Heart Rate Zones Made Simple
Heart rate zones make it easier for you to plan your exercise regime and reach your fitness goals. Generally, there are between five and seven training zones calculated as a percentage of your total heart rate (THR).
Super athletes who train for major events might go to the trouble of finding their Lactate Threshold Rate. This is serious science, and might involve having a metabolic and/or cardiac assessments.
For most people, this level of precision is unnecessary and the THR may be calculated by subtracting your resting heart rate from your maximum heart rate. Another simple way of calculating THR is to subtract your age from the number 220. If you are 33 years old, your THR would be 220 – 30 = 190. If you are 73, THR = 220 – 73 = 147.
Monitoring Heart Rate
You can tell which zone you are in by recording your heart rate at a given level of activity. Fitness training is big business and there are a number of decent heart rate monitors on the market. These can be worn on the wrist or fixed to the handlebars of a bicycle or exercise bike.
As an alternative to heart rate monitoring, also known as cadence monitoring, you can get a good idea of your zone thresholds by simply noticing how you feel at different levels of training intensity.
Heart Rate Zones
Zone 1 – “Easy” or “recovery” zone. Heart rate is 50% to 65% of THR. Pace is gentle; conversation is easy.
Zone 2 – “Beginners” level, good for weight loss. Heart rate is 70% to 83% THR. Breathing is a little heavier; conversation is still easy.
Zone 3 – “Aerobic” zone. Used for increasing endurance over long distances. Heart rate is 84% to 90% THR. You are starting to feel uncomfortable, breathing is heavy.
Zone 4 – “Anaerobic” zone, improves muscle strength. Breathing is heavy not strained; conversation is almost impossible. You are feeling the burn. Heart rate is 95% to 105% THR.
Zone 5 – “Maximum effort” zone, boosts maximum fitness and speed. Hard and painful. Heart rate is 106% or more than THR.
Zone training is an inexact science and there are several schools of thought regarding both the number of zones and the percentage THR within each zone. Some scientists use as many as seven zones, while others use only five.