Heart rate training is an effective training methodology. It can explain to you how hard your heart is working relative to your body’s capacity for the activity you are doing. This is why understanding what heart rate means and how to use it is extremely beneficial. Whether this information is old or new to you, the charts and numbers associated with the data can be confusing for most, but an explanation of zones can help you better understand the concept. I would ask that you use the heart rate training zone chart for reference of this information.
After completing a benchmark test, take the heart rate number you received or calculated and input this into theHeart Rate Training Zone Chart to get your heart rate training zones.
Zone 1 is an easy effort at less than 75% of your race pace effort. On the RPE scale, it tends to be anything less than a 9. At this zone, you could maintain this pace for a prolonged period of time without feeling too exhausted.
Zone 2 is an easy to moderate type of effort at 75% to 85% of your race pace. The RPE scale would be from a 9 to 11. At this zone, you should be able to maintain a conversation while exercising.
When you utilize Zone 1 and Zone 2, you are training for endurance since you are building an efficient aerobic system that allows you to exert yourself for prolonged periods of time. At these zones, the point is to be the person who slows down the least.
Zone 3 is the gray zone. This zone is around 85% to 95% of race pace effort with the RPE scale rounding out at 12 to 14. At this zone, you should be going pretty hard, close to your actual race pace, but not quite there yet.
When you go above Zones 1 and 2, you enter what some call a “gray zone” where your effort begins to exceed what is properly required to build and develop an aerobic engine, but falls relatively short of the intensity necessary to improve your speed or anaerobic threshold. Since the harder work leaves you tired, it can sometimes lead to little gains in endurance or speed and makes plateaus and injury in your athletic career a common appearance.
Zone 4 is launching into a hard effort that you should only be able to withstand for no more than one hour. Your breathing will be labored, your legs and lungs will burn, and you just want to stop and quit. Some call this a pace that is “comfortably hard”, but don’t be fooled as you must be fit enough to keep this effort up for one hour.
Zone 5 and 6 are reserved for shorter, more intense workouts which are 17 to 20 on the RPE scale. This effort should be extremely hard and you should only be doing these efforts for a couple minutes to a couple seconds.
Now that we’ve gone over the basic training zones, here’s the application part. I recommend that your training be roughly 80% of Zones 1 and 2, and progressing to Zone 4 at 10-15% and Zones 5 and 6 at roughly 2%-5%. This training pattern is best for building a strong base in endurance, which is needed in long distance sports like marathons or triathlon, with a limited focus on strength and speed training.