You’ve probably heard that heart rate training is important, but do you know how to use it or why you should? According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, your heart rate provides insight into how efficiently you’re training, and gives you a way to quantify improvements. All you need to do is crunch a few numbers to get your maximum heart rate and figure out which training zones you should target.
Before you start taking your pulse or strapping on a heart rate monitor, there are a few things you should know.
Calculating Maximum Heart Rate
According to a study by the National Institute of Health, the best formula to calculate your maximum heart rate is:
211 – (.64 x your age)
Don’t want to crunch the numbers yourself? Use this calculator created by the study’s authors to find your maximum heart rate.
Aside from your maximum heart rate, you also need to be aware of your heart rate reserve (or HRR). Your heart rate reserve is the difference between resting heart rate and maximum heart rate:
HRR = Maximum Heart Rate – Resting Heart Rate
So, if for example, you want to know the upper limit for Zone 2, simply calculate your heart rate as follows: HR= 70% (HR Max. -HR Rest. = HRR) + HR Rest.
When you’re training by zone, it’s important to understand what each zone will help you achieve. According to MyFitnessPal, zones 1 and 2 are recommended for recovery, zones 2 and 3 are recommended for improving aerobic ability and building base endurance, and zones 4 and 5 are recommended for anaerobic improvement and maximum muscular speed and power.
Athletes focused on performance gains will train in Zones 4 and 5 to increase muscular endurance and aerobic fitness. While it’s tempting to push yourself to the max, remember not to stay in the upper zones for an extended period of time if you’re just getting back into training.
Here’s an overview of the zones and how they can assist your training.
- 50-60% of your HRR (Heart Rate Reserve)
- Effort: Very light
- How it Feels: Relaxed and easy pace
- Good for: Improving overall health and recovery
- 60-70% of your HRR (Heart Rate Reserve)
- Effort: Light
- How it Feels: Comfortable pace; you can easily carry on a conversation
- Good for: Aiding recovery and improving endurance
- 70-80% HRR (Heart Rate Reserve)
- Effort: Moderate
- How it Feels: Moderate pace; you will have a difficult time carrying on a conversation
- Good for: Aerobic exercise and improving aerobic fitness
- 80-90% HRR (Heart Rate Reserve)
- Effort: High
- How it Feels: Fast pace, heavy breathing, burning muscles
- Good for: Anaerobic training and increasing aerobic fitness
- 90-100% HRR (Heart Rate Reserve)
- Effort: Maximum
- How it Feels: Sprint pace, labored breathing. You won’t be able to sustain this level for very long
- Good for: Muscular power and speed, improving anaerobic capacity
Heart Rate Monitors
Heart rate monitors are an affordable and effective way to up your training game. They make it easier and more efficient to keep track of your effort during a workout, compared to taking your heart rate manually. These monitors do more than just show your heart rate; they are essentially your own personal coach. Most monitors have or are compatible with apps that can provide you with heart rate-based training plans. Your can personalize your monitor, depending on the day’s workout, to alert you when you’re not in the right zone.
Heart rate training allows you to focus on what you’re trying to improve: endurance, speed, and so on. They make sure you push your body just the right amount to see results without putting your health at risk. The next level of training will come when you can track your workout data in the same place as your activity, sleep and nutrition. This will give you greater insight into what impacts your performance beyond simply looking at your heart rate. Talk about exciting!
Train even smarter. Give you heart the right workout by keeping an eye on your heart rate zone throughout your workout with the use of a heart rate monitor. The next level of training will allow you to see this heart rate data next to your activity, sleep, and nutrition for one complete picture of exactly how you’re performing.
– By Demi Tsasis