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Training Zones Heart Rate

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Heart Rate Zone Break Down

How to Calculate Your Heart Rate Training Zones

To find your resting heart rate, take your radial pulse by placing two fingers on your inner wrist and counting the number of beats for 60 seconds. Ideally, to get the most accurate number, you should do this a few days in a row right when you wake up. Or, you can use a fitness tracker to do the work for you.

Once you know your theoretical max heart rate, you can go about figuring out which zone you fall into during activity. And if thats just way too much math, heres a quick look at what they mean and how each one feels.

Karvonen Heart Rate Training Zones

We choose to use the Karvonen Formula to generate the heart rate training zones we recommend for endurance athletes because it appears to be far more accurate for a greater number of athletes. We have yet to meet an athlete who didnt find it to be as accurate or more accurate than typical calculators, and this method even generates very similar training zones to those found in lab results.

The reason the Karvonen Formula seems to be a superior method of generating training zones is because its based on the athletes individual physiology. If you have an abnormally high or low heart rate while training, this formula accounts for that. If you have an abnormally high or low resting heart rate, the formula accounts for that.

As opposed to assigning training zones based on random numbers, the Karvonen Formula takes your unique physiology into account.

Getting To Know The 5 Heart Rate Training Zones

Getting to Know the 5 Heart Rate Training ZonesWritten by Holden Rethwill

When we talk about heart rate training zones, what we are describing and measuring is the intensity at which your body is using its aerobic metabolism system to produce energy from fat and glycogen. By being able to understand and control what one you are training in, you are able to better target your needs whether they be recovery, fat loss, or to cover 100 miles in your upcoming race.

Lets do a quick review of the 5 Heart Rate Training Zones to give you a little background and theory on why your training plan should include workouts in all five zones, not just your favorite fun-zones.

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Do Heart Rate Zones Work

Heart rate zones can be a great tool when it comes to creating an intentional cardio training program. They can help individuals progress gradually toward their goals , and improve their fitness when used properly. The main challenge with using heart rate zones is determining accurate heart rate values for each training zone for an individual. What about the heart rate zones on my fitness tracker?, you ask. Great question! The limitation of automatically generated heart rate zones, like the ones calculated by fitness trackers and cardio machines, is that these zones are calculated using a formula that only adjusts for your age.The problem? This calculation doesnt consider important variables that can influence an individuals heart rate, like their genetics or medications. Additionally, heart rate zone percentages vary from device to device, so whats measured as a moderate heart rate zone on one brand of fitness tracker might be a few percentage points different than another brand, while still different from ACSMs recommended heart rate zones .

How To Use Target Heart Rate Zones In A Training Plan

Training Heart Rate Zones Chart (Modern) Poster

A typical training plan utilizes multiple training zones. You wont train in each zone for an equal amount of time, though. The time you spend in each zone will vary, usually with more time spent in lower heart rate zones. Heres one example of how a training plan might allocate your time spent in each heart rate zone:

Zone 1: 30%-40% of your time

Zone 2: 40%-50% of your time

Zone 3: 10%-15% of your time

Zone 4: 5%-10% of your time

Zone 5: 5% of your time

A typical training plan will designate precisely how much time you spend in each training zone. As mentioned before, not all training plans use the same exact zones. If you were preparing for a 5K or 10K trail running race and wanted to follow this training plan, for example, youd need to set up your device with heart rate zones that are in that training plan.

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Zone 4 Training Benefits

Training around anaerobic threshold builds power in muscles, which allows athletes to sustain very fast speed for longer. On top of that, it utilizes more muscle fibers, building mitochondria in fast twitch fibers.

Zone 4 will teach the body to tolerate lactate better. In other words, the line on the lactate graph above will not be as steep at the end, because lactic acid will accumulate slower.

This zone is especially important for medium distance runners, kayakers and swimmers, whose race distance takes less than 4-5 minutes to complete However, endurance athletes will also benefit from this kind of training, as it improves speed and endurance.

Heart Rate Training Zones

Efficient training plans utilize heart rate training zones, which are calculated in relation to your HR max. One option for working out with your HRM is to simply follow one of its predefined workout routines without thinking deeply about the underlying heart rate data that your device uses to set up and monitor zones associated with your workout.

HRMs also give you the option to set up your own heart rate zones from training plans youve found and want to follow. Names associated with heart rate zones and heart rates that define them varysometimes it can seem like there are as many variations as there are coaches. The key is that different heart rate levels engage different aspects of your physiology, and a good training plan will work in multiple zones to improve overall performance.

