Spinning :: Getting Started with a Heart Rate Monitor

Spinning is a great way to exercise and lose weight, but it is even better with the proper tools to take your workouts from aimless to scientific. If you are new to Spin, getting started early on with a heart rate monitor will ensure you train your body to burn fat as fuel and achieve your goals sooner.

A heart rate monitor is a simple machine comprised of a watch and a strap placed around your chest. The strap transmits your heart beat rate to the watch, which records your heart rate. Data collected can then be stored, analyzed and shared with a coach or with friends on Strava.com or mapmyride.com.

The Garmin Forerunner 405CX.

Why Do I Need a Heart Rate Monitor?

Exercise for the sake of exercise is healthy, however it will be easier to reach your specific goals if you have a way to measure and track your progress. A heart rate monitor ensures you are working in specific zones that focus on different aspects of fitness. If you have a goal to burn fat, you need to know how to burn fat. It is a two step process. Besides, you can’t just go all out all the time, it’s not the best way to train and you will reach plateaus much sooner and have a more difficult ascension to the next goal, along with suffering from burn out and exhaustion. With a heart rate monitor you can train in Zones. Each Zone is based on a range heart rates that determine how hard you are working and what kind of fuel– fat or glycogen/sugar– and at what percentages your body is consuming.

Fat Burning, Endurance Zone, 65-70% of Maximum Heart Rate

Polar FT40 Heart rate monitor.

The fat burning zone, also known as “Endurance Zone”  is not the zone that burns the most fat in total number of calories, but it is the zone that trains your body to burn fat more efficiently. With an efficient system to burn fat as fuel, you can elevate to the next zones with confidence you are burning more fat.

Especially when beginning a Spin program, it is important to spend the bulk of your time in the Endurance Zone. In the Endurance Zone, you will burn fat and recycled glycogen (lactic acid produced from your muscles firing that is turned back into fuel), therefore you can ride almost indefinitely in this Zone.

As the percentage of fat burned increases at the lower Zones, so too will it increase in the upper Zones!

Anaerobic Threshold, Lactate Threshold and Fat v. Glycogen

Each time your muscles fire, they produce Lactic Acid. Lactic Acid is released into the blood stream where it eventually finds its way back to

The Polar Wearlink chest strap transmitter.

the muscles as fuel. The body is an incredibly efficient recycling machine! However, there is a point where the lactic acid produced by the muscle firing is too much to recycle, and that happens as you reach the heart rate zone known as Lactic Threshold, or 80-85% of your Maximum Heart Rate. When you hear the term “lactic acid buildup” that is what is happening.

In the LT Zone, you will burn more sugar as a percentage of total calories burned than fat. If you go too hard for too long, at or above your LT, you may experience lightheadedness. This is due to the fact that you have used all of the glycogen stored in your body, and you have no more sugar available for fuel. Since the human brain needs a constant stream of glucose, you will notice your depletion first via your thought clarity or lackthereof.


For Cyclists: the Garmin Edge 800 includes a GPS, mapping, speed, grade, heart rate, and more.

Why does the body, then, not burn fat instead of glycogen/sugar? Fat is much harder to turn into fuel, and the body does not have the ability to convert the fat into energy at the rate at which the energy is being burned.

So in order to burn more fat, one must train the body to burn fat as fuel in the Endurance Zone, and then spend limited amounts of time in the upper heart rate zones to burn more calories. It’s simple. Once you can increase the percentage of fat calories burned overall, you can move away from the Endurance Zone.



The Other Zones Are … ?

So we have Endurance Zone and LT Zone. Are there any other Zones?

The 5 training zones are:

  • Recovery: Active recovery, 65% Max Heart Rate and below.
  • Endurance: 65-70% MHR
  • Tempo/Strength (Spinning): 70-80% MHR
  • LT: 80-85% MHR
  • VO2Max: All out, Race Day, Maximum Effort: 86%+

How Do I find My Zones?

Most heart rate monitors come with built in Zone pinpointing software based on age, weight, height and sex. The simple formula is: 220 – your age = Approximate Maximum Heart Rate.

Another way to find a more accurate Max heart Rate number is to wear your heart rate monitor in class and record the highest heart rate at your very hardest effort.

The best way is to work with a coach, or to visit a physiology lab where you will find your exact max heart rate, LT and Zones, as well as your fuel consumption. In most areas, a visit to the phys lab for what is called an “LT Profile” and a “Fuel Test” will cost under $200. A VO2Max test is not necessary.

Do I have to Stay in Endurance Zone the Entire Class?

No, however, the more time you spend in Endurance in the first 4-6 weeks, the better trained you will be. Try to spend 75-80% of the time in Endurance for the first 4 weeks.

Where Can I Find A Heart Rate Monitor?

Your local bike shop, a sports shop such as Sport Chalet, or online directly from the manufacturer.

If you would like to get started using a heart rate monitor, there is no better time than now! Feel free to contact us if you have questions.






Share the Ride!

Speak Your Mind

Tell us what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!

You must be logged in to post a comment.