Your Heart Rate Zones

The first article in this series Understanding Your Heart Rate Zones explained how to find your resting heart rate and your max heart rate, and the various benefits reaped when training within your different zones. Do read that article before attempting to structure a workout or training plan based on the advice given in this article.

Training using a heart rate monitor isn’t going to magically change you into the fastest runner, cyclist or swimmer. However, tailoring your training within specific zones can bring you the improvement you desire, and help you recover better.


Warming Up

Start your training with comfortable exercise, warming up the body and getting the blood flowing. Make sure you do a decent 10-15 minutes, staying within 50-59.9% on your monitor.

Your target: 10-15 minutes


Building Endurance

If you’re looking to build endurance for long distances, long training sessions within 60-69.9% of your Max HR might feel slow and boring, but they will train your body to be more efficient. This is the zone where your body gets better at burning fat and utilizing oxygen. It’s common for people to push harder if they want to see results faster, but when it comes specifically to building endurance, stay in this zone and stick to it.

Your target: 2-3 hours

If however, you’ve been training for a while and want to build greater strength and endurance for that final push in a marathon or race, work in 1-2 hours of long distance work at 70-79.9% of your Max HR every week.

Your target: 1-2 hours


Stamina Training

Short on time but want to get a workout in? Shoot for tempo runs or HIIT (high intensity interval training). You’ll burn more fat, and become fitter and faster. It might hurt (who are we kidding, it totally sucks!) to train in this zone but it will do you so much good, and you usually don’t go beyond an hour within this zone.

There are various tempo workouts available out there, but they’re all variations of the following: start with a good warm up, followed by 4-6 sprints that last 30-45 seconds each, interspersed with 2-4 minutes of slow jogging after each sprint for recovery. This pattern of high intensity followed by recovery is similar in HIIT workouts.

During your sprint or high intensity exercise, your heart rate should be around 85-89.9% of Max HR. While recovering, wait for it to slow down to 65-69.9% of Max HR before attempting the next sprint.

Your target: 1 hour


Active Recovery

Many of us are guilty of not knowing when to back off. It’s easy to get caught up in the momentum of exercise, thinking that since training is good, more training will always be better. In fact, some of us feel guilty whenever we take a day off.

It’s important to note that recovery and rest is essential for your body to grow stronger. Exercise stresses your body and continuous training can sometimes weaken the body. Rest is physically necessary as that is the time your body repairs, rebuilds and strengthens itself.

You should have at least one rest day per week and another that includes active recovery – exercise where your heart rate does not go above 59.9% of your Max HR. Activities can include yoga, a leisurely swim or a really slow jog.

The key in your training plan is to make the hard days really hard, and the easy days very easy.