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Best Hr Zone To Train In

author
Ellen Grant
• Friday, 23 October, 2020
• 7 min read

But with heart rate data more accessible than ever (think: OrangeTheory classes, wrist-based devices, and treadmill training software), more runners are tuning into those numbers and wondering how they can enhance their performance. But heart rate training can be a smart technique to guide your intensity during training and working your various energy systems depending on your goal, says Heather Milton, C.S.C.S., an exercise physiologist and clinical specialist at the NYU Lang one Health Sports Performance Center.

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“I think heart rate training really helps make your easy workouts easier, your hard workouts harder, and ensures that you’re actually working out at the correct intensity for your goal,” says Becca Capella, a NASM-certified personal trainer and head of product at fit. “Using that individual heart rate, you create specific training zones that help determine your intensity for a given workout,” explains Capella.

So instead of training by pace, you use personalized zones and a heart rate monitor to ensure your cardiorespiratory system is working at a specific effort for a set amount of time. And since your maximum heart rate is unique to you, using it to create training zones means you’re getting a much more personalized workout.

Finding a good heart rate for training in each zone can help improve your performance. The most accurate methods to find your MHR are in a lab test, which is conducted by professionals with fancy equipment, or in a field test, which is often supervised by a certified trainer in a gym setting with a treadmill or indoor bike.

So to find your zones on your own, the first thing you’ll need to do is calculate your MHR, maximum heart rate. There are various models of heart rate training zones (all with their own labels), but most none lite runners follow five zones established by heart rate monitor company Polar, based on research from the 1970s.

But if you don’t feel like doing all that math, you can use the three zones provided by the American College of Sports Medicine, says Milton: First, don’t worry about heart rate training before you’ve got a solid base of at least four to eight weeks of running, says Milton.

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“The chances of beginners being able to stick to a specific heart rate while starting out is low, and may become discouraging,” she says. But once you’re comfortably logging miles, each heart rate zone serves a purpose in your training.

“Using heart rate to determine tempo, threshold, and intervals intensities can improve biomechanical efficiency and speed,” says Milton. Zone 1 should be easy; “it’s a great intensity level for recovery days,” says Capella.

Recommended Experience: For the regular runner looking to build speed and strength. These threshold runs help your body gets better at using carbs for energy and learn to withstand higher levels of lactate in the blood.

The key is that you should be training in all of these zones at different times in order to maximize your performance. Your intensity and your zones all depend on your health, performance, race goals, and workout preferences.

This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses. The concept of heart rate training zones was foreign to me and the main effort I knew was “beat other teammates”.

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I compared myself with others and tried to replicate or “beat” them in every training session, which mostly left me tired, over-trained and frustrated from not seeing desired results. He told me that he analyses heart rate data after every session to see how well his athletes execute training programs and how their bodies react.

It takes a lot of mental strength to push hard during training, but it’s much harder to know when to pull back. That way, adjusting the training plan to the athlete’s current condition will lead to better and more sustainable results.

During training heart rate serves as a good reference point and, unlike power or speed, shows how intense the effort is on the body. An athlete may be tired, had a restless night or fighting a cold, all of which can impact the session.

Over time, I learned to balance fatigue and noticed that results from my training improved substantially. Structuring sessions around a certain effort allows athletes to customize their training and adapt it for specific needs.

Using this formula will provide more accurate zones, compared to simple percentage of Max HR. Every phase of that plan should focus on specific area (endurance/power/speed), measured as time spent in relevant zones.

There are concerns that heart rate training zones that are estimated are too generalized and may not be overall accurate. Yes, the most precise way to determine heart rate zones would be to take a supervised VO2 max lab test.

Such test measures the speed of lactate accumulation and respective oxygen intake throughout the exercise. Based on the data aerobic and anaerobic thresholds are established which are key reference points in determining heart rate training zones.

Over the years and multiple lab tests, however, I noticed that these ranges tend to deviate only by around 1-2% (up to 5 bpm). At low intensity, body primarily uses oxygen (aerobic mode) to convert fats into energy.

Anaerobic Threshold, on the other hand, is the intensity level after which the body cannot deal with muscle fatigue anymore. It starts to build up very quickly and there’s very limited time that this intensity can be maintained (minutes only).

More time spent in training around the anaerobic threshold will make muscles more resistant to lactic acid build up. This will help to maintain very high speed for longer (critical for races of 1-5 minutes in duration).

Black line shows how the lactic acid accumulated in his muscles good news is that both thresholds can be ‘improved’ through a mix of low and high intensity training. The intensity is so low that all lactic acid accumulated or produced in the muscles is being utilized (the line on the graph above goes down or remains horizontal).

Zone 1 training feels almost effortless and i’s the pace you can easily maintain for a whole day (with rest and lunch stops, obviously). Spending extended amount of time in Zone 1 “stretches” the heart and allows it to pump more blood.

Training in this zone builds mitochondria in slow twitch muscle fibers, which improves the overall endurance and speed. Essentially, it makes the lactate line on the graph above stay horizontal for longer.

Many amateur athletes make the mistake of spending almost all of their training time in this zone. The truth is, it does not provide enough intensity to radically improve speed or power, but is not so easy that the body is able to fully recover.

This puts a lot of stress on the body, killing mitochondria they’ve worked so hard to build. From physiological perspective, anaerobic threshold is the point after which lactic acid starts to build up so fast that the body cannot produce enough energy to maintain the intensity for long.

Training around anaerobic threshold builds power in muscles, which allows athletes to sustain very fast speed for longer. In other words, the line on the lactate graph above will not be as steep at the end, because lactic acid will accumulate slower.

That way you’ll be able to run every interval at speed just slightly over one you would maintain for the full distance and gradually train the body to hold it for longer. As this kind of training builds a lot of fatigue, my advice is to start adding Zone 4 efforts only after spending enough time on aerobic base (around 40-60 hours in total).

Even 100 m sprinters can maintain their top speed for only around 50 m in the middle of the distance, before slowing down towards the end. If not done to complete exhaustion, this training builds mitochondria in fast twitch muscle fibers, improving athlete’s endurance.

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