A great training method to guide your efforts is to use your heart rate. For this you’ll need a heart rate monitor, preferably one that will record your rides so that you can review them afterwards. And once you have the heart rate monitor you will want to determine your heart rate training zones. The zones will help you do your different workouts appropriately. This is important because as your heart rate changes, the system within your body that you are training changes as well. For instance, if you are trying to do an endurance ride but find your heart rate creeping up into your tempo or even threshold zone then you are no longer training the system that the ride was meant to change.
How to determine your heart rate zones
Your heart rate zones are based off the maximum heart rate that you can achieve. Maximum heart rate is different for everyone, so a formulaic “220 minus your age” approach won’t work. One of the best ways to reach your maximum heart rate is by doing a five-minute time trial. In this case, the time trial is an all-out effort to try and cover as much distance as possible within the five minutes. Ideally, the five minutes should be an uninterrupted, consistent, effort. You’ll want to do it on a flat road or a climb, so try to avoid a road that is rolling. Make sure to note the maximum heart rate that you achieve while doing the time trial!
Now that you have your maximum heart rate we can calculate your training zones based on percentages of this number:
Pacing your time trial
One of the keys to riding a good time trial is pacing yourself properly. Yes, you want to go all out to cover as much distance as possible in the time trial, but careful that you don’t go too hard right away. The sensations you have while riding, your perceived exertion, are a good indication of how hard you are going. But at the beginning of the time trial your perceived exertion lags behind the actual effort that you are doing. For the first minute or so you can’t “feel” the effort. A common mistake is to go too hard as you start the time trial. So it is important to hold back somewhat for the first little bit, let the effort catch up with your body, and then settle in to your pace. Once you try a time trial you will feel what we are talking about quickly enough!