Cycling for Fitness
When looking for ways to get ride of one’s fats and reclaim the once slim body figure, people usually consider having some vigorous exercise like running, swimming, going to gym plus taking up one of those energy conscious diets.
In fact, fat burning does not necessary required vigorous exercise. Cycling for longer distance at a suitable intensity can also help to get the same result.
But how can we achieve it?
‹‹‹ The following information is for sharing purpose. Consult your doctor or professional trainer for more detailed assessment ›››
Before going into details, let’s take a look at what “intensity” is and get some basic knowledges associated.
Intensity of an exercise
The intensity of an exercise or a workout is related to how hard the exercise/workout is experienced by you. One metric of measuring the exercise intensity is your heart rate during the exercise. The higher the heart rate, the stronger the exercise intensity.
What are heart rate zones?
A ‘heart rate zone’ is essentially a range of heart beats per minute. For example, you may have a workout where you’re performing at 80% of your peak effort level, or your ‘Maximum Heart Rate’.
Notice that the maximum heart rate vary according to your age and your fitness level. So heart rate zones will be specific to each individual.
How to calculate your heart rate zones?
To start with, you need to identify your Maximum Heart Rate (Max HR). You can go through laboratory field test but for the sake for simplicity, we will use the following formula:
Maximum Heart Rate = 220 – Your Age
For a better estimation, we will incorporate the resting heart rate as well.
Your Resting Heart Rate (Resting HR) can be estimated by measuring your heart rate in the morning, right after you wake up. Typical measurement for adults is around 60 while some trained athletes may have a lower reading.
The Target Heart Rate is projected using the Karvonen Formula below:
Target Heart Rate = ((Max HR − Resting HR) × %Intensity) + Resting HR
The ‘Heart Rate Zones’ as commonly used, are the various ranges of target heart rates where one is performing at different levels of intensity of his/her maximum efforts (Heart rate).
Heart Rate Zone
Sample Reading¹ Warm up / Recovery 50 – 60% 85 – 101 Fat Burning – to boost muscular fitness 60 – 70% 102 – 118 Aerobic – to boost cardiovascular fitness 70 – 80% 119 – 135 Anaerobic – to boost stronger muscle and endurance 80 – 90% 136 – 152 Maximum – to boost peak performance of professional athletes 90 – 100% 153 – 170
¹ Here an adult aged 50 and with a resting heart rate of 60 is used for the sample calculation
How to keep track of your heart rate during workout?
Traditionally, heart rate is measured by using heart rate monitor chest strap. Companion app talks to the heart rate monitor and records the heart rate data for further analysis.
Other commonly used recording devices are those sport watches with integrated heart rate monitor.
I normally have both the heart rate monitor chest strap and my Garmin sport watch in use during my workout.
Nowadays, there are a lot of other low-cost activity trackers available in the form of wristband and they also come with basic heart rate monitor function. Despite these device may not be as accurate as those professional monitors, you can get a rough idea of your heart rate during your workout.
At about USD 150 or HKD 1200, you can get a decent heart rate monitor with a bunch of other handy health/activities related features. Examples are Garmin VivoSmart, Fitbit Charge, etc.
Guidelines for a fat burning cycling exercise
If your objective is to keep fit through cycling exercise, then what you needed is to control your heart rate to fall within the “Fat burning” zone, or 60% to 70% of your maximum efforts.
Anything higher will strengthen your cardiovascular fitness and help to build up your muscle but not “Fat burning”.
The clue here is to:
- Ride at the “Fat burning” level of intensity and never too hard
- Use lighter gear ratios and keep a relatively higher cadence (Pedalling rate) to make you feel comfortable
- Ride for a longer distance
- Last but not least, maintain a regular and persistent riding habit
Base on some of my past measurements, a 4-hour fat burning cycling workout with an average speed of around 16 Kilometers per hour will normally consume about 1500 KCal of energy. The amounts to 60% of the average adult energy intake for man (or 75% for an adult woman).
So you now have an idea of the effect of a Fat burning cycling workout on body fitness.
Mobile fitness apps will be beneficial to you in keeping track your workout or training progress.
These apps support a number of activity types like cycling, running, hiking and even some other indoor activities with treadmill or elliptical.
Performance statistics like duration of workout, pace or speed, cadence, distance and energy consumption are captured. For outdoor activities, they can also track the path of the workout using the built-in GPS of your mobile.
With these fitness apps, you can review your progress, check for any of your improvement and stay motivated.
Most of these apps offer free account for casual usage. If you are getting more serious, you can subscribe to their paid version to keep track your heart rate and have more in-depth analysis.
If you also got one of the latest Garmin sport watches like me, you can also install the following free Connect IQ Apps.
By customising the max heart rate to 70% of your exercise intensity, the app will beep and alert you when your heart rate is exceeding the “Fat Burning” intensity.
Some said that this is an excellent heart rate monitor app but somehow I doubt its accuracy.
If you have the app also installed, please tell me your comment!