft, 11.13 mile ride and average pace of 13.9mph.

At the age of 39, 155lb and a resting heart rate of about 75bpm, my calculated max heart rate is about 182bpm, more or less depending on which method you choose to calculate.

My average heart rate ended up being 172bpm, which equates to about 94.5% of my max heart rate. On that one hill where I had to do a huge climb (at least for me seemed hugh), my heart rate went past my max to about 188bpm. I was already at my lowest gearing, couldn't gear down any more.

I guess the question, is, for a new cyclist is this normal? I feel my heart rate is sky high, and when I think of the heart rate zones I read on the internet, I can't see even cycling at the 60%-70% heart rate zone as my heart rate will get there just from walking on the street.

Is it dangerous for me to cycle at this intensity for this duration? Or should I just find very flat road and no hills to ride for a while until I can keep my heart rate in check.

For me it just felt like a good work out. I didn't feel as though I burned out or was bonking. I did feel as though I was pushing my limits.

Or is this just a normal phase that new cyclist go through until they can develop that endurance.
 

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How did you feel? You say you weren;t bonking or burning out. Those methods of estimating max heart rate are pretty much worthless. Your max could be 200, or more.

Keep working hard. Sounds to me like you're doing the right things. Personally. I'd pay a little less attention to the numbers at this point. Just ride, have fun, etc. "Felt like a good workout" is what you should feel.
 

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Heart rate varies person to person and there are plenty of people on here that know much more about it than I do.

That being said... if you have been largely sedentary and start exercising fairly hard your heart rate is likely going to increase quickly during that exercise and go up fairly high.

As your fitness improves your heart rate is likely to increase more slowly and not go as high during the same activity at the same rate of intensity.

If you're concerned, and especially if you don't feel well during your cycling, you should see your doctor. If this is your first ride after spending the last few years on the couch, and you feel that you were pushing it, I'm not too surprised. That was me a year ago, and while I didn't have a HR monitor at the time, I know that my first few rides really taxed both my legs and my cardio vascular system.

Edit: I agree completely with what JCavilia wrote.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I definitely didn't feel sick, dizzy or ill when I did the ride or even afterwards. It felt like I worked hard, had an intense work out and actually felt good at what I was able to accomplish. I did this same ride when I first got my bike 6 weeks ago. My speed was only about 8-9mph average from what mapmyride told me and I would put the scale of intensity at about the same. I was just not aware of my heart rate with that kind of intensity and was surprised when I calculated out what percentage that is. Maybe I should just ignore it for now and base my ride on how I feel.
 

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I definitely didn't feel sick, dizzy or ill when I did the ride or even afterwards. It felt like I worked hard, had an intense work out and actually felt good at what I was able to accomplish. I did this same ride when I first got my bike 6 weeks ago. My speed was only about 8-9mph average from what mapmyride told me and I would put the scale of intensity at about the same. I was just not aware of my heart rate with that kind of intensity and was surprised when I calculated out what percentage that is. Maybe I should just ignore it for now and base my ride on how I feel.
That would be my advice. But if you do want to use the hrm to target your training and evaluate progress, learn to do some testing that will give you a better read on your personal max heart rate. You don't know what it is right now -- except you know it's more than 188, since you got to that and you're still alive ;-)

It sounds like you're making very reasonable progress in fitness. Enjoy the good weather to come.
 

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I am still meh about 70% anything. I seriously would get nowhere if I limited like that. Just look at extending your distance though, 45 mins is short cardio session, longer rides will help your endurance. Look at short climbs like that as high intensity periods of your ride but ride for longer and then longer still. Coming from sedentary will just mean your improvement will be fast if you are putting in the time. Exercise for the masses has become incredibly dumbed down with misinformation IMO.
 

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...Maybe I should just ignore it for now and base my ride on how I feel.
As a beginner, unless you're actually doing focused "training" and have a plan, just ride and listen to your body. Heart rate training can be an excellent thing, but there are a couple of important things and without them, it really isn't worth bothering with. First, you really need to ascertain an ACTUAL maximum heart rate (not calculated - calculated based on age is worthless, yes worthless. Like picking a shoe size based on average for your height). An alternative is actual lactate threshold or similar. Then you base your training on certain percentages of one of those numbers.

That brings up the second thing - unless you actually have a TRAINING goal (like racing improvemnt) and a PLAN to get there (amount of time in certain zones, base training, intense training, rest plan, ete.), there really is no reason to use the heart rate monitor.

Just my opinion of course, but I've used one over the years and it did improve my TRAINING for marathon XC ski races. Now that I just race to finish and to keep in shape, I've abandoned the HR monitor for several years now.

That would be my advice. But if you do want to use the hrm to target your training and evaluate progress, learn to do some testing that will give you a better read on your personal max heart rate. You don't know what it is right now -- except you know it's more than 188, since you got to that and you're still alive ;-)

It sounds like you're making very reasonable progress in fitness. Enjoy the good weather to come.
Agree with this 100%. Ride the bike. Enjoy it. If it's getting too tough, back off and enjoy it. You will get healthier and fitter the more you ride, and the more you enjoy it, the more you'll ride.
 

