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How Can I Monitor My Own Heart Rate While I Am Cycling?

Updated on December 4, 2014

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For athletes of just about any sport, there are a variety of ways available for you to effectively measure your heart rate. These methods will present you with an opportunity to continually monitor your heart rate, while being priced low to high in accordance with the convenience and ease in usage that they provide. Whether you are enjoying an afternoon bike ride in the park, or you are actively training for the next Tour de France, proper and effective training relies on not only knowing your own target heart rate, but also having the means to ensure that you exercise within that target heart rate.

Training or exercising too hard will increase your heart rate above your target heart rate and will result in you over consuming your energy and becoming fatigued more quickly. On the other side of the scale, if you do not exercise enough to increase your target heart rate, you will incur little benefit from your workout or training. Clearly, monitoring your own heart rate can provide the vital information necessary in order to ensure that you are maximizing the benefits of your work out and safeguarding your time invested. Follow the following steps, in this HubPages' article, in order to best monitor your heart rate while cycling.

Things You Will Need:

Step 1:

The least expensive method to monitor your heart rate, unfortunately, will require you to stopcycling momentarily in order to safely and effectively gauge. By placing two fingers (preferably your pointer finger and middle finger) delicately on either your wrist or your neck, you can effectively measure your pulse by mentally recording how many 'pulses' you feel over a one minute time frame. As your heart is challenged to work harder and harder, it will naturally increase the speed and rate in which it delivers blood to your extremities, which will result in your pulse reading measurement being higher than, say, if you were resting in bed.

Rather than count these pulses for a full minute straight, you can also achieve your heart rate by counting them for a fraction of a minute and multiplying that by how many intervals would be required in order to find your heart rate for a minute. For example, if you find that you have 20 pulses felt in a 10 second time frame, then you would want to multiply those 20 pulses by 6 (the intervals, of 10 seconds, to get to 1 minute), which would result in a heart rate of 120 beats per minute.

As you can see, this method of recording your own heart rate while cycling can be effective, however, it will require you to stop your activity momentarily and apply a quick mental calculation. If you are engaging in any level of competition, you may not be able to afford the time required stop your bike and check your heart rate using this method.

Step 2:

While the previous method of measuring your heart rate while cycling is more accurate, engaging in the talk test can be a very quick way to internally gauge where you may lie when attempting to achieve your target heart rate. For those who are familiar with exercising regularly, you can probably testify to the fact that your ability to hold a conversation naturally lessens and lessens as you continually engage in that activity. With the talk test, you will want to see to what extent you can talk or hold a conversation. If you are able to hold a conversation, then you have not reached your target heart rate. On the inverse, if you are unable to say simple words like "yes" or "no", then you have reached your target heart rate while cycling. While a very inaccurate and imprecise measurement, this method does provide a cyclist with baseline data that can be used in conjunction with the previous method of measuring your target heart rate while riding.

Step 3:

While very convenient to use, heart rate monitors do provide cyclists with pros and cons regarding usage. One of the reasons why heart rate monitors have become so popular recently is because they are simply convenient to use and will not require you to pull over to the side of the road and actually have to count and measure your heart rate. On the inverse, your training workout can be detracted from if you are constantly looking at the automatically presented heart rate numbers on the digital display of a heart rate monitor watch.

Heart rate monitors are not just available in watch form, however, this is a very convenient way to attach a heart rate monitor to your body and look at it in a way that everyday watch wearers would anyway. If you would prefer a heart rate monitor other than a watch, you can also purchase ones that either attach to your arm (similar to an Apple iPod) or chest. If you already have a music playing device attached to your arm, and it isn't somehow capable of displaying your heart rate, you should consider purchasing a digital heart rate monitor watch in order to aid in the ease and convenience of periodically checking your heart rate.

As you can see, there are a variety of methods available to cyclists in order to effectively measure their own target heart rate. Unfortunately, these methods all come packaged with varying degrees of positive and negative attributes. While measuring your target heart rate manually can be an accurate and effective method, it will also require you to take a momentary break from your activity and stop your bike in order to measure. Dependent on the level of activity and competition that you are engaging in, you may not be able to sacrifice this time.

Digital heart rate monitors, whether they are worn on the wrist and double as a watch or you attach them to your chest or arm, can certainly be viable and accurate alternatives to manually monitoring your pulse. Unfortunately, when you are compelled to check your pulse every minute by glancing over to your watch, you can detract subtly from your own exercise workout.

Tips and Warnings:

Manually monitoring your target heart rate can be inherently dangerous if you attempt to do it while you are actually riding. Even though some cyclists may attempt it, in order to execute this method effectively you will naturally have to take one hand off of your cycle hand bar. This can easily cause safety issues that can result in crashing and/or injury. The same occurrence could forseeably happen if one takes their hand off their cycle handle bar in order to check their digital target heart rate monitor watch, however, it is less likely because a significantly less amount of time is required to check a watch as compared to manually checking your heart rate.

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    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 4 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      The talk test is quite inaccurate. The inability to properly converse may stem from the improper breathing during an aerobic exercise. heart rate monitors seem to be a better choice. Of course it can cost you a small amount, but it's worth the it.

    • CyclingFitness profile image

      Liam Hallam 4 years ago from Nottingham UK

      I can hold a conversation with someone while my heart rate is exceptionally high- in fact over my anaerobic threshold which means your step 2 is pretty inaccurate a gauge.

      Can you suggest a particular heart rate monitor that attaches to your arm instead of chest? I'm unaware of such a product.

      Personally I would recommend a strapped heart rate monitor to all for exercise for ease of viewing and monitoring. I picks a HRM up from the local decathlon for a palty £15 (about 2o usd) which is able to have programmable zones, basic performance analysis and also has watch functions.