There are lots of data out there on the Internet referencing heart rate training but if you don’t understand the basis behind their calculation you may not be training in the right zones for the right reason. I like to use heart rate reserve (HRR). For the basis of this article I will your HRR and perceived effort.
To calculate HRR, first you must know your maximum heart rate. If you don’t know your maximum heart rate, do the following workout to get a good estimate. Do a 10-20 minute warm-up running, a minimum of one mile. Find a hill that you can run approximately 1/4 mile in length at a 3-4% grade. Run up the hill four time with each time getting progressively faster with the third and fourth trip up the hill starting at 85% and finishing at the top at an all out pace and check your heart rate at the top and jog back down. Take note of the highest heart rate reached. To calculate your resting heart rate, check it first thing in the morning before drinking any coffee and preferably before you get out of bed.
Use the following equation to calculate for each training zone.
Exercise Heart Rate = % training intensity (Max HR – Rest HR) + Rest HR
Example: Training Intensity 60%, Maximum Heart Rate 168, Resting Heart Rate = 58
Exercise Heart Rate = 60% (168-58) + 58
Exercise Heart Rate = 60% (110) + 58
Exercise Heart Rate = 66 + 58
Exercise Heart Rate = 124
Below are the five training zone based on HRR and Perceived Effort:
Training Zone HRR Perceived Effort
Zone 1 (Aerobic Zone) = 40 to 60% Conversational Pace – Complete Sentences
Zone 2 (Aerobic Zone) = 61 to 70% Conversational Pace – Complete Sentences; a little labored
Zone 3 (Lactate Threshold) = 71 to 80% Conversation becomes labored; three to four words max
Zone 4 (Anaerobic Zone) = 81 to 90% Difficult to talk, labored; one to two words
Zone 5 (Anaerobic Zone) = 91 to 100% Unable to get any words out
Now that you have established training zones either by perceived effort or by perceived effort, how do I use the training zones for training? Most of us, to include myself, train way to hard and over train on a continual basis; especially during base training and during long runs. We tend to feel as though we have to run fast to get fast. I am a firm believer to get fast we must run slow! Why, to build our cardio efficiency or our aerobic system! You cannot build your aerobic system by pushing your heart rate to extreme levels and holding it for a prolonged period of time. Actually you want to keep your heart rate zone 1 and 2. Training in these zones is how you develop your aerobic base for optimum fat burning and building a strong anaerobic system.
Back to the original question, how hard should I be training? This is not an easy question to answer. It is not a blank one answer fits all. Each athlete is different and each phase of your training will be different. An athletes experience, race goals, and distance all play a factor. Generally speaking the shorter the race the higher the intensity and the longer the race the lower the intensity.
Regardless of race distance, Base Phase training should be conducted 80-90% of the time in an aerobic training zone with the other 10-20% split between lactate and anaerobic zones. Virtually every “long run” should be conducted in Zone 2. Base Phase training can last anywhere from 4-16 weeks depending on the athlete’s history and goals.
I will discuss the next phases of training in Part 2.