Cycling Training Areas & Lactate Threshold - STEM & SPORT Focus, by @davidesimoncini

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Hello Hive!

Today I'll start a new episode in the STEM and Sportstalksocial landscape relating to cycling . In the last post on the subject, I talked about the new bike-computer purchased during the Christmas period. We have seen many sides and possibilities that this item offers, and today I would like to zoom in on one of the points described: heart rate .

Heart rate is a fundamental parameter if we want to start giving a more professional aspect to training in the saddle. It is an excellent point of support for structuring your workouts and effort management in a more scientific way. Why this?

Simply, it is possible to calculate training areas based on heart rate, i.e. bands between one quantity and another of beats per minute. If they vary, also the responses of our body vary with respect to the effort we are making. Let's see in more detail how to calculate these areas, and we will see the biological aspects in a future episode.



To calculate our training areas we need to carry out tests . The most famous tests used for professional purposes do not stop at heart rate but are based on the relationships between heart rate and power released during a workout. They are carried out by drawing graphs and measuring the divergences within them, thus finding a much more precise relationship between the measured parameters. To understand, such a test is based on a gradual increase in the power released until it reaches a point of exhaustion, during a specific training session. By measuring heart rates and powers it is possible to identify points where the increases between the first and second are no longer linear: the point where this occurs is identified as ANAEROBIC or LACTATE THRESHOLD , and is the fundamental point that these types of tests try to identify.

For more down-to-earth cycling, made not of power meters but only heart rate monitors, the heart rate alone may be enough to identify training areas. It should be noted that the anaerobic threshold identified will be the cardiac one and not the muscular one that can be fixed with the power meters. As we saw in the first post, this is the reason why it is possible to greatly decrease the yield even at non-maximal heart rates: simply, we have prolonged efforts outside the muscular anaerobic threshold limit.


How to do a simple do-it-yourself test? It is not difficult and can be easily calculated with tests done on the rollers or on the road. The latter ones are perhaps more reliable when well done since they allow to insert some components such as the frictions present outdoors (resistance of the ground, air, etc.) The first test I took I did when I was young. It was a test performed by a sports medicine expert and was one of the more professional tests seen above. This time, years later, I decided to recalculate my training areas based on my skills today.

The first piece of this puzzle is the maximum heart rate . This parameter can also be calculated very roughly without specific tests, with the simple formula:

HR max = 220 - (years of age)

but I don't recommend it if you have a heart rate monitor. Just carry out a very simple test by measuring the maximum frequency actually reached during an extremely intense workout . In my case, I inserted another parameter to get closer to real conditions: I recreated a homemade incremental test variant , so as to evaluate the maximum heart rate in conditions of actual engagement. Just to make you understand, the maximum frequency reached in this way was 186 beats, but the frequency obtained a few days before was 187 . This happened because I had not combined the hardness of the bike gear ratio with the cadence such as to allow me to recreate the present conditions on the road. This first test will be joined by a repeat in a few days, then one on the road when I can get back again. But what have I done? Let's see.

I hooked the bike to the rollers, I adjusted everything in order to generate a lot of friction between the rear wheel and the roller. I got on the bike and started pedaling: pedaling frequency 90-100 rpm for 10 minutes , gear ratio 52-16 / 52-20 . Then another 5 minutes in which I varied between hard gear ratio and those mentioned above, so as to start getting used to the muscles.

And there I started the real test: every minute or minute and a half, I increased the cadence (5 rpm more, starting from about 90) or hardened the ratio. It all had to last - and it lasted - until I couldn't increase the cadence anymore. At the time I was pedaling at around 110 rpm with maximum gear, a 52-11. Having completely exhausted the force that could be released, I lightened the gear ratio and cycled 20 seconds maximum possible. In that sprint, the heart rate peaked at 186 bpm.


After a good cool down, a few days later, I started calculating the training areas. How are they calculated? There are many schools of thought, I have adopted a fairly reliable one I have known for some time. First, I calculated the Anaerobic Threshold . According to this method, the threshold value corresponds to 93.5% of the maximum heart rate .

At this point, based on the threshold value, I calculated the various work areas, corresponding to more or less precise percentages of the frequency value at the threshold.

Here in Italy, we are a different metrics defining the limit between the several areas. The training areas were creatively named by our predecessors based on the breathing rate that could be observed during theirs presence. They are:

Aerobic Threshold Fondo Lento Fondo Lungo Fondo Medio Fondo Veloce Anaerobic Threshold Off-Threshold ( Off-LT ) Maximal Aerobic Speed

Let's see in the figure what are the percentages corresponding to each area and apply them to my data.



In the English approach, the zone based on the heart rate are only 5, plus 2 ones based on a power metric. They are:

Zone 1 : Active Recovery Zone 2 : Extensive Aerobic Zone 3 : Intensive Aerobic Zone 4 : Lactate Threshold Zone 5 : VO2max and Zone 6 : Vlamax Zone 7 : Neuromuscolar Power

Let's see in the figure what are the percentages corresponding to each area and apply them to my data.



As you can see from the numbers in the figure, there is a very large gap between the 2 approaches : in the second approach there is a clear underestimation in the bands of the training areas. I point this out to you because the second approach is much more right if based on evaluations of muscle anaerobic thresholds (with intensity bands that I didn't post here). I therefore advise you to use the first method if you only have the heart rate monitor available and to try the second only by carrying out more precise tests with evaluations of the thresholds through measurements of heart rate and power released.

At this point, I have given you an idea of how to be able to identify values. If you want, you can try it and tell me what you think. In a future post, we will see in more detail the biological parameters that come into play and what happens to our body in each of these areas. This will certainly not be the state of science at the moment, but it will be a good way to get an idea of what happens to us during a workout.

That's all for now. I greet you and wait for you for the next post.


0.320 HBD