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Everything You Should Know About Heart Rate Training

10 min read

Heart Rate Training (HRT) seems like a no-brainer. Using your heart as a guide to workout more efficiently should be fairly standard fare. However, HRT tends to be critically underused. We’ll pull off the side of the road when the dreaded “Check Engine” light comes on in our cars, but we don’t use our heart to guide our workouts like we should.

Whether you’re new to heart rate training HRT or you’ve got a good pulse on how your workout intensity impacts your overall performance, the fact is HRT remains one of the premier ways to gauge your workouts. Science says that almost any athlete can benefit from HRT, so we’ve decided to build out a guide to help our Wahooligans understand its terms and zones.

What is Heart Rate Training?

At its core, HRT is the method of tracking your heart rate to optimize your fitness. By using certain workout methods with a wearable heart rate monitor, like the TICKR, you can track the upper and lower intensity limits of your workout program. The data that remains can be analyzed and optimized to help you make changes as necessary and get a better workout.

Why Should I Heart Rate Train?

Sure, you can just estimate your heart rate throughout your workout. But our prior attempts at “best guess analysis” will tell you that’s a surefire way to mess up your training plan.

If you’re serious about your fitness, a heart rate monitor is crucial to measuring the highs and lows of your workout and maximizing your workout efficiency.

How Can I Determine my Heart Rate?

If you’ve got a TICKR, you can determine your heart rate pretty simply. A great place to start to understand your heart rate is within the Wahoo RunFit app, which makes it easy to determine your personal maximum target heart rate. Load up the simple 3-step Heart Rate Validation Test within the app and follow the instructions. This test will give you personalized heart rate zones and a base understanding of where you need to take your workouts. No calculations needed!

Understanding Training Zones

Your Heart Rate can be segmented into 5 clear zones, ranging from Very Easy (Zone 1) to Max Effort (Zone 5). As you progress through HRT, you’ll come to discover how your body reacts within these different zones and how they’ll impact your workout.

Zone 1: Very Easy

For those looking to lose weight, this is a great place to burn fat. While low intensity may seem counterproductive to weight loss, your body actually uses fat as the fuel source in low intensity workouts. Stay in Zone 1 if you’re in recovery or want to ease into a larger program.

Zone 2: Easy

Zone 2 includes long-distance runs and strength training (where you’re not looking to constantly peak your intensity). This is also a great zone for weight loss. Use this zone to build up intensity and endurance as you transition into higher zones later in your fitness plan.

Zone 3: Moderate

When entering Zone 3, you should see increased intensity in your workouts. Tempo runs, strength training, and aerobic fitness typically fit within Zone 3 intensity.

Zone 4: Hard

For athletes looking to increase performance (not just lose weight), you need to be in Zone 4 at certain intervals. Exercises within Zone 4 include HIIT (high intensity interval training), and anaerobic exercises. You’ll notice an increased burn in your muscles while attempting these workouts. Working into Zone 4 will make you faster and stronger overall.

Zone 5: Max Effort

As it should be obvious, Zone 5 cannot be maintained for the entirety of the workout, and it should also not be attempted every day. Zone 5 is ideal for advanced athletes who want to push themselves and break plateaus. Your body will need serious recovery time after attempting a workout within Zone 5.

Next Steps for Heart Rate Training

Before you dive headfirst into HRT, we’d recommend checking out a few extra resources before the plunge:

  • We’ve put together a more advanced guide to the 5 Heart Rate Zones. Take a peek at suggested durations for the different zones.
  • We’ve simplified the Heart Rate Validation Test and done all the calculations and heavy lifting within the Wahoo RunFit App. But the science behind it is pretty interesting. Check our this blog for a more in-depth understanding of what the HR Validation Test is measuring.
  • Wahoo’s “Heartlek” workouts are a great way to modulate your workouts at your own pace (heartlek literally means “playing with your pace” in Swedish). Use these workouts to keep HRT interesting and fun.

Choose the Right TICKR for Your Workouts

As mentioned before, Heart Rate Training is only as helpful as the data you pull from it. You need a quality heart rate trainer to get you the information you need. Check out our TICKR comparison chart to choose the heart rate trainer that is right for you!

Like every new training program, it’s important to be mindful of your body’s response; if you notice yourself starting to feel dizzy or light-headed, stop your workout. It could be a sign of over-exercising or dehydration. Consider picking a buddy to workout with if you plan to push yourself into higher Zone levels.

Pick out your TICKR, start your HR Validation Test, and let us know how you feel after a few weeks of Heart Rate Training!

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