The use of a Heart Rate Monitor gives athletes an easily quantifiable measure of the intensity of their workouts which could help benefit race performances.
The use of a heart rate monitor by athletes give the coach an easy to prescribe training intensities for the warm-up, the main set and loosen down phases of each workout.
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Why we prefer our athletes to use heart rate monitors.
We encourage the use of heart rate monitors by all our athletes because it is one of the best indicators of how hard your body is working during a workout.
To simplify, coaching endurance sports is based on the interplay of three variables: Frequency, Intensity and Time.
The secret to “fitness” is a combination of how often, how hard and how long you exercise.
A good training program will include different workouts spaced out so that you have time to recover: some workouts are short and some long, some are hard and some are easy. It’s the variation of sessions that makes a training plan good.
Frequency and Time are easy to understand, but Intensity is a little more complicated — and that’s where the heart rate zones come in.
Your heart rate is one of the best indicators of how hard your body is working during a workout and unlike a purely subjective evaluation (e.g. Perceived Exertion) of the workout intensity, your heart rate is a trackable (and measurable) number, just like frequency and time.
What are heart rate zones?
We all have individual waking and maximum heart rates. Between these values are different heart rate zones that correspond to training intensities and training benefits.
*(You should never compare your heart rate measurements with others; they should only be compared to your baseline measurements.)*
There are different ways to specify your heart rate zones, one simple way is to define them as percentages of your maximum heart rate. Heart rate zones are closely linked to training benefits. Accurate individual training zones can be determined by completing a battery of tests.
Our preferred method of calculating heart rate zones is by using the Heart Rate Reserve method. This method forces you to measure your Waking Heart Rate (WHR) on a daily basis. This means that you will have a daily indicator of your recovery from the previous day (or days) of training.
What are the five basic heart rate zones?
There are essentially five different training zones, 1–5, and your training plan could, depending on your targeted event,
include workouts in all of these five zones. Below is a breakdown of what each zone means in terms of your heart rate and also what the benefits of training in that heart rate zone are.
Heart Rate Zone 1:
50–60% OF HRMax
This is the very low-intensity zone (Z1). Training at this intensity will boost your recovery and get you ready to train in the higher heart rate zones.
We prefer our athletes to do active rather than passive recovery understanding that the movement does more to increase blood flow and thus clear metabolites and providing nutrient-rich blood to tired areas.
To train at this intensity, pick sports during which you can easily control your heart rate, such as walking or cycling on an indoor trainer
Heart Rate Zone 2:
60–70% OF HRMax
Exercising in heart rate Zone 2 (Z2) feels light and you should be able to keep going for a long time at this intensity. This is the zone that improves your general endurance: your body will get better at oxidizing fat (using fat for energy) and your muscular fitness will increase along with your capillary density.
Training in heart rate zone 2 is an essential part of every Endurance athletes program. Be strict about staying in this zone when doing your base work and endurance sessions and you’ll reap the benefits later.
Heart Rate Zone 3:
70–80% OF HRMax
Training in Zone 3 (Z3) is especially effective for improving the efficiency of blood circulation in the heart and skeletal muscles. This is the zone in which that pesky lactic acid starts building up in your bloodstream.
Training in this zone will make moderate efforts easier and improve your efficiency.
Heart Rate Zone 4:
80–90% OF HRMax
Zone 4 (Z4) is where the going gets tough. Your breathing will labour and your body will be operating at or around your anaerobic* threshold.
If you train at this intensity, you’ll improve your speed endurance. Your body will get better at using carbohydrates for energy and you’ll be able to withstand higher levels of lactic acid in your blood for longer.
Heart Rate Zone 5:
90–100% OF HRMax
Heart Rate Zone 5 (Z5) is your maximal effort. Your heart and your blood and respiratory system will be working at their maximal capacity. Lactic acid will build up in your blood and after a few minutes, you won’t be able to continue at this intensity.
If you’re just starting out or have only been training for a short time (2 full seasons without injury), you probably won’t have to train at this intensity; there are risks to very high-intensity training. If you’re an advanced athlete or an intermediate athlete with at least 2 full seasons (without injury) completed, look into incorporating Z5 interval training into your training plan for peak performance.
*anaerobic means without oxygen. At no point do you stop using oxygen, the body is just unable to produce energy through the aerobic channels and there is a build-up of metabolites at a faster rate than it can be cleared.