Last week I posted in the Facebook group about training by heart rate and many of you expressed interest in learning how to train like this way. This article is the 1st step in how to train using heart rate zones.
Here’s what you need to do to get started.
1st. Determine Your Resting Heart Rate
Take your pulse before you get out of bed in the morning. Do this for 3 days in a row to get consistent readings. Many smartphones have a pulse reading app or you can download a free one from your app store.
2nd. Calculate Your Maximum Heart Rate
The easiest way to do this is a simple paper-and-pencil calculation. Subtract your age from 220. The result is an age-predicted maximum beats per minute.
3rd Post the results in the notes section of your FinalSurge workout.
I will calculate your training zones which will look like this: (These are my heart rate zones for my runs).
My Estimated Maximum Heart Rate is 168:
- Easy Runs – Pace 12:09 – 12:48 HR 101 – 142
- Long Runs – Pace 12:13 – 13:16 HR 101 – 142
- Recovery Runs – Pace 13:00 – 13:58 HR 101 – 117
The calculator will provide HR for tempo and interval runs as well. Using this information to stay in the zones during your runs requires a heart rate monitor that either works with a watch or phone app.
Barring a professional metabolic assessment, your own perception is the best way to tell if your zones are correct. Here’s how to tell if
Your Heart Rate Zones are too low:
- If you have to almost stop to keep in Zone 1
- If you are at a very light jog and showing above Zone 1
- If you are at a medium effort, and you’re near the top of Zone 3 or above
- If you are at a high level of effort, and you are way above Zone 5
Your Heart Rate Zones are too high:
- If you are walking fast and hard and find yourself still below Zone 1
- If you are at a medium jog or effort, and you still haven’t hit Zone 2
- If you are giving it all you’ve got, and you are still not anywhere near or in Zone 5
Definition of Training Zones
Zone 1 is a super easy effort, probably a 4/10 on the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) chart (at end of article). It’s so easy that you should feel ‘guilty’ when you are done. You don’t think you went hard enough; it didn’t feel like a workout; you don’t think there was any benefit because it felt too easy.
Zone 2 should feel pretty easy as well, at least in the beginning. But you should feel as though you have to work if you’ve been doing this several hours. You may even see cardiac drift towards the end of this workout. How easy is easy for Zone 2? I would recommend somewhere around 5-6/10 on the RPE scale. You should be able to hold a conversation for the duration of this workout, and I mean being able to talk in full sentences, not one- or two-word gasps.
Zone 3 gets a little gray, and literally it is a ‘gray zone’. You typically aren’t going easy enough to get the benefits of a nice easy effort and you aren’t going hard enough to get the benefits of a ‘Race Pace’ workout. This is an effort of about 7/10 on the RPE scale, and you can talk in one- to two-word answers.
Zone 4 is your “Race Pace” zone – this is where you have burning legs and lungs and you can’t keep the effort up for much more than an hour. And yes, you have to be pretty fit to keep this effort up for an hour, but by definition, your threshold is an effort you can manage for one hour. You know when you are in Zone 4 as your breathing is labored, your arms and legs get very heavy and all you want to do is stop. This effort is 8-9+ on the RPE scale.
Zone 5 and up are for shorter efforts and these are usually 9+ to 10 effort levels on the RPE scale. These efforts may last from a few seconds to maybe five or six minutes. This zone is beneficial if you are doing a lot of racing that has hard but very short efforts, such as bike racing or racing short events on the track in running.
The Importance of Zone 1 and Zone 2 Training
Zone 1 and Zone 2 training help you build endurance, durability and strength. In addition, these easy training sessions help build capillary pathways that transport oxygen to your muscles and carry waste (lactate) away from your muscles. The more capillary pathways that you can build, the more efficient you will be. Efficiency is equal to free speed.
If at first you can’t keep your HR under Zone 2, then you need to slow down. If that means you run for three minutes and walk for two minutes to keep your HR down then, by all means, do it.