Heart Rate Training Basics

Polar heart rate training basics

Our training program is based on heart rate training basics and principles. The basis of the program comes from training programs developed by Intelligent Health and Fitness, the suppliers of Polar heart rate monitors in SA. The reason that we like these programs are because they are flexible and relatively simple to follow.

Training Programs

Training programs are found everywhere in magazines and on the internet, and obtainable from training companies and coaches. Following a program blindly is not necessarily the best way of going about it. It’s a bit like the fishing analogy, giving a poor man fish vs rather than teaching him to catch his own fish.

Problem with many programs is that they just don’t make sense, are too complicated, too prescriptive or just too demanding and not always pitched at your level. Everyone has different levels of fitness, different time constraints and different goals, so finding the right program for you can be a bit like finding a needle in a haystack. There is no reason that it should all be so complicated because most training programs are based on the same fundamentals. So if you can learn the fundamentals and apply them, then you are set to go on to bigger and better things. If you can understand and apply the fundamentals then there is a good chance of you really sticking to a training program for an extended period and reaping the long term rewards. If you can understand how and why you train a certain way, it will make it a lot easier to follow the program and you will be much more motivated and committed.

Back to Basics

We landed up using this program and committing to it after coming from a very social riding background and have no prior understanding of how it worked at all. Our belief and experience has been to go back to basics, get that right first and then once that is habit start to add more variation and specific training techniques. If you have never followed structured training before then you stand to benefit the most by simply following a structured program. Just by applying the basics and getting the fundamentals right you will make huge progress and be amazed at the results that you can achieve.

You will find our program to be very simple and easy to follow, and it will prove itself time and time again. After more than 3 years of following it we continue to see the benefits and it continues to amaze us.

We found that following a simple training program is better than not following the best training program. The real secret of a training program is not what is written on paper or a book but rather what you actually do. It is all about understanding what you need to do, how to go about it, monitor how you are doing and being disciplined.

Real World training

Our experience does not come from degrees doctorates and thesis’s but instead from real world experience. Like most people we got heart rate monitors to help us with training but never really understood how to use them or what their potential really was. After discovering heart rate based training via one of the Polar heart rate training workshops we have never looked back. When it came to our first Cape Epic we took a modified Polar training program and used that as the basis of our training. Then over a period of 3 years we have continued to refine our training plans with great success in the Cape Epic.

These training plans are ideal for amateur riders who need something to work towards and some form of guidance. Using Polar software together with this plan is like having your own personal trainer. It gives you goals and something to aim for, an easy reliable way to measure and record your progress and most importantly keeps you training at the right intensity levels.

Understand your training

There are some fundamentals in heart rate training that are important to understand in order to really benefit from these programs. I have proven these fundamentals to myself through the years. However at first I too was sceptical, so any extra reading or courses covering heart rate based training would be very useful in helping this process along. There are a few books written on the subject of heart rate based training that can be recommended. The free workshops offered by Polar are useful and practical ways of getting to grips with the concepts.

Principle 1:
The first fundamental principle of training is that you increase fitness not while training but after training, during recovery. This is due to the fact that training is a stress on the body, which the body then reacts to by increasing its strength. This process starts to happen after training has stopped and continues for a period of time afterwards. So this means that you need to allow time to recover during an exercise work out and an exercise program. Hard and long workouts or efforts need to be followed by periods of recovery to allow the body to strengthen in preparation for the next workout.

Principle 2:
The second principle is to understand the relationship between training time and training intensity. The training time is the duration of your training and intensity is your heart rate and exertion during exercise. The relationship is defined by a simple law: the longer the duration the lower the intensity and the shorter the duration the higher the intensity. Put simply the easier and slower you ride, the longer you will be able to ride for, while the harder and faster you ride the shorter you will be able to ride. In a race situation, a sprinter has high intensity over short distance while a long distance athlete has low intensity over long distance. Getting these mixed up in training can lead to fatigue and destructive training.

Principle 3 = Principle 1 + Principle 2:
The third principle is a combination of first two principles, principle 1 being load and recover, principle two being intensity and time and this gives you the concept of load – overload – recover. This then is the principle that you will use in a single interval training session as well as in the overall program which has weekly training cycles.

So using these principles you can understand how to put together a basic training session as well as a whole training program. This program then runs in periodic cycles by varying intensity and duration in such a way that it builds the body up while minimising fatigue.

The Polar programs have been setup as 12 week or 16 week programs

Be Realistic

Training to a program sounds easy enough but actually it requires commitment and dedication. So it is best that you set yourself up to win rather than to loose by choosing a manageable flexible program that will give you the satisfaction of completing it. The most important part of a training plan is to do what you say, so firstly know what it is that you are aiming to achieve, make sure that your objective is realistic and manageable and then commit to it. Just sticking to the plan will be a huge achievement and reward in itself and then of course the improvement in your performance and fitness will be the real benefit.

Follow the Plan

To make sure you are following the plan you will need to be completing the total training time, achieving the overall goals for intensity and lastly be following the weekly intensity and time goals. The most important is to achieve your total hours of training while erring on the lower side of intensity. Remember you need to be doing the right training at the right time at the right intensity. So if you miss time and try to catch up you will probably compromise your training, either time or intensity. Achieving the overall goals of intensity will mean that you have prepared your body correctly for the relevant event by not over training the body and by achieving the desired levels of endurance versus power fitness. The weekly time and intensity goals force you to rest when necessary and take you through a structured load, overload, recovery cycle.

With an understanding of these basic principles you should be able to interpret most training programs, especially the Polar heart rate programs.

There is more info at www.polar.fi

If you have specific questions or comments then leave a comment below.