All About Heart Rate Training

by Denise – Friday, 7. August 2020

Why is Heart Rate Training Helpful?

Are you working hard during your workouts – or hardly working? 

Pushing yourself to the limit every time you are working out can be tricky. If you under-perform, you are most likely not going to see the results you are looking for. If you over-perform you are putting your body at risk for injuries. And what about adjusting for your daily energy variables:  sleep, stress, nutrition, etc.? 

How can you gauge the right intensity for your workout? 

A tried and true way is by monitoring your heart rate. Since your heart naturally adjusts for your daily energy variables, heart rate training can give you an individualized measure of your intensity and tell you when you need to pick up the pace or slow it down. In other words, heart rate monitoring can help you estimate at what point in your exercise where you transition from aerobic to anaerobic (ie. from carbohydrate and fat usage to more carbohydrate). A bonus to heart rate training is that you can safely train your aerobic system without overstressing your skeletal and muscular systems.

How exactly does heart rate training work? 

Heart rate training uses your heartbeat as a guide to hitting a certain intensity. Instead of training at a specific pace, you use your heart rate monitor to train at a specific effort level for a set amount of time. The most common way to track your heart rate while exercising is by either using a chest strap or other wearable fitness trackers like sports watches. Most heart rate straps are compatible with our bike computers, so you can see your heart rate in front of you while you train at Velocity. 

The first step to getting started with this training method is to find your maximum heart rate (MHR). While there are many sophisticated ways to do this, a simple method is to subtract your age from 220. 

The second step of heart rate training is becoming familiar with the five heart rate zones. Each heart rate zone represents a percentage of your MHR. What zone you should train in depends entirely on your training goals. 

The 5 Heart Rate Zones

Let’s have a closer look at the five zones:

  • Heart Rate Zone 1: 50-60 % of your MHR This is the very low-intensity zone. Your workout feels easy and almost effortless. Training at this intensity will boost your recovery and get you ready to train in the higher heart rate zones. It is used for warm-ups and cool-downs as well as any kind of recovery workout such as recovery runs or walking.
  • Heart Rate Zone 2: 60-70 % of your MHR Training in heart rate zone 2 feels light and you should be able to go on for a long time at this intensity. You should also still be able to hold a conversation. This is the zone that improves your general endurance: these longer, and slower efforts serve as aerobic conditioning and overall improvement of your muscular fitness. It is also the zone that improves your body’s ability to use fat for energy (burn fat), which makes it good for weight loss. If you train for a half marathon or more this is the zone to train in! It is also the zone to train in when you join our power workouts! Training in heart rate zone 2 is an essential part of every exercise program. Keep at it and you will see results later in the process!
  • Heart Rate Zone 3: 70-80 % of your MHR Training in zone 3 will make you feel the effort. You can still talk conversationally but you will feel the first shift in your breathing effort. Zone 3 is where your body gets the most cardiovascular benefits and is often referred to as the aerobic zone. Training in this zone will increase your stamina and aerobic capacity. It is also the zone in which that pesky lactic acid starts building up in your bloodstream. Tempo runs, which are still predominantly aerobic, (30-45 minutes) fall into zone 3.
  • Heart Rate Zone 4: 80-90 % of your MHR Heart rate zone 4 is where the going gets tough. You’ll be breathing hard and working aerobically as well as anaerobically. If you train at this intensity, you’ll improve your speed endurance. Your body will get better at using carbohydrates for energy and you’ll be able to withstand higher levels of lactic acid in your blood for longer. During a velobeat workout, you will most likely be training in zone 3 and 4, depending on the track that is playing. Pedaling to a slower track with heavier resistance will put you in training zone 3 while pedaling to a fast song with no to light resistance will put you in zone 4.
  • Heart Rate Zone 5: 90-100 % of your MHR Heart rate zone 5 is your maximal effort. Your heart and your blood and respiratory system will be working at their maximal capacity. Lactic acid will build up in your blood and after a few minutes (<5 Min) you won’t be able to continue at this intensity. Just like Velobeat, Veloburn will make you train in several zones. In addition to training in zone 3 and 4, those short interval sprints in our Veloburn workout will push you to your max (zone 5).

What you need to remember

Your intensity and your zones all depend on your health, performance, training goals, and workout preferences. Heart rate zones of marathon runners, who need to sustain their endurance levels for long periods of time, are going to look a little different than, say, the heart rate zones of a sprinter, who runs at an extremely fast pace for shorter periods of time.

Key to many sports, including Velocity’s Ride concepts, is that you should be training in all of these zones at different times in order to maximize your performance.