How to Calculate Your Training Heart Rate Zones

When working out, the intensity of your exercise will determine your fitness level. As a beginner, there’s a level of effort you should begin with. As you progress and depending on your fitness goals (for weight loss or strength training), you can increase the intensity of your training. But, how do you know if you’re putting the correct level of effort in all your sessions? How do you know if you’re training too hard?

Hear Rate Zones

In every training program, cardiovascular fitness is vital to make sure that you’re not pushing too hard or too little. Heart rate zones are a measure of how hard you’re training. By knowing your target heart rate zone, you’ll be able to reap more benefits when running or performing any other cardiovascular activity.

And not only that. You’ll also know when to recover and the duration of your recovery. To determine your target heart rate, you’ll take a percentage (between 50 to 85 percent) of your maximum heart rate in beats per minute (bpm).

Know your Maximum Heart Rate

Your maximum heart rate (MHR) is the fastest rate at which your heart will beat, measured per minute. The MHR varies from one person to another – it reduces with age. For a long time, most people were using the traditional formula of 220 minus age. However, there were flaws, one of them being that it didn’t reflect the changes in heart rate as one aged. After long research, scientists came up with a formula to calculate your MHR:

  • Maximum Heart Rate Formula = 206.9 – (0.62 x your age) Important facts to know about MHR:
  1. Altitude lowers your MHR
  2. Your MHR changes with age and varies with gender
  3. Genes determine your MHR

Determine Your Resting Heart Rate (RHR)

This is best achieved when you first wake up in the morning. To do this, place two fingertips on your wrist or carotid (the neck area, next to your larynx) and take your pulse for one minute. For consistency, repeat this for three consecutive mornings. Add those three readings and divide them by three. This will give you your average RHR.

Calculate Your Target Heart Rate

Using the above results, you can now calculate your target heart rate using this formula:

  • [(Maximum Heart Rate – Resting Heart Rate) x %Intensity] + Resting Heart Rate Let’s take the example of a 40-year-old man. His MHR will be 206.9 – (0.62 x 40) = 182.1 bpm. Now, assuming that the RHR is 72, then the target heart rate will be:
  • At 50 percent target heart rate – [(182.1 – 72) x 0.50] + 72 = 127 bpm
  • At 85 percent target heart rate – [(182.1 – 72) x 0.85] + 72 = 165 bpm As you can see, the target heart rate zone falls between 127 bpm to 165.5 bpm.

How Do I Know My Training Heart Rate Zone?

Using a heart-rate monitor is the best way to measure your heart rate while running or training. They come in various shapes and designs but chest strap heart-rate monitoring devices are the most accurate. However, you could also use a wrist heart-rate monitor. The device will alert you when you reach your target heart rate zone, when you are above it, and when you’re below it. You can check how well you stayed within your heart zone via a fitness phone app.

Types of Heart Rate Zones

Generally, there are five different types of heart rate zones and are counted as 1 – 5. You can schedule your workouts to fit one of the five zones. Here’s a breakdown of what each zone implies and the benefits of training within a particular heart rate zone.

Heart Rate Zone 1: 50 – 60 Percent (Very light) The lowest of all zones, this zone is a comfortable effort used for warmups or cool downs. You should do low-intensity workouts that allow to easily have control over your heart rate, such as walking.

Heart Rate Zone 2: 60 – 70 Percent (Light) Training at this heart rate zone feels light and you should be able to endure longer training periods. It’s an ideal zone to build your endurance, burn fat and increase your muscular fitness.

Heart Rate Zone 3: 70 – 80 Percent (Moderate) This is for the more sporadic exerciser. It improves blood circulation in your heart and around your skeletal structures. It’s a moderate intensity zone that you’ll feel comfortable breathing and it also improves your efficiency.

Heart Rate Zone 4: 80 – 90 Percent (Hard) This is where things start getting tough. You’ll be breathing hard and can only manage a few words at a time. This intensity improves your speed endurance and your body becomes more efficient in converting carbohydrates into energy to make up for the high lactic acid levels running in your bloodstream.

Heart Rate Zone 5: 90 – 100 Percent (Maximum) This is the highest you can go. Your heart, respiratory system, and blood will be working at their maximum capacity and you can’t endure long periods at this intensity. This zone is for those who have been training for a while and professional athletes.

How to Use Your Heart Rate Zones for Maximum Benefits

Don’t stick to one zone during your training. Your workouts will be more beneficial if you mix all the fixe heart rate zones in your routine. The trick is to start slow and monitor your progress. Soon, you’ll know how much you can handle and when to increase or decrease your intensity.

All images by Pixabay


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