I have a sickness.

It’s running gear related. It’s not really a problem though, because I have enablers.

Anyway, I recently bought a watch with a Heart Rate Monitor. Awesome because more stats right?

There are a whole heap of training plans you can do based on training to heart rate zones, rather than pace. And most suggested paces are actually based on Heart Rate Zones.

Zone 1 – Recovery <60% max heart rate (the walking zone where you are usually able to hold a full conversation while you are moving). 85% of calories burnt in this zone are burnt from fat.

Zone 2 – Endurance 60-70% max heart rate (considered easy pace because you are still able to talk and hold a full conversation). 85% of calories burnt in this zone are burnt from fat.

Zone 3 – Steady – 70-80% max heart rate (this is the top end of your aerobic zone and you can still talk in short sentences). This zone is the key for building endurance. It will build new blood vessels and develop lung and heart capacity. Here 50% of calories burnt are burnt from fat.

Zone 4 – Threshold – 80-90% max heart rate (This is your speed zone. You will be able to speak in short phrases). This zone will build your ability to take in oxygen. I assume from the gasping. It is also the zone where your body starts creating lactic acid. 15% of calories burnt in this zone are burnt from fat.

Zone 5 – Max 90-100% max heart rate (Maximum effort zone. You would be pretty much unable to speak in this zone.) Generally this is only used for short speed intervals and hill sprints because it would be hard to maintain this for any longer. 10% of the calories burnt in this zone are burnt from fat.

Now without a metabolic assessment, heart zones are guess work. Although these percentages will give you an idea of what your heart rate will be in any given zone, everyone is different and so you will have to gauge for yourself where you are.

One of the things I found interesting is that most of the features on the Garmin and also on Strava for calculating the heart rate zones are based on a direct percentage of the max heart rate. I have a max of about 185. You can do a calculation based on age (220-your age) – but it won’t be overly accurate. Or you can test it out by going flat out and see what your heart rate gets up to. So if I was going purely on their calculations my ranges would be

Zone 1 – Up to 111

Zone 2 – 111 – 129

Zone 3 – 129 – 148

Zone 4 – 148 – 166

Zone 5 – 166+

But the problem with this is I knew it wasn’t right. I struggled to stay in zone 2 at all unless I was walking and I spent most of my ‘easy’ run in zone 4.

My theory is that the lower your resting rate is, the less the averages work out for you. I found a different calculation to work out the zones:

(max heart rate – resting rate) x percentage + resting rate

I have a resting rate of around about 50, so this is how the zones work out:

Zone 1 – Up to 131

Zone 2 – 132 – 145

Zone 3 – 146 – 158

Zone 4 – 159 – 171

Zone 5 – 172+

I tested this out on my run today and it seems more or less accurate.

In Strava (the premium version), Garmin Connect and on your Garmin device you can set up custom heart rate zones based on what you think is accurate for you.

I think the best part of heart rate training is that it takes away a lot of the decisions for you. You don’t have to worry if you are going too slow or too fast and you can just have that helpful feedback either on your long runs or on your speed sessions. The shorter the intervals, the delay in feedback will probably mean that it won’t be overly useful. But for everything else, it’s a great way to guide your sessions.

Do you like training with a HRM? How did you work out your heart rate zones? Or are you suffering from too much gear and prefer running bare?

Zoey Dowling

Written by: operationmove

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  1. I used a HRM early on when I started running as the people I really admired all used them and swore by them. At that time my resting rate was 64/65 and I found I was in zone 5 for most of my work, basically if I went up a hill really fast I was afraid I'd have a heart attack! This is when I realised that most published thresholds are based around fit people. I opted to measure my level of effort by 'feel' - this felt more natural and I knew my body best so I was able to know when to push and when to back off. Nowadays my resting rate is around 48 a HRM will probably help drill my runs and force me to push myself but I like to keep my runs simple!

  2. Pingback: Training Plans: Match the pace or get in the zone? May 15, 2014

    […] Heart rate zones are guesswork (without a metabolic assessment) but a good guide is: […]

  3. Great read, am hoping to get a new gadget for Christmas, possibly a Tom Tom, so will start to do some heart rate training next year. Time to upgrade from my square 310XT Garmin.

    • Oooh nice! Be aware that from what I've read the watches with the heart rate sensor on the wrist aren't overly accurate. Which is such a shame! Not sure if TomTom do the wrist or the chest, but just something to be aware of.

  4. I have a HRM but until I can master using the 220, I'm not game to try to include the HRM although I am really interested to see how it works - just technologically challenged now that my daughter is working in Chicago and not around to explain things in plain English to me !!! I will bookmark this post so I can come back to it when I have mastered my watch ! Thanks Zoey - have the best weekend ! Me xox