Last week we had a brief look at how you might go about Determining you Maximum Heart Rate (HRmax), and then using a predictive equation for calculating your VO2max.

In todays post I would like to look at a few of the ways you can use this information to:

  1. Set up your running Heart rate zones (HRzones)
  2. Understand what the training effect on your fitness will be by working in the zones
There are many recommended methods to set up your HRzones, and as you will find out for yourself, each one will give you different numbers.

I have chosen 3 different approaches for days post, and each one has a slightly different approach to getting the numbers.


This is a good starting point because they were, after all, the creators of the Heart Rate monitor.

First off, they work with a predicted HRmax, and depending on your level of conditioning and your sex, requires a different equation to determine it:

Female Athlete: 211-(0.5 x Age) Male Athlete: 205-(0.5 x Age)
Sedentary Female: 209-(0.7 x Age) Sedentary Male: 214-(0.8xAge)

This value (let's call it your Predicted Heart Rate maximum [PHRmax]), is then multiplied by the %Intensity(50%,60%...), to get all your Zones:

Polar have 5 training zones:

ZONE 1: Active recovery Zone 50%-60%
: Used for days after heavy or long training sessions, where the body needs assistance recovering from the work, but does not need to overloaded.

ZONE 2: Aerobic Endurance 60%-70%: This target zone is used for endurance training build a base for higher intensity training. The warm-up and cool down are done in this target zone as well all long slow distance workouts. It is usually grouped together with the active recovery target zone as the training effect in both is very similar.

ZONE 3: Aerobic Stamina 70%-80%
:This target zone is used for aerobic or long intervals ranging from 5 min to 30 min. Recovery is to 60% or for a period of up to 3 min. This target zone is important to lay the foundation for higher intensity workouts.

ZONE 4: Lactate Tolerance 80%-90%
:An important target zone to improve performance. Short or LT intervals range from 1 min to 5 min with a recovery to 50%. Fatigue and the risk of injuries is greatly increased at these high intensities. Training in this target zone should only be done once a base has been built at lower intensities.

ZONE 5: Maximal effort 90%-100%
: For endurance sports, training is normally not recommended in this target zone. It is uncertain if the benefits outweigh the damage done.

Joe Friel:

Joe uses 7 zones and requires you to have had your Lactate Threshold tested and determined, as his training zones are calculated as a % of Lactate Threshold.

I work with this system, and have had a good results with those I train, and with my own training.

ZONE 1: Recovery: 65%-81%:
ZONE 2: Aerobic conditioning: 82%-88%:
ZONE 3: Tempo: 89-93%:
ZONE 4: Sub Threshold: 94%-100%
ZONE 5A: 101%-102%
ZONE 5B: 103%-105%
ZONE 5C: 106% - Maximum

Each training zone delivers a number of adaptations that are specific the that training intensity, for example, training in ZONE 2 and ZONE 3 will:
  • Help delay the onset of fatigue
  • Improve the bodies ability to metabolize fats as the primary energy source (Lipolysis).
  • Improve movement economy
Whereas training in Z5C will:
  • Increase the muscles ability to generate power.
  • Develop top end speed (sprinting speed)
  • Assist with short speed pickups during racing (up hill or to overtake).
Peter Jansen:

My third and final source that I will be using is a MD called Peter Jansen, and he works directly off the Heart Rate Reserve (HRR) method.

Calculating your HRR:
  1. Determing your Maximum Heart Rate from your HRmax test /HRmax= 220-Age
  2. Calculate you Resting Heart rate (HRrest):Taken on 3 different days, add together and divide by 3 to get the average
  3. Calculate your HRR=HRmax-HRrest
  4. Determine your Training Zones.
Peter uses 5 training zones working off HRR and HRmax:

ZONE 1: Recovery: HRR: 50%-60% HRmax: 68%-73%
ZONE 2: Light Aerobic: HRR: 60%-70% HRmax: 73%-80%
ZONE 3: Intensive Aerobic: HRR: 70%-80% HRmax: 80%-87%
ZONE 4:Anaerobic Effort: HRR: 80%-90% HRmax: 87%-93%
ZONE 5: Maximum Effort: HRR: 90%-100% HRmax: 93%-100%

As you can see, there are many different methods of setting your Heart Rate training zones, and as I already eluded to, the numbers you get will be slightly different for each one.

To get the best improvements in your performance using your Heart rate monitor, keep the following in mind:
  1. Be consistent with your training
  2. Stick to your training zones - they might feel to easy (or hard), but persevere.
  3. Train throughout the range of training zones - that is what they are there for.
  4. Heart Rate is not 100% accurate and infallible - there are many external factors that can affect it - use it a guide to training intensity.

James Greenwood is a competitive tri and multisport athlete currently training for Ironman Canada 2009. A level 1 Triathlon Coach, he holds a post graduate degree in Exercise Science, and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the NSCA. James is also currently the resident health and fitness programs expert at, and has starred in a number of multisport specific fitness videos.
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