Do you use heart rate training zones? And are your zones assigned properly?
Today I chatted with a runner who asked if their heart rate was correct on their easy runs. In the last email, I mentioned that many runners run too quickly on their easy runs, so the next step is to figure out how slow or fast you should run in any given session. You can do this by assessing your effort level, but unless you are an experienced athlete, it’s hard to know what each type of training effort feels like. I’ll show you how to calculate your training zones based off your heart rate.
Why is this important?
Firstly, each run should have a goal beyond just “have fun running”:
Easy runs improve your aerobic base, by building adaptations that let you run with less effort for longer. If you run too fast, you miss out on these adaptations and don’t allow the body to recover muscle glycogen used up in the harder runs. Typically these are in Zone2. Long runs train your ability to keep a pace without effort level increasing too rapidly over time. Typically these are Zone2 as well, although you can do part of them in Zone3 as you get fitter or get close to a half or full marathon event. Tempo runs increase your lactate threshold by running a little slower than your lactate threshold effort. This threshold is the effort at which your body produces useful lactic acid at the same rate your body uses it as energy. Higher efforts lead to it building up, so you need to get the effort right. Typically these are in Zone4, although the top of Zone4 will probably be too fast – reaching the end of a Tempo run with a bit of burn in the legs is a good indication you went too fast. Reps and Intervals are at high efforts, typically in Zone5, although if you are staring at your watch, you probably aren’t going hard enough. 5K races also sit in this zone.
So, knowing what heart rates relate to each training zone will let you quickly run at the appropriate effort level for the session and nail your training.
How do you determine your HR Training Zones?
Use a MaxHR Stress Test to find the highest your heart rate can go. I go into more detail on how to do this in a post on the website. Then, check your MinHR standing still first thing in the morning. Enter both of these values into the HR Training Zone Calculator that I’ve put on the website. Check the links to get all the information you need about MaxHR Stress Tests and the Calculator.