If you are reading this there’s a good possibility that your heart rate monitor has been tucked away and forgotten. Perhaps it mysteriously stopped transmitting, or the battery died, or you decided that it just doesn’t deserve a place among your more “sophisticated” training tools.

As coaches with enduranceWERX, Chad and I are constantly looking for ways to better train our athletes. We are completely aware that cycling is ultimately an aerobic sport, no matter how confusing it can be to wade through all of the abilities needed for criteriums, time trials, hilly road races and gran fondos. While specific racing and training will build these necessary abilities, all of these abilities will be better utilized in a race/competition scenario when an athlete has a well developed aerobic foundation.

When it comes to developing an athlete’s aerobic ability to full potential, few coaches have been more successful than Dr. Phil Maffetone and his predecessor Arthur Lydiard. Maffetone’s favorite tool is the heart rate monitor, and had Lydiard had access to a wearable heart rate monitor in his time, I’d be willing to guess that it would be his favorite tool too.

Let’s start with a few time tested principle on how an aerobic base is built.

Long and steady efforts at an easy to moderate pace: Efforts that are completely aerobic are best for building the aerobic system. There is evidence that anaerobic work can inhibit aerobic development and vice versa.
Continuity of aerobic training over months and years: The work that you do must be sustainable. We are all motivated athletes, yet in order to build more aerobic speed we must contain our desires to “crush it” every day.
Balanced Stress and Rest (both life and training stress): Athletes have big goals, but an athlete that truly wants to reach their potential (aerobic potential in this case) must balance stress of training and life, with availability of rest and recovery. Sometimes less is more when it comes to training.
Incrementally increasing the challenge of your aerobic training: In order to continue to make progress an athlete must progress the time or intensity of their aerobic training while following the rules above.
Monitoring Improvement: If an athlete follows the basic principles of aerobic development, progress should be continual. If it is not, ask which of the 4 previously mentioned principle can be improved.

In Part 2 we will discuss why a heart rate Monitor may be your most powerful guide in adhering to the above 5 principles. In the meantime, dust off your heart rate monitor and start wearing it.

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