Create Your Own Heart Rate Training Zones

The simple tricks that could help you train more efficiently…

Back in the 1990’s world champion triathletes like Paula Newby-Fraser and Mark Allen were dominating the sport, using heart rate for all their key sessions. Six-time World Champion Allen even said: “During my 15 years of racing in the sport of triathlons I searched for those few golden tools that would allow me to maximize my training time and come up with the race results I envisioned. At the top of that list was heart rate training.”

Heart rate training enables you to focus in on different training intensities. For Allen this meant training for several months at a time below 155 beats per minute, to develop his ability to use fat as a fuel. To begin training like this, you need to establish a set of personal heart rate training zones. Here’s how:

Step 1. Work out your resting heart rate

–   Lie down and relax for twenty minutes, in a quiet room
–   Have a clock or watch in clear view, that measures seconds and minutes
–   Count your heart beats for one minute, with your finger on a pulse, or with your hand over your heart
–   Avoid caffeine on the day

Step 2. Work out your maximum heart rate

Find a good hill that takes you about two minutes to run up. The test begins around five minutes before the hill. Gradually accelerate towards the hill achieving around 85% effort at the base of the hill. As you hit the hill, maintain your speed by increasing your effort. Your heart rate will rise and you will quickly tire. Without falling over, keep an eye on your monitor and make a mental note of your highest heart rate as you work towards the top of the hill.

Step 3. The Benefit of Each Zone

Once you’ve worked out your resting and maximum heart rates, you can divide your heart rates into personalised training zones.

Zone 1: Recovery Zone – 60% to 70% of max HR. Useful for encouraging blood flow, to aid recovery after a tough workout
Zone 2: Aerobic Zone – 70% to 80% of max HR. Training in this zone will boost your endurance and the efficiency with which you use fat and carbohydrates as fuel.
Zone 3: Anaerobic Zone – 80% to 90% of max HR.  Training in this zone is thought to enable you to delay fatigue caused by lactic acid.
Zone 4: Maximal Zone  – 90% to 100% of max HR. Training in this zone is only possible for short periods, and helps you develop top-end speed.

Step 4: Making the calculation

1: Subtract your resting HR from your maximum HR, giving you a ‘working heart rate‘.
2: Calculate 60 and 70% of your ‘working heart rate’.
3: Add these two figures to your resting heart rate, and hey presto you’ve worked out your Zone 1 heart rate range (known as the recovery range).
4: Do the same for Zones 2, 3 and 4 (using the percentages in “The Benefits of Each Zone” (see above) and you’re there.

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Phil Mosley (Coach & Founder)
Phil Mosley (Coach & Founder)

Phil is a recognised expert in the field, having featured on many endurance sports publications. He founded MyProCoach in 2010 to sell premium training plans complete with email coach support for triathlons, duathlons, running & cycling.

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