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23-03-2022 | Fiets Magazine

How to determine heart rate zones without a laboratory test

I have just started cycling and would like to follow a training program. I see you use heart rate zones but have never had them measured. Is it possible to calculate heart rate zones without a laboratory test? Or is there a simple way to do a test?

Answer by Stefan van Klink (Trainer/Coach at TalentNED)

When you just start training, doing a laboratory test can sometimes be a big step. Often you first want to see if you like cycling before you invest in it further. There are several ways to test yourself.

Standard calculation

Let me start by saying that the standard calculation is only an average. If you really have no measurement data at all, this is a good point to start, but keep in mind that almost everyone deviates from the standard. For some it is very little, but sometimes the difference can be very large. The standard calculation goes like this. Your maximum heart rate is 220 minus your age. So an average 20-year-old athlete will have a maximum heart rate of 200.

Again, this is more often incorrect than not. Your threshold heartrate is about 90 percent of your maximum heart rate. This means that this athlete can ride an hour at a heart rate of 180 without losing speed. If you apply this method, keep paying attention during training to whether these numbers match your feelings.

Field test

It is also possible to measure your threshold yourself without having to carry out a laboratory test. This way doesn't cost you any money and is easy to plan. During the field test you perform a time trial of 20 minutes, in which you try to cover as much distance as possible. Try to ride this time trial as flat as possible, then the result will be the most reliable. From this time trial you take your average heart rate over the last 15 minutes of the test. This heart rate is your threshold.

When you want to do an exercise test, it's important to think carefully about what exactly you want to know from the test.

Because you actually provided this value yourself, this is considerably more reliable than the standard calculation. Incidentally, this is also a good test to calculate your FTP when you train with a power meter.

Exertion test

The most reliable way to calculate your heart rate zones is still a laboratory test. This can be done in many different places and comes in many shapes and sizes, from a simple exercise test to an extensive medical screening. When you want to do a laboratory test, it is therefore important to think carefully about what exactly you want to know from the test. It is also important to know what you want to know from the test.

In addition, take a good look at what your health insurance covers. Some insurances will simply cover an exercise test. Perhaps that can make the step to perform a test a little smaller.

This article was created in collaboration with Fiets Magazine.

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