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I think a heart rate monitor is a wonderful thing as you start cycling (or any endurance activity). First, calculated maximum heart rates are useless. You can do a quick search to find tests that are designed to get you to your maximum rate; you should also read up on Lactate Threshold Heart Rate - if you become more serious about structured training, LTHR will be an important measure.

I think the biggest benefit of using a heart rate monitor as you start out is to get objective measurement of what exertion you can and can't handle. As you do more and more rides, knowing your heart rate can keep you from "blowing up" - working too hard so that you can't finish; or from "dogging it" - going too easy relative to your abilities.
 

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Maybe you should spend some time building your aerobic base on the flats?
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thanks everyone for your advice. I do think the heart rate monitor will still be a useful device, but as everyone has implied, I won't put as high of a significance on the data, but listen to my own body and exertion levels.

The last ride was not really my normal ride and pace as I only had a limited time to go out for a spin. I usually ride for about an hour to two hours. So I think this last ride was more of a shorter intense ride.

One other question... if I don't push myself and cruise at a much lower heart rate... will I still improve and get faster?
 

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Thanks everyone for your advice. I do think the heart rate monitor will still be a useful device, but as everyone has implied, I won't put as high of a significance on the data, but listen to my own body and exertion levels.

The last ride was not really my normal ride and pace as I only had a limited time to go out for a spin. I usually ride for about an hour to two hours. So I think this last ride was more of a shorter intense ride.

One other question... if I don't push myself and cruise at a much lower heart rate... will I still improve and get faster?
Well as the guy who told you not to bother with it unless you actually know your max or LT and have an actual goal and plan to get there, I still say don't bother with it.

That said, a VERY GENERAL rule of thumb is that to improve in fitness, you have to train easy and rest in order to be able to train hard and improve. This means - and there are variations of this - that a good 80+% of your time or mileage should be spent at a pretty easy "aerobic" level. Without a HR monitor, this means a pace in which you can easily talk without any shortness of breath. With an HR monitor, this is 60-75% of actual max (which is why it's worthless unless you actually know your max).

It actually takes a LOT of discipline to stay at this level, and it can get boring. This easy base building stuff leaves you well rested so that on the other days (the other 15-20%) you can do qualitywork on hard effort. If you over-do it on the easy days, you just don't have the energy to milk the best effect out of your hard days.

For an activity like XC skiing and bicycling, which involve coasting downhill, it is not as easy to keep the effort exactly in the zone. You'll be a little above it going uphill, and quite a bit below it going down hill. I use average for the session as my goal - on an "easy" day XC skiing or bicycling, I look at around 70% of max for the average for the hour or two I'm training.

Then you have to study up on how to effectively use your hard days to reach the goals you want to reach. It can be intervals (but what length? what rest?) or a race or a time trial or just keeping up with some guys who are faster than you. But this stuff should be a very small portion of your riding if you truly want to effectively use heart rate as a training tool.

Riding at a level harder than the easy/base level, but not hard enough to be a hard work out is often called "junk training" because it doesn't maximize the good effect of building base without wearing you out - and therefore leaves you wanting for the energy to do a really good quality hard work out on that day. A lot of cyclists just think that hammering as much as possible is the key to getting stronger, but it's not. Everybody has different capacities for "absorbing" training without getting worn out, so your buddy's ability to just hammer away without obvious backsliding might be greater than yours, but there's no doubt that if he followed basic training principles, he'd do better for himself.

On the other hand, if you're just riding to enjoy general fitness and health, and just enjoy riding, that "junk" level of exertion. is where a lot of us just have more fun. It's not that much fun to go so slow that you are truly in the good easy zones. It is not that much fun to really milk a true, quality hard day out of our bodies (usually takes some motivation, like a group). But it is fun riding in that medium hard zone.

And unless you're determined to "train", that junk riding will probably be what you gravitate to if just riding for exercise and fun, and will therefore motivate you to ride more, which is the whole idea.

Hope some of that makes sense.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Thanks for that post, it's quite informative.

Although I do not have any competitive aspirations, I do want to improve my speed and endurance. I haven't quite figured out what my goals are yet but I'm sure it will come.

Good thing is I can do a lot of this aerobic type cycling with my fiance as I feel like I don't exert much effort at all when I'm cycling with her. I can maintain a conversation throughout the ride... well.. more like I talk and she rides... :p
 

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Thanks for that post, it's quite informative.

Although I do not have any competitive aspirations, I do want to improve my speed and endurance. I haven't quite figured out what my goals are yet but I'm sure it will come.

Good thing is I can do a lot of this aerobic type cycling with my fiance as I feel like I don't exert much effort at all when I'm cycling with her. I can maintain a conversation throughout the ride... well.. more like I talk and she rides... :p
That's an excellent idea. I enjoy riding with my wife. She always wonders why I would because, although I do ride more and am stronger, she thinks its a much greater difference than it really is. But not only do I enjoy it of it's own sake, it helps me avoid the "junk" miles I would normally do if riding by myself! Why have a fiance (or wife!) if you don't like to do things at their own pace? But like I said, right now, I just see riding as something fun and healthy, they're the only goals.
 

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my calculated max heart rate is about 182bpm, more or less depending on which method you choose to calculate.
Those calculations are, as several others have noted, meaningless. The standard deviation for "age adjusted max HR" calculations is +/- 11 bpm. So 90% of the population would fall within a 35 bpm range. Completely useless.
 
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