The Capital’s Finest

Heart Rate Zones

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The Secret to Getting Your Training Effort
Right!

When
it comes to training programmes, one of the problems is often in
interpretation: What exactly does it mean when a programme tells you to go for
an “easy” 45 minute run, and just how slow should a “recovery” run be? Because
if you don’t get it right, you will either be over-trained and tired – or
worse, injured – or under-trained and not ready to race. There are a number of
ways to gauge your effort during a training run in order to determine how fast
or slow you should be running:

 

1 PACE PREDICTOR CHART

This
is a pacing chart based on either your 5km or 10km race time and will give you
equivalent paces to train at for longer runs and for easier days. However,
pace-based training should only be used or attempted by experienced athletes, and
even they can come horribly short using this method. The challenge with this
method is that you’re probably going to chase the pace set for the specific day,
regardless of how strong or ‘off’ you feel on that day.

 

2 THE BORG SCALE OF PERCEIVED
EXERTION

This
scale is based on how you feel you are working during a training session. The
scale is tabulated as follows:

 

Rating

Effort or perceived “feel”

6

20% effort – almost none

7 to 8

30% effort – very, very light

9 to 10

50% effort – gentle walking

11 to 12

60% effort – fairly light

13 to 14

70% effort – somewhat hard, steady pace

15 to 16

80% effort – hard

17 to 18

90% effort – very hard

19 to 20

100% effort – very, very hard to exhaustion

 

The
advantage of this method is that it’s based on your current fitness level. If
you’ve only just taken up running, then a run today which has a feel of 15 to
16, or hard effort, will probably begin to feel more like a 13 to 14, or
somewhat hard, within a few weeks. The problem with this method is that it’s
very subjective and you’ll find that different people will attach different
values to the same effort. It’s also difficult to be consistent using this
method, and you may well attach different values on equal effort runs from one
day to the next simply because you’re in a different mood.

 

3 HEART RATE

By
far the best way to gauge effort is your heart rate. By using a heart rate
monitor, you are able to measure your cardiovascular and physiological stress
during exercise. When you first start exercising, your muscles are weak or
under-trained and are therefore smaller than what they should be. With time and
with progressive training, your muscles begin to strengthen and to grow in
size.

 

The
same is true of your heart, which is also a muscle. Before exercise it operates
at a fairly low intensity, and is therefore smaller and weaker than what it is
capable of. With progressive exercise your heart muscle begins to strengthen
and to grow in size. The fitter and stronger your heart becomes, the lower your
heart rate or pulse is, due to the fact that the stronger and more powerful
heart has to work less in order to achieve the same result of pushing blood
through your body.

 

Your
heart rate is not dependant on your mood, although if you find yourself under a
lot of emotional stress, you will see this reflected in your heart rate. Most
of the time, however, heart rate enables you to train at the correct intensity
for your current fitness level. So, if your training programme tells you to go
for an easy 45-minute run, keeping your heart rate at 60-70%, this will be as
simple as checking your watch from time to time and either increasing or
decreasing your pace. With time you will find that for the same heart rate
percentage, you’ll be running at a faster pace.

 

FIND YOUR TRAINING ZONES

So
how do you calculate your heart rate training zones? Again, there are a number
of methods. The one I prefer and find most accurate, apart from actually going to
have your maximum heart rate (MHR) tested at a high performance centre, is the
Miller formula: MHR = 217 – (0.85 x age). So, if you’re 30 years old, then your
estimated MHR will be 192.

 

The
next thing you will need is your waking pulse. As soon as you wake up, before
doing anything else, take your waking pulse by lying still and relaxed in bed.
Either strap on your heart rate monitor, or simply place your fingers on your
throat pulse, count the beats for 30 seconds and multiply by two. Let’s assume
this value is 50. Now using the figures of 192 and 50 as an example, your heart
rate training zones would then be calculated as follows:

 

Zone 1: 50-60% of MHR (Recovery Zone)

Minimum: ({MHR –
waking pulse} x 50%) + waking pulse = ({192 – 50} x 0.5) + 50 = 121

Maximum: ({MHR –
waking pulse} x 60%) + waking pulse = ({192 – 50} x 0.6) + 50 = 135

TARGET HEART RATE: 121BPM to 135BPM

 

Zone 2: 60-70% of MHR (Fitness Zone)

Minimum: ({MHR –
waking pulse} x 60%) + waking pulse = ({192 – 50} x 0.6) + 50 = 135

Maximum: ({MHR –
waking pulse} x 70%) + waking pulse = ({192 – 50} x 0.7) + 50 = 149

TARGET HEART RATE: 135BPM to 149BPM

 

Zone 3: 70-85% of MHR (Aerobic
Threshold Zone)

Minimum: ({MHR –
waking pulse} x 70%) + waking pulse = ({192 – 50} x 0.7) + 50 = 149

Maximum: ({MHR –
waking pulse} x 85%) + waking pulse = ({192 – 50} x 0.85) + 50 = 171

TARGET HEART RATE: 149BPM to 171BPM

 

Zone 4: 85-100% of MHR (Lactate
Threshold Zone)

Minimum: ({MHR –
waking pulse} x 85%) + waking pulse = ({192 – 50} x 0.85) + 50 = 171

Maximum: ({MHR –
waking pulse} x 100%) + waking pulse = ({192 – 50} x 1) + 50 = 192

TARGET HEART RATE: 171BPM to 192BPM

 

The
zones can now be used to determine the effort at which your various sessions
should be run:

?        
A recovery run should fall within Zone 1.

?        
An easy run in your base phase should be within Zone 2.

?        
Zone 3 encompasses easy and long runs.

?        
Zone 4 is reserved for hard sessions.

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