As for me and my bike, we’re done with 2016! It’s 31 December 2016, and I’m writing this from a sun lounger next to the pool. Yesterday I planned a riding date at Hemel and Aarde trails with my husband.  When he woke me this morning to go riding I was grumpy. I was flat. I just didn’t feel like it, but he was overly excited. The roles were evidently reversed for a change.

A few days ago, in the spirit of all the “new year, new you” vibes, I read the following quote: “Someone once told me the definition of hell: ‘On your last day on earth, the person you became will meet the person you could have become’” – Anonymous.

Today, on the last day of 2016, I was faced with that hell. My riding skills today was horrific compared to what they were a year ago. I haven’t been riding as much during this year as I did in 2015 and I didn’t like it one bit. Mentally, nor physically, am I as strong as I once was. My technical skills were shocking and I was skittish to the point that I just irritated myself. I promised to myself, like Trump promised America: “I will be great again!” 2017 will be the year for that. And get me straight, greatness does not mean that I will aim to be the fastest. I will aim to be faster, better and an improved version of myself. And that is my New Year’s wish to all of you dirt divas – personal growth and improvement!

So along with Christmas came a very generous Santa who so kindly gave me a sports watch! Yes, can you believe I’ve been riding without one for so long?! I took my new toy for a short spin, and upon completion it promptly announced, on a series of alternating screens: Record! Furthest ride to date: 14km, VO2max: 43, Training Effort : 4.8. What does it all mean? My research and education in all these technical things started and I decided to share my learnings with you.

In this first part of “Let’s get technical”, I will deal with the terminology that you will come across when doing heart rate based training. In the next part, I will explain how training in the different heart rate zones work and how to use the zones effectively.

What are heart rate zones?

Resting Heart rate: The best way to calculate your resting HR is by taking your HR when you wake up every morning, for a week, and then getting the average.

Maximum Heart Rate: The simplest way to determine your Max HR is to take 220 less your age, but this can be very inaccurate for some people. The more accurate way is to do a 15 minute warm up ride. On a long steady hill, after your warm up, start increasing your effort every minute for about 5 minutes. At that point, do a quick 15 second sprint and check your HR immediately.

Now you are ready to calculate your HR zones. There are different schools of thought on how many zones you should use. One I believe to be quite popular is that of Dr. Andy Coggan (an exercise physiologist focussed on cycling), who uses 5 HR zones.

Zone 1: 50-60% max HR (MHR) This is the zone in which you can stay active, without getting tired. This is where you would do your active recovery.

Zone 2: 60-70% MHR This is the zone in which base training happens. Looong hours of slow riding.

Zone 3: 70-80% MHR In this zone you train your body’s ability to maintain a high pace for an extended period of time.

Zone 4: 80-90% MHR

Zone 5: 90-100% MHR – training in this zone is very fatiguing. It’s those leg burning efforts that you can only maintain for a short period of time and your heart feels like it’s about to explode out of your chest.

What is base training?

In short, base training is the type of training that teaches your body to use oxygen efficiently. Base training rides are usually long and steady paced at moderate levels of exertion. You would typically do base training for a period of one month up to an entire off-season.

Now that you’ve got the basics down, here’s to making 2017 the best year yet. Set yourself goals, work towards them. Enjoy the journey and make sure you end this year as the best version of yourself that you can be.

**Disclaimer: I am not holding myself out to be an expert in the content I have written above. The purpose of this article is to share the knowledge I’ve gained through research and to try and give you a better understanding of the concept of HR based training. Should you require a training programme, I suggest that you contact a cycling coach to help you. Reading this article will help you understand some of the terms a coach will refer to.

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