Heart Rate Testing! Oh My!

Last night was my first official heart rate test on the trainer to determine my heart rate zones for training. It involved a 15 minute time trial (TT) at an all out effort. The only other time I did something similar to this was a few weeks ago at the Sustainable Athlete’s Friday Night Fight on a 10km rolling hills course. Honestly, it’s not about the HR so much as it is a lesson in pacing. Go out too fast and you’ll blow up half way. Go out and continue to slow and you won’t reach your maximum effort and will probably lose. As you’ll see below in my graph my pacing isn’t the best, but it’s something that I will learn to perfect in the future. This year’s training plan is much different than ways I’ve trained in the past. HR training, power (soon-to-be), 2-a-day workouts, etc. I’ve finally put my big girl pants on and stepped up to the big leagues! I’m excited to see the differences in my performance as my training continues to progress.

Now let’s talk about this HR test! I went into dreading it slightly because I knew it would hurt. After the last TT I was very light-hearted and considered puking. I was sure I was going to feel the same way after this one! I made sure I had a bucket ready next to my bike in case I couldn’t un-clip fast enough. I also informed my father as he was walking out the door that I might be dead on the floor from a heart attack when he comes home. He succeed to ask me if I paid my life insurance. Well, no, I don’t have life insurance because I’m 24, not married and no kids. What’s the point? He said he would just sell my bike to pay for my funeral. Thanks, Dad. My workout looked like this:

15 min warm up at endurance pace (~65% effort)

3×1 min (1 min rest btw interval) of fast pedaling (100+ rpm)

5 min easy spin

2 min all out effort

10 min easy spin

15 min TT (start slightly below threshold, build speed, and finish the last 2 mins at all out effort)

spin easy till 1:10 total time

Let’s talk a little bit about HR training. HR training is useful for many endurance athletes because it teaches your body to use fat as it’s main source of fuel instead of carbohydrates. Now, I can certainly explain cellular metabolism to you because I love biochemistry, but I’m not because you probably don’t care. Your body creates energy in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) through several complex biochemical reactions from the nutrients (i.e. foods) you consume. However, each nutrient (i.e. carbohydrates, fat, and protein) is processed differently during metabolism. Carbohydrates are the main source of fuel for exercise of medium to high intensity, while fats fuel low intensity exercise for longer periods of time. Protein can be processed for fuel, but is mainly used by the body for repair and maintenance of your tissues. Your body converts nutrients to fuel by two different methods: aerobic (with oxygen) metabolism and anaerobic (without oxygen) metabolism. There are two forms of anaerobic metabolism: ATP-creatine phosphate and glycolysis. I will not bore you with the details, but the overall outcome is energy for short, intense bursts of exercise (i.e. 100 meter dash). In case your wondering, lactic acid is a by-product from the glycolysis cycle of metabolism.

Aerobic metabolism is the focus of most endurance athletes. Aerobic metabolism requires oxygen that is transported through your circulatory system. Cells (or most precisely, mitochrodria in cells) use nutrients such as carbohydrates, fats, and proteins and oxygen molecules to produce ATP for energy. Fat is a great source of nutrients for endurance training. We all have fat storage in our bodies. Some of us, including myself, probably have too much of it! If you are training at low intensity, generally at or below 50% of your max HR, you have enough stored fat to last for hours or even days. However, if your intensity picks up, your body will switch to carbohydrates as your main source of fuel since it is more efficient. The downfall is that carbohydrates are stored as glycogen in your body and it is a finite source. A typical person’s glycogen source lasts for about 2 hours before they reach the “bonk.”

Now let’s get back to HR training. There are several ways to calculate your maximum heart rate (MHR) and your heart rate zones. One is the traditional calculation of 220- your age. This as it’s limitations, especially because it’s inaccurate for women. A better calculation for females is 209 – (0.7 x age). According to this calculation my MHR should be 191.5. Joe Friel suggests doing a 30 TT on your bike. Everyone has there own methods.

Now let’s look at my graph from my HR test. I even added commentary to it for you! (Let’s hope it’s big enough for you to read!) This was my thought process throughout the whole ordeal.

It was a good time. I didn’t puke at the end, but I definitely saw stars during the last two minutes where I pushed it hard. My max rate was 191 with an average of about 184 during the 15 min TT. From this and what I imputed into marathonguide.com’s HR Zone calculator we get this for my zones:

Zone 1 – low intensity (50-60% of MHR): 125-138

Zone 2 – weight control (60-70% of MHR): 138-151

Zone 3 – aerobic zone (70-80% of MHR): 151-164

Zone 4 – anaerobic zone (80-90% of MHR): 164-177

Zone 5 – maximal zone (90-100% of MHR): 177-190 (aka puke)

Now this is my intrepretion of my data. My coach might tell me otherwise. Plus I have to do a HR test on Saturday for running. I seriously might actually puke on that one. We’ll see what happens!

After completing my test, I logged into facebook to see this awesome picture pop up. I wish I saw this beforehand. It’s now my background on my work computer because I love it so much!

And because my artistic skills are not up to par. This is what my dog did while I sweated gallons of sweat all over my poor little bike. I told her to call 911 if I passed out, but I think she would have left me for dead. Thanks Reagan!

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4 thoughts on “Heart Rate Testing! Oh My!

  1. hahaha! I love your puppy~ ! I love that he was sleeping like that as you kicked your own ass!The reason I like a 15 minute hr test is simply because I find at the beginning of the season, a 30 min test (or even 20!) takes WAY too much out of you for the training week in which you do the test and 2. It's not as accurate b/c you are budgeting your energy for a 30 minute test such that you get the threshold number–but not the max hr. It may be that you can get MORE out of yourself in a few months, and we then see a higher max or threshold hr, at which point we will alter the zones slightly. Basically, though, for the bike, around the mid 190s is what you are going to get, I'm pretty sure. For running it will be HIGHER! (and yes, I think that test hurts just as bad, or worse!)xoxo great job on this!

  2. I think Joe Friel is a little crazy for 30 minutes. I might have given up before it even started if it was 30 minutes long! I had a feeling the running test was going to hurt more. Oh boy, here we go….

  3. Pingback: 2012: A Year in Review Part I | The Rhyme and Reason

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