Thump, thump, lub dub. The rate your heart is beating indicates the intensity of your activity and training with a heart-rate monitor will help keep you on target to meet your exercise goals. Wearing a heart-rate monitor, either a chest strap or one of the newer wrist devices, will help you know and control this intensity.
Heart rate training involves training zones that mark your personal ranges of intensity. These zones are based on a predicted maximum heart rate (HRmax). Aerobic, or cardio exercise, occurs when training between 40%—85% of HRmax. Aerobic signifies “with oxygen.” Training above 85% of HRmax is anaerobic exercise. Anaerobic signifies “without oxygen.” Walking and comfortably paced running are generally considered aerobic, while resistance exercise and sprinting or speedwork are examples of anaerobic training.
No matter what your distance or pace goal, it is a good idea to include training in these 3 zones:
Zone 1: Easy/Recover/Build
This zone is 65% – 75% of your HRmax. You should be able to run this effort all day. Once you know your easy heart rate zone you will find it much easier to keep yourself true in your recovery runs. This zone is also useful for building your aerobic capacity, fundamental to training for long distance races such as marathons, as most of your marathons will be run in this zone.
Zone 2: Tempo or Threshold
This zone is 75% – 85% of your HRmax. Running at this effort is ideal for increasing your anaerobic threshold. There should be a notable difference between this and your easy run pace. It is more of an intense pace that you should be able to hold from 20 to 60 minutes.
Zone 3: Intervals/VO2 Max
This zone is 95% – 100% of HRmax. Running at this pace is practically a sprint effort. These short bursts of intense running will increase your anaerobic threshold and your heart rate recovery. These are often termed as intervals because you will run briefly at this effort and then have a recovery interval at a zone 1 effort. This helps your body adapt to these hard efforts and teaches it to recover back to zone 1.
Will wearing a heart rate monitor help you run faster? There are no guarantees but chances are you will know a lot more about yourself as an athlete after you try it.
Calculating Maximum Heart Rate
The best way to calculate maximum heart, if you can afford it, is getting a cardiovascular stress test performed by a physician or sports physiologist. It is suggested for any serious athlete or anyone over 40 and is not a seasoned athlete who exercises regularly.
Find a steep hill. Run 3 X 400 metres at what feels like your maximum effort. Recover between each repetition. Note your highest heart rate, and this will be your maximum heart rate.
A Simple Formula:
- For those under 40: 208 – (0.7x your age).
- For those over 40: 205 – (0.5x your age).
These are estimates, but a good start to know your HRmax.