Pulse recovery and exercise bikes

Written by meg campbell
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Pulse recovery and exercise bikes
Fast recovery time indicates a higher level of fitness. (Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)

Indoor cycling is a popular workout, in part because beginners and seasoned athletes alike can use exercise bikes to achieve high-quality cardiovascular training sessions. Indoor cycling can be intense at times, so wearing a heart rate monitor can help you train intelligently. Lowering your resting heart rate and raising your anaerobic threshold are two ways to make progress. Pulse recovery, also known as heart rate recovery, is another measurable way to gauge improvement in your cardiovascular fitness.


Your heart rate, or pulse rate, is one way to gauge your effort level during exercise. As your effort increases, so do your muscles’ need for oxygen, which your blood carries to them with each pump of your heart. This increased need translates to an increase in heart rate. As you become fitter, your heart is able to pump more oxygen-rich blood per stroke. This allows you to perform harder efforts at the same or lower heart rate as before, effectively increasing your anaerobic threshold, or the point at which lactic acid starts to build in your muscles.


Generally, the harder your heart works in a given effort, the longer it will take for it to recover. For example, intervals on the exercise bike that take your heart rate to 90 per cent of its maximum will generate a longer recovery time than an interval at 75 per cent of your maximum heart rate, or MHR. Active recovery in the middle of a session on the bike, as with interval training, usually entails 30 to 60 seconds of recovery. Sustained high-level efforts can take more than a minute to recover from. A cool-down is an active form of recovery meant to return your heart rate to its pre-exercise state.


If you regularly use a heart rate monitor when you ride the exercise bike, you’ll be able to get an idea of how your recovery rate changes through training. You can also take your pulse, but a heart rate monitor will give you an immediate and accurate number. To calculate your recovery time, look at your monitor before beginning an interval effort. As soon as the interval ends, count how many seconds it takes for your heart rate to return to its pre-effort level. As your fitness increases, you should see improvement in recovery time.


Fast recovery time signifies a fit, healthy individual. Although the ability to maintain a high heart rate is sometimes perceived as an indication of fitness, it’s actually the ability to recovery quickly that is the truest fitness indicator. For example, if two men of the same age, height, weight, body composition and apparent fitness level sprinted up a staircase and arrived at the same time with the same heart rate, you’d be able to discern that the one to recover faster was the fitter of the two.


Heart rate training on the exercise bike can provide you with the motivation to challenge your legs through increased resistance and perfect cadence. Heart rate training can also help you focus on recovery. Rather than just noting changes in your recovery time, make it a priority to breathe properly and keep your upper body as relaxed as possible. Minor details such as these can have an impact on your heart rate.

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