Updated 07 June 2013

Calculate your training zones

In order to get the best results from your cycling training it is important to train according to training zones.


In order to get the best results from your cycling training it is important to train according to training zones. 

By this we mean training according to your heart rate. You don’t want your heart beating too fast or too slow. So you need to figure w0hat your target heart rate for a cycling workout is. If you don’t have a heart rate monitor and you have no desire to get one.

Then simply try and estimate the appropriate zone according to your ability to be able to hold a conversation whilst riding.

Zone 1 – 2: You should easily be able to chat whilst training.
Zone 3 – 4: Holding a conversation becomes increasingly difficult.
Zone 5:  It’s impossible to talk whilst your legs are burning and your lungs are on fire. 

For those that do have a heart rate monitor, what follows is a bit more detail on how to calculate your target heart rate and your training zones. 

Calculating your training zones

For the most accurate prescription of your training zones, visit a performance testing centre such as the Discovery High Performance Cycling Centre at the Sports Science Institute. A peak power output test or a VO2 max test will provide accurate information with which to plan your training and monitor your progress. 

Alternatively, utilise the Karvonen formula to estimate your target heart rate and training zones. This is a mathematical formula that uses your maximum heart rate minus resting heart rate to determine your target heart rate (otherwise known as Heart Rate Reserve).

To find your Resting Heart Rate (RHR), take your pulse for a full minute just after you have woken up. 

To find your Maximal Heart Rate (MHR), subtract your age from 220 for a rough estimate. Alternatively, measure your heart rate during a race and power up a steep climb, that should give you your MHR. 

Once you know these two figures, you can work out your training zones. 


Zone 1 = 20 - 40% of HRR
RPE (rate of perceived exertiion out of 20): 6 - 9
Resting to very low intensity exercise

Zone 2 = 40 - 60% of HRR
RPE: 10 - 12
Predominantly fat burning and recovery zone

Zone 3 = 60 - 80% of HRR
Aerobic conditioning below the lactate turnpoint
RPE: 13 - 15

Zone 4 = 80 - 90% of HRR
Maximal effort
RPE: 16 - 17

Zone 5 = > 90% of HRR
RPE: 18 - 20

Here is the formula:

MHR - (MHR - RHR) x (% intensity) + RHR 

Visit Bicycling Magazine to sign up for a customised Argus training programme.




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