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Thoughts on Peloton Heart Rate Zone Training

Like many, I am a little disappointed that Peloton has paused the creation of new Heart Rate Zone classes. I am sure there are a variety of reasons for pausing the focus. I am sure some data lead to that decision. The problem is that data does not always tell the real story, as data can be driven by so many factors, like timeslots, frequency, comp plans, etc. There are some fundamentals that data can’t show because at the end of the day, this is all focused on people, and getting people to change and adjust is hard. It requires communications, awareness, and finding champions to help lead the way.

I would like to champion some conversations around Heart Rate Zone training. I am a strong believer in Heart Rate based training combined with a variety of other training methods like Power Zone, Tempo, Threshold, Max, HIIT, Fartlek, etc. to round out one’s fitness on both the Bike and Tread. With that, I have put together some thoughts and ideas on how we can incorporate Heart Rate Zone training as a community (because the community is what has made Peloton so great) using the Peloton platform until it hopefully makes a return. I have included a link to a survey at the end of this post, would love to get some insight into people’s thoughts and data we may be able to share with the Peloton leadership team.

Ok, so let’s talk through a few fundamentals first, then let’s talk about a possible way to achieve them using the Peloton platform.

There are multiple elements that need to be trained if one is looking to achieve a fitness transformation. There is a mental aspect, physical strength, and cardio strength.

Heart Rate Zone Training (The Why)

  1. First is the mental aspects of fitness. Let’s face it getting started, building new habits, and sticking with them is a real mental game. For me, Peloton has been the only platform that has helped me build that “mental commitment muscle.” The community, inspirational instructors, music mixes, etc. have been the key aspect in helping me making fitness a priority in my life. I am at the point now where it’s tough for me to NOT workout on a given day as I feel like I am missing something.
  2. The second element is training for strength. There is a wealth of information on the benefits of building strength in your muscles, from burning fat to being stronger, improving posture, speed, agility, etc. The key is that to see increased speed and higher resistance on the Bike or increased speed and ability to tackle more incline on the Tread, you need to focus on strength training. This can be done through traditional strength training as well as Climb rides, Hills runs, or classes that focus on time under tension such as Power Zone classes and targeting specific Power Zones for periods of time. Matt Wilpers mentioned a study of two different test groups of runnings, this who only ran 30 minutes each workout and those who ran 15 minutes and did strength training for the other 15 minutes. Guess who improved their performance faster? The team that did 15 minutes of strength training was the clear winner in this test. Building muscle strength is so critical. 
  3. The third element is training your cardiovascular system. Cardiovascular exercise relies on frequency, intensity, and duration to be effective. You know how often you exercise and for how long, but you need to know your heart rate to judge your intensity. You can get different fitness benefits by exercising in different heart rate (HR) zones. The five exercise zones are based on the percentage ranges of maximum heart rate. When you train for a while, you will start to notice changes in how your body responds. For example, there are times where my legs want to give out well before my heart rate and breath. In that case, I need to focus on building my strength. As my legs get stronger, the opposite happens, and suddenly my heart rate and breath are hitting their limits, and my legs still have more capability. The key is that you’re training your cardiovascular system to be more efficient in delivering blood to the body over the course of your workout.

There are a significant number of reasons to continue utilizing Heart Rate Zone focused training. Fundamentally you need to train your cardiovascular system to be efficient in delivering blood and oxygen throughout the body if you want to progress in your training. This, of course, should be combined with other forms of exercise to take advantage of the benefits of cross-training and taxing your muscular and cardio system in a variety of methods.

One typical workout pattern that many instructors often recommended hits across all these elements in a given week.

  1. One day per week of HIIT style class anaerobic hit
  2. One day per week of a Climb or Hills focused class for strength
  3. Two to Three days of long endurance efforts for the cardio and muscular endurance 
  4. Two days off the Bike/Tread doing strength training and other cross-training efforts. 
  5. One day of rest or low impact type class 

Ok so now that we have addressed some of the “Why” let’s discuss one idea that could be utilized as a way to achieve the “How” now that there is no current plans to create new Heart Rate Zone focused classes.

Heart Rate Zone Training (The How)

Ok so we need three things to continue on with Heart Rate Zone Based training.

  • Bike / Tread using Just Ride/Run or Scenic Ride/Run feature
  • Music
  • Workout plan

On the Peloton Bike and Tread there are two options called “Just Ride/Run” and “Scenic Ride/Run.” I have used these options a few times to do my own custom training plan to experiment with different ways I want to train for things like Marathon training or just new ways to improve my cycling. There is no instructor in these class options, so the efforts must be planned out. We will get to that in a few moments. There is also the option of picking an existing class and using either the music or the overall class flow and ignoring the instructor’s cue’s throughout the class to maintain the desired heart rate zone for the training day.

One other aspect is, of course, music. It can be a significant aspect in helping push through a workout and keep the routine interesting. Since the “Just Ride/Run” and “Scenic Ride/Run.” feature does not focus on music we would have to work together as a group and create playlists that could be shared and utilized as a part of any group rides where people plan on doing a Heart Rate Zone-based workouts together.

Now the only open item left will be the creation of some Heart Rate Zone training methods that we could utilize. Below are some thoughts, lots of options to ponder based on the level of interest.

Training (Examples)

The rolling hill would be focused on a few different cadences or speed paces or a solid cadence throughout the entire workout and adjusting resistance or incline. The target is to float through the low and high end of Zone 2 to maintain the heart rate throughout the entire ride.

The Zone Internal approach would be a bit more aggressive and pushing speed or cadence up faster to drive the heart rate up / down in a more progressing approach.

The Stay steady would be focused on picking a target cadence speed and holding steady for the entire workout. The goal would be to hang in the middle range of Zone 2 and utilize the resistance or include to make subtle adjustments if you find that you are starting to drive upward or downward in your heart rate.

These are just a few examples and thoughts on one way we can continue to incorporate Heart Rate based training into our workout routines. I pulled together a little survey with a few questions that would help to gauge level of interest, preferred music playlist platform, desired workout lengths, etc.

Click here to fill out the Heart Rate Zone Training Questionnaire.

Catch you on the leaderboard!
Rob – #NeverStop

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