Stationary Cycling Heart Rate Zones

Use your heart rate to teach yourself to ride faster and farther.
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You hit the gym with a plan because you want your workout to mean something. By using your cardiovascular system as a guide, you can design a stationary cycling workout that will make you faster and stronger, and help you shed a few pounds. The harder you work out, moving your heart rate through different zones, the more calories you burn. But your body cannot maintain the highest level of intensity for very long. Different heart rate zones have different benefits. Figure out what your goals are, then mount the stationary bike and pedal to fitness success.

Heart Rate Basics

    When you work out, your heart rate goes through four different zones -- recovery, aerobic, anaerobic and red line -- depending on your intensity. The harder you ride, the harder your heart and muscles have to work. Throughout these zones, your heart uses two different kinds of respiration to power your muscles. Riding at an aerobic level strengthens your cardiovascular system and helps you build endurance. Riding in the anaerobic zone improves your speed and intensity.

Aerobic Basics

    From warming up through pedaling at a moderate pace, your heart rate is in aerobic respiration. This is anything from 60 to 80 percent of your maximum heart rate. While in the aerobic zone, your heart pumps oxygen-rich blood filled with fat and carbohydrates to your muscles where the fat and carbs are broken down into energy with the help of the oxygen.

Anaerobic Basics

    If you starting sprinting or climbing hills during your stationary bike ride, you might push yourself into anaerobic respiration. This is anything greater than 80 percent of your maximum heart rate. At this intensity, you are working out so hard that your muscles need energy faster than your heart can supply it. Instead of using oxygen, your muscles start breaking down locally stored glycogen for energy. This comes with a byproduct called lactic acid, which starts to build up in your muscles and cause a burning sensation. Eventually this forces you to slow down.

Checking your Heart Rate

    You can always wear a heart rate monitor, which continuously calculates your heart rate while you ride, but it isn’t essential. You can always stop and take your pulse for 15 seconds on your neck or wrist. Multiply this number by four to calculate your beats per minute. Less precise ways to gauge your heart rate are paying attention to your breathing and sweating. In the aerobic zone, your breath should quicken but you shouldn’t be out of breath. You should break a light sweat after 10 minutes. In the anaerobic zone, breathing should be rapid and deep. You should break a sweat after only a few minutes.

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