Saturday, March 20, 2010

Heart Rate Training Zones

The other day I talked about figuring out my max heart rate, which is about 200 as best as I can figure.  (Yes, it seems high....I don't know if that's good or bad, or if it makes any difference at all, but that seems to be what it is.)

Today I want to talk about what to do with that information.

**AGAIN, I am not a doctor, I'm not a trainer, I'm barely even a runner!!  Don't take anything in this post as advice....I'm just telling you what I'm doing.

The ultimate goal of training is to be able to run longer and faster.  The ultimate goal of training with a heart monitor is not only to be able to run with a lower heart rate, but to train smarter.  Running in different heart rate zones accomplishes different goals (ie endurance, fat burning, speed, recovery...).  (This is why it was so important to determine the max heart rate first.)


Based on a max of 200, my training zones are:

50-60% - 100-120
60-70% - 120-140
70-80% - 140-160
80-90% - 160-180
90-100% - 180-200

Some trainers recommend not running two consecutive days over the 70% level, setting that value (70%, or 140 for me) as the ceiling for recovery days. They say hard days should be run at the 85% level, if not higher (for me that would be 170+).

Like I said, different zones accomplish different goals:

Healthy Heart Zone (Warm up) --- 50 - 60% of maximum heart rate: The easiest zone and probably the best zone for people just starting a fitness program. It can also be used as a warm up for more serious walkers. This zone has been shown to help decrease body fat, blood pressure and cholesterol. It also decreases the risk of degenerative diseases and has a low risk of injury. 85% of calories burned in this zone are fats!

Fitness Zone (Fat Burning) --- 60 - 70% of maximum heart rate: This zone provides the same benefits as the healthy heart zone, but is more intense and burns more total calories.
85% of calories burned in this zone are fats!

Aerobic Zone (Endurance Training) --- 70 - 80% of maximum heart rate: The aerobic zone improves cardiovascular and respiratory system AND increases the size and strength of your heart. This is the preferred zone if you are training for an endurance event. More calories are burned with 50% from fat.  (This means you need to make sure you are properly fueling to train in this, and all higher zones--a topic for another day.)

Anaerobic Zone (Performance Training) --- 80 - 90% of maximum heart rate: Benefits of this zone include an improved VO2 maximum (the highest amount of oxygen one can consume during exercise-yet another subject I need to do some research on) and thus an improved cardiorespiratory system, and a higher lactate tolerance ability which means your endurance will improve and you'll be able to fight fatigue better. This is a high intensity zone burning more calories, 15 % from fat

Red Line (Maximum Effort) --- 90 - 100% of maximum heart rate: Although this zone burns the highest number of calories, it is very intense. Most people can only stay in this zone for short periods. You should only train in this zone if you are in very good shape and have been cleared by a physician to do so.  

(By the way...the HR zones aren't just for can use them for any work outs.) 

After delving into this topic, I see now why I haven't been losing any weight with running--the calories I'm burning aren't from fat because I routinely train in the 85-90% range.   I learned a lot about fueling the other night after my group run from Tammy Beasley, RD, CSSD, LD, author of Rev It UP (The Lifestyle Diet That Puts You In The Driver's Seat).  It seems as though I've been eating too few calories and my body is trying to store them all as fat!!  (Everything I've been reading since then, from other sites, has confirmed this view.)  The good news is I'm lowering my lactate threshold and raising my my VO2 max.  (I'll talk more about these topics other posts.)

Since talking to my running group coach Tuesday night, I slowed my pace WAY down (to what I feel is an unnaturally slow speed).  I don't honestly think I can slow down any more and still run!!  But, I will say that I have finished the last three runs having done the 5/1 intervals (with only 2 little 'hiccups'), so it seems slowing down just a little bit has helped.  

Thanks for stopping in, come again soon!

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