If you’re an endurance athlete, like a runner or cyclist, you’ve probably heard of heart rate training. But, what is it? Heart rate training monitors your heart rate to see how hard (or not) you’re working during your run or ride. It is a straightforward and effective way to train.
What is heart rate training?
Heart rate training is real simple. All you need is a heart rate monitor. Heart rate monitors come in heaps of options, but the best is a watch and heart rate strap, like Garmin or Polar. Once you have the right equipment, it’s time to start heart rate training.
Heart rate training allows you to monitor your heart rate over the course of your workout to see how hard you’re working. Once you have figured out your heart rate zones, you can quickly design a personalised workout based on your current fitness levels and goals. But, one of the best reasons for training with heart rate is it can help you recover better.
Why is heart rate training important?
Heart rate training is one of the best training methods for endurance athletes, but can also be beneficial for everyday gym-goers, too. We often focus too much on what we do during our workouts, but not what we do afterward. Recovery, or the “rest” period between workouts, is where your body is repairing the muscle tissues that you worked during your time at the gym and also making new muscle fibers, so your muscles are getting bigger. Proper recovery also means you’ll reduce fatigue and risk of injury in your body.
How do I heart rate train?
There is more to heart rate training than just wearing a heart rate strap and watch. You need to train in your heart rate zones. Depending on the goal of your workout, your target heart rate will be between 65% and 95% of your maximum heart rate.
There are several ways to determine your maximum heart rate, but the easiest way is by a simple maths equation. For men, you use 214 – (0.8 x your age) and for women you use 209 – (0.9 x your age). For example, a 25-year-old man’s maximum heart rate is 194 beats per minute. The equation isn’t always the most accurate, but it’s a good starting point.
What are the heart rate zones?
There are five heart rate training zones, but most people will spend the bulk of their training time in zone two and three.
- Zone one is active recovery. The pace should feel very easy and is 50-60% of your maximum heart rate.
- Zone two is your endurance zone. It’s where your body burns fat as its primary fuel. If you’re looking to lose weight, zone two is where you should spend most of your training time. Zone two is 60-70% of your maximum heart rate.
- Zone three is your tempo zone. This is the zone where you are pushing your limits, but you can still hold a conversation with your training partner. Zone three is 70-80% of your maximum heart rate.
- Zone four is your threshold zone. This zone is hard, and you can’t maintain it for long. Zone four is 80-90% of your maximum heart rate.
- Zone five is VO2 max. This is your spring or maximum effort zone. It’s the effort you would put in if a hungry lion were chasing you. Zone five is over 90% of your maximum heart rate.
What kind of heart rate workout can I do?
There are a thousand different ways you can exercise. Heart rate training is mainly used by runners, cyclists, and triathletes, but it’s perfect for the everyday gym-goer who is trying to lose weight on the treadmill. Once you know you heart rate zones, you can design workouts based on your goals. Here are two examples:
- Fat Burn – If you want to lose weight, you want to spend most of your training time in zone two. This is where your body primarily uses your fat stores as fuel. So a 30 minutes run would look like this: five minutes easy warm-up, 25 minutes at zone two heart rate (60-70% of max heart rate), and five minutes easy cool-down.
- Tempo Run – Tempo runs are common workouts for runners. They teach your body to run hard for a longer period. These are especially important if you’re training for a race. An hour-long workout for a half marathon runner would look like this: 10 minutes easy warm-up, 15 minutes at zone two (60-70% of max heart rate), 20 minutes at zone three (70-80% of max heart rate), 10 minutes at zone two, and five minutes easy cool down.
Why should I try heart rate training?
Is your dream to run a 5km or maybe even a marathon? Perhaps you are looking to set a personal best at your next 10k? Or, maybe you’re just trying to lose 10 kg at the gym? Whatever your goal is, heart rate training can help you achieve that goal. By being smart with your training, you can train your body to burn more fat, get faster with tempo and interval training, and know when your body is fatigued and needs a rest.