Heart Rate Training

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Heart Rate Training and Monitors

The market these days is flooded with technological devices which claim to help us as athletes improve our training performance and ultimately racing results. Heart rate (HR) monitors are a very useful and cost effective tool for athletes to monitor their performance and train in the appropriate ‘training zones’. It is all good and well to use a HR monitor however many athletes simply do not know how to use it effectively.

When thinking about how much time to spend in each HR training zone we should look at the type of race we are training for e.g. short or long. During a 5km running race an athlete’s HR will be significantly higher than someone racing a full marathon and the body will be using different sources of fuel e.g. carbohydrates and fats. It is therefore very important to understand training zones so when it comes to race day you are prepared. Whether you are racing short or long it is important to understand the ‘aerobic training zone’ as this is were the greatest physiological adaptations will occur.

Heart Rate Variables

Although HR is a very valuable training tool, there are some things to keep in mind if you are basing all of your training purely around HR. Due to circumstances such as stress, environment and energy levels your HR levels may vary from session to session and what you could complete one day could near seem impossible to complete the next. This is where athletes need to be smart and learn how to monitor their perceived efforts. You should always monitor your feeling during sessions. If you’re sitting on a HR you train at regularly and you’re suffering, listen to your body and back off a little so the perceived effort aligns with what the program is requesting. You should be able to get to a point in training where you can feel your threshold zone kicking in. Use your monitor and try to learn the feeling of being in these zones.

Heart Rate Zones

Each training zone of a program has a corresponding HR range. The recommended way to find out what these zones is to get a V02 max test however there are other mathematical formulas which can give you an estimate on your HR zones. The most common formula to obtain your maximum heart rate (MHR) = 220-age

E.g. if you are 20 years old then your

MHR = 220-20

= 200; Therefore 70% of your MHR is 140 Beats per Minute (BPM)

This formula however is not accurate in giving your training zones simply because people have different MHR’s due to their genetic makeup. This formula also does not take into consideration your current fitness level, exercise history and resting heart rate.

The following is the Karvonen formula which is a more accurate approach to discovering your training zones. You will need to know your Maximum HR which would be the highest HR you have achieved on your monitor when at a prolonged period of intense exercise (maximal effort). Also your resting HR which needs to be taken in the morning before you hop out of bed for a true reading. This formula does not take into consideration your age but your max and resting HR in order to give your training zones. Lets say that your Max HR is 200 and your resting HR is 50

(Maximum HR – resting HR) * % of Intensity + RHR

= (200 – 50) * 0.7 + 50

= 155 BPM

Therefore 70% of MHR is 155 Beats per minute which is significantly higher than the HR from the original formula we used

Therefore to discover our T2 Base Endurance Range HR (65-75%)

= (200 – 50) * 65% + 50                                 = (200 – 50) * 75% + 50

= 147 BPM                                                         = 162BPM

Therefore your aerobic HR range is between 147-162BPM (65-75%)

Learning to train in a true aerobic capacity is often overlooked by many endurance athletes, especially beginners. Due to this zone feeling relatively easy, athletes feel they are not getting a workout and they will continuously train in what we call the ‘grey zone’. Not only does this zone not get you optimal results, it also can promote injury and fatigue. Having the right balance of hard and easy sessions is key to improving your performance come race day.

Author: Ryan Bourke
Triathlon coach | CF Racing

Have a question? Email ryan@cfracing.com.au

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