5 Biggest Mistakes in Heart Rate Monitor Training

1 – Comparing heart rate values with others

The fact is that you can only compare heart rate values with your own previous registrations. The reason for this is that we all have a different anatomy of our cardiovascular system. But these systems are all based on the same physiological mechanisms.

Thus, we can learn from each others’ physiological experiences and adaptations, but we can’t compare individual heart rate values. E.g. your resting heart rate is 58bpm while your friend’s heart rate is 42bpm, still I can’t say which one of you are in the best shape nor have the highest VO2 max.

Your maximum heart rate is correlated to your age, but that does not mean that we all fit in to 220-age formula. There is a huge standard deviation because we all are anatomically different. Just like with the resting heart rates, maximum heart rates does not predict performance.

2 – Not being aware of factors affecting heart rate

Your working heart rate at the same external workload changes from day to day because it is affected by several factors including caffeine, water balance, temperature, physical stress, psychological stress etc.

Thus, you should know how these things affect your heart rate since that is essential if you want to use your current heart rate for pacing. Taking action of the response from your heart rate monitor on your effort is an important part of using this tool. E.g. if you feel your heart rate is too high compared to the workload, then consider if there is a good reason for this (dehydration, too much coffee etc.) When you have found the answer, then take action on it.

3 – Not analyzing heart rate data

Heart rate monitor training is much about analyzing. If you have an advanced or professional heart rate monitor from Polar, you can collect tons of data for analyzing on your personal computer. This is an important process if you want to get the full value out of your heart rate monitor.

When you get used to see your heart rate records, you will begin to get a deeper understanding of how your body works. If you add some studying in exercise physiology to your analyzing, you will be able to make better decisions about your future cycling training. And that is exactly the point of spending reviewing your bike rides.

4 – Wrong use of heart rate monitor during races

When you enter a race, you will see that you are able to ride faster than you normally do at training. It is difficult, if not impossible, to make clever decisions based on your current heart rate in a cycling race.

I’ve heard several riders give up, when they were trying to jump from the peloton because they thought their heart rate indicated that they should slow down. That is definitively a big mistake since there is large tactical factor in play in cycling races.

Thus, if you are lucky, the peloton will slow down and stop struggling to close the gap. And that is why experience is so much more important in races than heart rate registrations.

5 – Wrong use of target zones during training

Heart rate target zones are a way to categorize different types of training. Many riders use basic training programs where they are supposed to work at percentage of their maximum heart rate. But these programs are born to be inadequate since there is a huge deviation in relative working heart rates (Just like with minimum and maximum heart rates).

Thus, these target zones should be based on your personal experiences and testing procedures, not a general formula. Also I will recommend you to not making the target zones to small, because of the factors influencing on the heart rate. One day you are in top of the target zone and the next day you are in the bottom, but the subjective feeling might be the same.

So if the interval is too small you are likely to cross the limits which will make you work either easier or harder to stay in the target zone.

8 thoughts on “5 Biggest Mistakes in Heart Rate Monitor Training”

  1. Colin Griffiths

    I have been struggling with some of these issues over the last month, and had been working to the same conclusions. I enjoy reading your blog and am finding it very informative. Thanks.

  2. Just wondering if you have ever heard of a natural periodic (repetitive pattern) fluctuation in heart rate?

  3. If the biker in training is on a medication of the beta blocker family, which lowers the resting heart rate and the response of the heart rate to exercise, should the target heart rate “zones” during exercise be lowered and, if so, by how much?

  4. Help!
    i am 22 years old. I love cycling. Although there is a problem. I cant seem to get my heartrate down, it stays in zone 3 while training.. i wjnt to train in zone1 and 2. What can I do to get my heartrate down?


  5. Hello, About 2 yrs ago I had cardio point testing at my club and learned about my zones. I have been training hard ever since althoug possibily training harder, not smarter. I just had my zones retested and they have dropped. My AT went from 153 in 2010 to 148 in 2012. My zone 1 started at 130 in 2010 and it now starts at 122. What does this say about my fitness? I was disapointed to see my nbrs come down rather than go up. Am I in worse heart health? My Vo2 stayed about the same. In 2010 it was 35 and now it is 35.5. I am a 57 yrs old female.

  6. Michael Bernsen

    When i start to ride my bike the hart rate goes high and i cant get to come down about 170 bpm
    I have great blood pressure 100over 70
    Im 43 years old only 5 lb over weight
    So i just ride about 17 to 18 miles ph

  7. Michael Bernsen

    When i start riding my nice race bike and put some efford in it my hart rate jumps too
    160 quickly so i can never go any faster than 20 mph for any distance
    Im 43 year old female not over weight by mutch my blood pressure is
    100 over 70 what to do to go faster ?

  8. Hey
    I was just wondering my resting heart rate seems to be fairly high its around 70’s to high 60’s…. I ride 350 km”s per wk i thought it would have dropped…. iv been doing this for about 7months now. Any insight ? kind regard gene

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