The American Heart Association offers a two-zone breakdown to simplify things for people who might be embarking on a new fitness regime:

  • Moderate intensity: 50%-70% of HR max
  • Vigorous intensity: 70%-85% of HR max

If youve been sedentary for a while and are beginning a new exercise program, first check with your doctor, then start out in the moderate zone. As you become fitter, you can do some training in the vigorous zone.

Eventually, you can transition to training plans that use a multi-zone approach. Below is one example of multiple heart rate zones that can be used for training:

Read Also: What To Do To Prevent Heart Attack

Zone Three Tempo / Sweetspot

  • Heart rate 84 to 94%
  • Power 76 to 90%
  • Typical duration 20 minutes to one hour

Breathing is getting sharper now with more concentration required to maintain the effort. Harder to talk and starting to feel uncomfortable.

Consecutive days of zone three training is possible but fuelling is important, especially if you are doing back-to-back days. The duration of zone three blocks depends on the intensity and experience of the rider.

Work On Your Weaknesses

Quick guide to heart rate training | Polar

Knowing your zones allows you to target your weaknesses with specific sessions. Or, perhaps, more importantly, you can base your training around the specific requirements of a target race or event.

For example, if youre training for a long, mountainous sportive like the Etape du Tour or Maratona dles Dolomites, being able to ride for hours, with prolonged periods climbing at tempo, will be more important than having a 20-second, 1,000-watt sprint in your locker.

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What Is Low And High Intensity Training

Theres a bit more than percentages behind the concept of training zones.

As we increase intensity of an exercise, the body changes the way it sources energy. At low intensity, body primarily uses oxygen to convert fats into energy. That process is slow, so at high intensity when the body needs energy fast it focuses on converting carbohydrates to energy instead. This does not require oxygen, so its called anaerobic mode.

Logically, high intensity training is more taxing on the body and should be approached carefully. Too much too soon can cause all progress to stall and put the athlete into a plateau for quite a while.

To simplify things, there are virtually 2 points around which training zones are organized aerobic and anaerobic thresholds.

Zone 3 Training Aerobic Endurance / Marathon Pace

Effort: moderateTarget heart rate: 70% 80%Duration: long intervals, 10 to 60 minutes

They call this zone a no mans land.

Its challenging enough that you feel youre out of your comfort zone, but not challenging enough that you cant sustain it. Its comfortably uncomfortable.

At this point its barely possible to complete a sentence, before catching a breath, compared to conversational Zone 1 & 2 effort.

Many amateur athletes make the mistake of spending almost all of their training time in this zone. It feels like youre training hard and, indeed, athletes build quite a lot of fatigue with it.

The truth is, it does not provide enough intensity to radically improve speed or power, but is not so easy that the body is able to fully recover. So, athletes feel tired all the time, but not necessarily getting faster.

But it doesnt have to be like that.

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How Do I Calculate My Heart Rate Zones

Heart rate zones are often calculated by using your maximum heart rate value. There are also some calculations that take into account your resting heart rate value as well. These two pieces of data can be used to define each one of your 5 heart rate training zones.

Resting and maximum heart rate values vary from person to person. A number of considerations must also be taken into account such as age, fitness level, and even daily medications.

How To Calculate Heart Rate Training Zones

MYZONE on Twitter: " Do you know how you should feel in each heart rate ...

Being aware of the different running heart rate zones can be helpful for identifying the amount of effort your body is exerting on the run. But in order to calculate which heart rate zone you are in, youll need to know your maximum heart rate.

Maximum heart rate can be estimated using a very simple formula. To get an estimate of your maximum heart rate, simply subtract your age from 220.

220 age = maximum heart rate

For example, if you are 20 years old, your maximum heart rate can be calculated: 220 20 = 200. If you are 50 years old, you can calculate yours in the same way: 220 50 = 170.

However, while estimating your maximum heart rate might be relatively straightforward, but it doesnt do runners any good if they dont know how to use it.

Recommended Reading: What Is A Rapid Heart Rate

What Is Zone 2 Running

Simply put, zone 2 running is an easy run. You can talk during the run, you can breathe through your nose during the run. It is a pace that is slow enough to allow you to stay in your Zone 2 heart rate target zone. If you live in a hilly area, you may find that you need to walk those hills at first to maintain your heart rate in Zone 2. Some very well trained runners need to run pretty hard to stay in zone 2. For the rest of us, we need to slow down to stay in zone 2, but as your aerobic base becomes stronger, you will be able to run faster and longer while staying in Zone 2.

Zone Six Anaerobic Capacity

  • Heart rate n/a
  • Power More than 121%
  • Typical duration Less than three minutes

These efforts are very painful and not far off a maximum sprint. They should only be sustainable for 30 seconds to three minutes. Any longer and youre probably not trying hard enough!

