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The Complete Guide To Heart Rate Zone Training

Heart Rate Zone(HRV) training, the best way to improve your cardio

As professional and office athletes set out on their quests to achieve peak performance, a variety of ways have been chosen to ensure their training efforts do not go to waste. Heart Rate Zone (HRV) training is becoming a primary training protocol in many endurance-based sports.

For a typical recreational/office athlete like you, how can you use it as part of your training routine? We got you, so read on. 

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What Is Heart Rate Zone Training?

Heart rate zone training is a method that aims to target specific performance attributes that our body adopts, whilst training in a specific heart rate zone. The different heart rate zones have their purpose and performance outcome attributes if you train within a specific zone. 

Using your maximum heart rate as a guide, your HRV will then be determined as a percentage of it. Since different zones will produce different physical performance outcomes, knowing your max heart rate plus understanding the different zones, will allow you to more accurately plan your workout to maximize your performance output. 

There Are 5 Heart Rate Zones

Zone 1 (Recovery Zone/Very Light): At 50% – 60% of max HR, you are training in a low-intensity zone that is ideal for warm-ups, cool-downs and light workouts that induce minimal stress.

Zone 2 (Aerobic Zone/Light): At 60% – 75% of max HR, you should be able to go for distance. This zone supports burning fat and improving cardiovascular fitness. Your cardiovascular and respiratory systems will be stronger and more efficient, therefore improving your endurance.  A good gauge that you are training at zone 2 is that you are still able to have a chat with your running mate at ease.

Zone 3 (Threshold Zone): At 70% – 80% of max HR your lactic acid starts building up and your body starts developing a lactic threshold. This zone primes you for a higher intensity by building strength in your muscles. At this zone, you should be only capable of speaking broken one-liners or even as little as mumbling a word to communicate.

Zone 4 (Anaerobic Zone): At 80% – 90% of max HR, the amount of lactate in your bloodstream is greater than the body can get rid of. This zone is great for working on your speed and you will often find yourself breathing hard.

Zone 5 (Maximum Effort Zone/V02 Max): At 90% – 100% HR max, your body is now firing on all cylinders and pumping your blood and your lungs to its limits. Here your body learns to effectively use its fast-twitch muscle fibres to increase your speed and power. You would often be in this zone during interval training.

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3 Ways To Measure Max Heart Rate 

There are a handful of methods to attain your maximum heart rate. The first is the field test method. Do a machine test by either using a treadmill or a bike. Perform the exercise at an intensity you can do for 15-20 minutes max. Get warmed up with your heart rate slightly less than 120 bpm for 2-5 minutes. Once warmed up, begin the test. During the last 5 minutes, measure the heart rate, every minute and find the average. Multiply the average HR by 0.95 to get the max heart rate. 

The second method is using laboratory tests like the VO2 max test where athletes either run or cycle while being connected to tubes and other equipment used for monitoring data.

Lastly, the most relevant method for the average joes to attain their max heart rate is to use one of these 3 formulas:

Most common: (220 – Your Age) = Max HR 

40 and above: (207-0.7 X Your Age) = Max HR

Active People: (211-0.64 X Your Age) = Max HR

5 Benefits Of Heart Rate Zone Training

1.   Reduce Overreaching. It is common for average Joes to think that if we aren’t going hard, we aren’t training enough therefore every run needs to be hard. Heart zone training shows that training at lower intensity like Zone 1 is great for recovery and on non-hard days, training at Zone 3 is beneficial to your body in improving its lactate threshold. Therefore, not every day is a hard day.

2.   Fat Burning. I would often classify Zone 2 training as a Low-Intensity Steady State (LISS) exercise as training at this zone will allow your body to inhale more oxygen and that will allow your fat to metabolise.

3.   Diversifying Your Workouts. Based on the 80/20 rule, we understand that we should only be training at max capacity for 20% of the workouts. Understanding the different heart rate zones and their benefits allows us to tailor our training to a lower intensity 80% of the time. The zone at which you train is entirely determined by you based on what you feel needs to be worked on.

4.   Increased endurance. Heart rate zone training allows runners to train for prolonged periods allowing their bodies to efficiently use oxygen and building their resistance to fatigue

5.   Less Intimidating Running is the cardio option that is often shunned due to the increased stress and intensity that is placed on the body while running. Beginners oftentimes go all in and all out too early into their training or even during their first session and become demoralized. The use of heart rate zone training can help anyone build up their running ability in a progressive manner.

How to Get Started

The first thing to do is to find out your max heart rate and that can be done through the method that is mentioned above. Your next step is to invest in a heart rate monitor that you can strap around your chest or a wearable device like a smartwatch (though it may not be as accurate). Lastly develop your workout that is best suited to you, taking into consideration your work, sleep and diet.

Heart rate zone training is still an unexplored method of training by many runners. Its method of training has been proven to be effective due to its variation in intensity as well as its customizability. To ensure its effectiveness it is important to stay consistent and be patient to see results. 

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