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  • Oliver Cunningham

Heart Rate Zone Training

Heart rate zone training uses your heart rate, measured in beats per minute or as a percentage of your max heart rate, as a guide for intensity. Instead of training by time, pace, or perceived exertion, personalized heart rate zones are used. Doing so makes it easier to ensure the cardiorespiratory is working at a specific, desired effort without over-stressing the skeletal and muscular system. Basically, heart rate zone training can help make sure you’re not pushing yourself too hard or holding yourself back.


To find your personalized heart rate zones, you’ll first need to find your max heart rate, which is the upper limit of what your cardiovascular system can handle during exercise. To find your heart rate, you’ll use this equation:


208 – (0.7 x age)


For myself, I get 208 - (0.7 x 26) = ~190 beats per minute. I can then use this number to calculate my 5 heart rate zones, which are measured as a percentage of max heart rate. They are as follows:


Zone 1:

Percentage of your max heart rate: 50-60%

What it’s good for:

- Overall health and recovery

Example:

- Walking, an easy bike ride

Feels like:

- Something you can sustain for a very long period of time.


Zone 2:

Percentage of your max heart rate: 60-70%

What it’s good for:

- Basic endurance and fat burning

Example:

- A long easy jog, a moderate bike ride

Feels like:

- You're definitely working, but nowhere close to all out. You can still hold a conversation.


Zone 3:

Percentage of your max heart rate: 70-80%

What it’s good for:

- Working up a sweat, building endurance during moderately long exercise

Example:

- Tempo runs (lengthy intervals)

Feels like:

- It's challenging but doable for about 30 minutes (still relying on aerobic energy systems).


Zone 4:

Percentage of your max heart rate: 80-90%

What it’s good for:

- This is where the “afterburn effects” are achieved

Example:

- Most HIIT workouts that last about 10-20 minutes.


Zone 5:

Percentage of your max heart rate: 90% and above

What it’s good for:

- Giving 110% effort, pushing your limits

Example:

- You can stay here for a max of 2 minutes, but most will give up after 30 seconds.


Depending on your goal, any or all of the zones may be utilized. If you’re interested in general health benefits, you’ll want to stay in the “target heart rate” zone, which is about 60-85% of your max.

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