Very hard to do sessions on back-to-back days. Heart rate is too difficult to go by in these efforts because of the lag in response from the effort being undertaken. Basically, it should hurt a lot.

Read Also: What Does Having A Heart Attack Feel Like

What Is Heart Rate Training

Using heart rate readings to monitor athletes effort levels is a popular way to train for both professional and amateur runners. Essentially, heart rate training means taking regular readings of your beats per minute, usually through a heart rate monitor mounted on a chest strap that communicates with your watch.

Some runners prefer to use wrist-based readings, which most smartwatches now offer as standard. However, its worth highlighting that chest straps are much better at capturing your actual bpm. This is both thanks to their fitted position against your body and to more adapted sensors .

Using the readings from your monitor, you can then ensure that your cardiovascular system is working at specific levels of effort the entire time youre running. This can be analyzed afterward, based on the average heart rate during a workout, or by looking at how you perform during interval training.

What Are The Benefits Of Heart Rate Training

How To Run Using Heart Rate Zones | Running Training For Triathlon

Heart rate training is a more personalized way to work out as each persons resting and maximum heart rates vary. Each runner calculates their own zones using data taken from a couple of tests. These are your zones and are specific to your training needs.

Having established heart rate zones makes it easier to stay at our desired effort levels during a training session. It can prevent us from unnecessarily draining our energy by pushing too hard or pull us out of a lazy moment and make sure we are pushing hard enough.

Most of us tend to push harder than required during our training, so sticking to our pre-established zones allows us to pull back when necessary.

After you have calculated your personal heart rate training zones, you can adjust the settings in your watch so it not only shows you the beats per minute sent by your monitor but it will also indicate the zone you are in throughout the duration of your training. This makes it even easier because you wont need to memorize the ranges of each zone, your watch will do that for you.

Related: Why Is My Heart Rate High On Easy Runs? 8 Reasons + Solutions

As you follow your specific instructions for each session, you can consult your watch, check your current zone, and adjust accordingly throughout your run. You can even set up alarms to alert you when you have strayed from a specific zone.

Related: Average Heart Rate While Running: Guide By Age + 7 Influencing Factors

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How To Use Heart Rate Zones In Running

Knowing your own heart rate zones can really help increase the effectiveness of your training. In general, variety is key to progress. Regardless of your end training goal, try to avoid spending all of your runs in the same heart rate zone.

Decrease the intensity during easy runs and long runs to ensure you are spending most of your time in zones 1 3. When you have a workout or speed session planned, ramp up your efforts by targeting heart rate zones 3 4.

If you notice that you spend a few minutes in zone 5, that is okay as long as it is brief. If you find yourself entering zone 5 frequently, decrease your intensity until your body adjusts and your endurance increases.

Using running heart rate training will vary for everyone. Many different factors can influence your average heart rate when running. Age, weather, fitness level and current stress level can all have an impact on your heart rate.

Use these running heart rate zones to help narrow your focus, target specific goals, and get the most out of every run.

Before you know it, your body will adapt and youll find yourself using less effort to achieve the same results as before.

How To Find Your Heart Rate Zones

As I explained earlier, heart rate is one of the most reliable measurements of workout intensity.

Youll definitely improve your performance once you start intentionally targeting one and each of your heart rate training zones.

Heres the deal.

To start heart rate training, youll need to figure out your resting heart rate. Check this one out first thing in the morning when you wake up, before moving around or having that cup of joe. Id recommend that you do this on three consecutive days, preferably when youre not sick, experiencing stress, or are overtrained.

Next, average the three days together, and thats your resting heart rate.

The average resting heart for most people is around 60 to 90. However, expect yours to be as low as 40 if you are in very good shape.

You also have a maximum heart rate, which is the upper limit of what your cardiovascular system can manage during intense exercise.

There many methods that you can use to estimate your maximum heart rate.

Lets explain a few.

The Age-Based Formula

Known as the Maffetone method, the age-based form is the most common method used by recreational athletes.

You simply subtract your age from 220so a 30-year old runner would have a theoretical MHR of 190.


This method might be off-the-mark by 10 to 15 beats per minute in either direction.

But it is a good way to get started with heart rate training zones, and sometimes thats all you need to get in the direction of your goals.

The Lab Test

The Field Test

Also Check: Can Your Heart Rate Be Too Low

How To Improve Your Aerobic Capacity

Unless you’re an athlete or training for a specific sport, you should aim for a moderate level of activity during exercise to improve heart health and aerobic capacityyour body’s ability to use oxygen efficiently.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week. That can be easily accomplished by getting 30 minutes of activity, five days per week.

You might find it challenging to take your pulse during exercise. Using a device, such as a smartwatch, can help. However, heart rate monitors that use a chest strap are more accurate.

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