Heart Rate Training – Can you use it in your programme?
I’m sure you’ve heard of it, and it’s been around for a while. But let’s have an unpacking of heart rate training – some of the basics and how it can be used as an objective marker of your fitness and progress!
Heart rate training (HRT) uses your max heart rate (MHR), derived from certain varied V02 max tests to structure a programme of training sessions in which the effort asserted is monitored based on a percentage range of that max HR. It’s simple enough when we look at it.
Max Heart rate – how to get it?
Heart rate zones
How training zones work?
Obviously to complete this you will need an accurate HR monitor. A chest strap correlating with a watch or phone is most accurate. However, the all-in on watches are now starting to appear within 5-10% of chest straps which isn’t too bad. Many brands are available! Heart rate training can be a fantastic way to monitor your heart rate. Each session you do will require you to reach a zone between one and five, aiming to maintain that effort for the majority of the sessions. However, there are a few things to be aware of. It can be hard to get an accurate measurement of MHR, and people’s hearts function uniquely. Some people may have a very low level of relative perceived exertion and what would be considered a high HR. However, the principle is, that this will be consistent for you, so your training has solid objective markers to avoid overtraining and make sure you are putting in the work necessary to improve. Simply complete an MHR test, work out your percentage zones with a calculator, and either implement them in your training sessions, or your coach will do it for you.
Max Heart Rate – how to get it?
Your MHR is supposed to be the highest beats per minute your heart can work at safely for a short period of time.
You have probably heard of the equation 220-age = Maximum Heart Rate.
It has now been scaled slightly dependent on age, however, I would avoid using this calculation. It is not an accurate estimate and tends to leave people worried they are about to “explode” their heart as it gets significantly higher than they think during a hard workout. The best way to find your MRH is to do a V02 max test. And please let me stress, that if you are over 40, have a history of heart conditions, or are not aerobically active, please check with your doctor before doing this. Outside of a laboratory, there is no standard MHR test, however between the traditional methods, and the accessory companies there are many ways to find it. Have a look into your watch (Polar, Garmin, Fitbit, Apple watch, other brands) most of them will have a protocol on how to test your Vo2 max on either a bike or a run. I would not accept the standard test given based on your resting HR, which is also an option. The beep test is an old traditional method, as are a number of 4-minute sprint protocols using air bikes, static bikes and rowing machines. Embrace the sweat, and get to it! Take the highest your heartbeat during that session, and we are away.
Heart Rate Zones
Now you have your strong objective fitness marker, you can apply it to your HR training zones. Again, these zones are not scientific standards, just simple percentages used by most accessory-producing companies. They are broken into zones 1-5 as follows.
Now your specific training zones will break into these categories. Remember though, everyone’s heart functions differently, one person’s effort does not = another, this is truer in recreation athletes and at various levels of fitness.
How training zones work?
Every session will fit into a certain zone. This allows you to monitor if you are working hard enough and pushing your boundaries to improve. Alternatively, it will tell you if you are going to burn out too quickly and overtrain. It can be particularly helpful for pacing a long run!
A brisk walk, occasionally a walk run. Maximise your recovery
An easy-moderate session, working your aerobic system and endurance. Crosses over with zone 3 at the beginning of most sessions.
The zone which will make up a significant amount of your training. A steady intensity that you can maintain. Usually, the point where you will start building lactate in the body – THRESHOLD TRAINING
Moving to an anaerobic energy system and then into aerobic depending on the length of the session. All speed training and hill runs should get you into this zone.
Extreme race pace, and a zone you will hit at the beginning of your journey as your heart adapts to training. Expect to see it briefly in your touch intervals. And there you have it. Heart rate training in programmes. A great marker for your training zone, and individual to you!
HR is different for everybody – but can be an individual consistent method of monitoring your training.
Don’t rely on 220 – age. Go hard and do a Vo2 max stress test to get a more accurate marker.
Using zones will give you consistency in the expected effort if you apply them well.
Have a look back here to check which session should be in which zone!