Even if you’re not a gym rat or elite athlete, knowing your heart rate (or pulse) can help you track your health and fitness level. 1 The rate can be affected by factors like stress, anxiety, hormones, medication, and how physically active you are.
An athlete or more active person may have a resting heart rate as low as 40 beats per minute. It usually means your heart muscle is in better condition and doesn’t have to work as hard to maintain a steady beat.
This table shows target heart rate zones for different ages. In the age category closest to yours, read across to find your target heart rates.
A wearable activity tracker makes it super easy, but if you don’t use one you can also find it manually: Count your pulse for 30 seconds and multiply by 2 to find your beats per minute.
If it’s too low, and the intensity feels “light” to “moderate,” you may want to push yourself to exercise a little harder, especially if you’re trying to lose weight. If you’re just starting out, aim for the lower range of your target zone (50 percent) and gradually build up.
In time, you’ll be able to exercise comfortably at up to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate. Unlike a purely subjective evaluation of intensity, your heart rate is a number you can measure, just like frequency and duration.
There are different ways to identify your heart rate zones calculation. One simple way is to define them as percentages of your maximum heart rate, and that’s what we’ll focus on in this introduction.
Heart rate zones are closely linked to your aerobic and anaerobic thresholds. This HR zones chart shows the level of intensity and percentage of Maximum Heart Rate used in each one.
To train at this intensity, pick a form of exercise that allows you to easily control your heart rate, such as walking or cycling. Exercising in heart rate zone 2 feels light, and you should be able to go on for a long time at this intensity.
This is the zone in which that pesky lactic acid starts building up in your bloodstream. Training in this HR zone will make moderate efforts easier and improve your efficiency.
Your body will get better at using carbohydrates for energy, and you’ll be able to withstand higher levels of lactic acid in your blood for longer. Lactic acid will build up in your blood and after a few minutes you won’t be able to continue at this intensity.
If you’re looking for a heart rate zone training calculator, this is the best way to measure the variation you need. Variety is key if you want to improve your fitness or become a better runner so mix up your workouts and vary the duration of your training sessions.
If achieving a running goal isn’t your priority right now, but you still want to see results from working out without having to spend too much time planning and thinking about what to do, take a look at the daily workout suggestions that the FitS park™ daily training guide offers. Please note that the information provided in the Polar Blog articles cannot replace individual advice from health professionals.
The concept of heart rate training zones was foreign to me and the main effort I knew was “beat other teammates”. 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. 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.
Instead, it promotes blood flow to the muscles, which speeds up recovery between intervals or harder training sessions. Zone 1 is perfect for recovery sessions, social activities and even cross-training like SUP paddling or hiking.
Over time body will get better at burning fat and overall muscular endurance will increase, making you much faster. Training in this zone builds mitochondria in slow twitch muscle fibers, which improves the overall endurance and speed.
At this point it’s barely possible to complete a sentence, before catching a breath, compared to conversational Zone 1 & 2 effort. 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 approach will limit the build up of lactic acid in the body, clear the excess and will allow tolerating more intervals.
Inspired by professional athletes, people push themselves to the limit without giving the body enough time to recover and super compensate. 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. This zone is especially important for medium distance runners, kayaks and swimmers, whose race distance takes less than 4-5 minutes to complete However, endurance athletes will also benefit from this kind of training, as it improves speed and endurance.
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). This will help to build endurance and improve recovery speed to tolerate the effort.