We’ve talked about this on the blog before, but thought it might be nice to do a recap on heart rate training (HRT). It seems like a no-brainer, right? Using your heart as a guide to work out more efficiently. But HRT seems to be critically underused. We pull over when our “Check Engine” light comes on in our cars, but we don’t use our heart to guide us in the same way.
What’s heart rate training?
At its core, HRT is the method of tracking your heart rate to optimize your workout. By using 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 do 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 necessary!
Your heart rate (HR) is simply the number of times your heart beats per minute as it pumps blood through your system. It’s your body’s response to the work you’re doing, so the harder your ride or run, the higher your HR.
Two of the most important numbers in HRT is your resting heart rate (the number of beats per minute while resting) and your maximum heart rate or MHR, (the highest number your heart contracts in one minute).
What’s my resting heart rate?
The best way to find your resting heart rate is to take it first thing in the morning, every day for a week.
Have a heart rate monitor? Put it on, and lie down for a few minutes, staying as relaxed as possible. Jot down the lowest number you see and repeat the next day.
If you’re going old school, you’ll need to find your pulse—either on the inside of your wrist or on your neck—and count the number of beats you feel for one minute (or count for 30 seconds then multiply that number by two).
At the end of the week, average those numbers together by adding them up and dividing by seven. That number is your resting heart rate.
What’s my maximum heart rate?
To get your maximum heart rate (MHR), all you need is your bike and a long, steady hill. After a 15-minute warm-up, start off at a quick pace, increasing your speed every minute for five minutes, staying seated. When you can’t go any faster while sitting, get out of the saddle and sprint as hard as you can for 15 seconds. Immediately take your heart rate to get your MHR results.
Knowing your MHR is important in telling you how hard (or easy) each of your workouts should be. However, It’s interesting to note your MHR can actually vary from sport to sport. For example, your running MHR is likely higher than your cycling MHR. That’s because your MHR is dependent on the size of muscle groups being used, and running uses the largest muscle groups in the body. As a result, it’s crucial you determine your MHR individually for all of your athletic activities.
What are training zones?
Your heart rate can be segmented into five clear training 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 / Recovery
Intensity: 50-60% of MHR
This is a great zone 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. Also called “active recovery” workouts, this zone assists in recovery from hard efforts by alleviating fatigue and soreness, and flushing out lactic acid from the body.
Stay in Zone 1 if you’re in recovery or want to ease into a larger program.
Zone 2: Easy / Endurance Training
Intensity: 60-70% of MHR
This should be the foundation of your training and make up the bulk of your workouts, especially if you’re a beginner runner or cyclist. Build your base and burn fat at an intensity you should be able to comfortably hold for an extended period of time—all while holding a conversation and enjoying the scenery.
Zone 2 includes long-distance rides, runs and strength training. Use this zone to build up the intensity. You’re working harder than active recovery, but not so hard that it’s uncomfortable.
Zone 3: Moderate / Aerobic Capacity
Intensity: 70-80% of MHR
Tempo runs, strength training, power and aerobic fitness typically fit within Zone 3 intensity. The best way to describe it is “comfortably hard.” You’re working, and you feel it. But you can keep pushing through.
Zone 4: Hard / Lactate Threshold
Intensity: 80-90% of MHR
Also known as anaerobic threshold, this type of training is for athletes looking to increase performance. Exercises within Zone 4 include high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and anaerobic exercises that increase maximum performance capacity, enhances lung capacity and improves high-speed endurance.
You’ll notice an increased burn in your muscles while attempting these workouts. Working into Zone 4 will make you faster and stronger. That said, this type of training is very challenging, it is best used in interval training with periods of active recovery.
Zone 5: Max Effort / RunFit
Intensity: 90-100% MHR
This is one of the most intense types of training and cannot be maintained for the entirety of the workout—sustain for maybe 3 to 8 minutes at a time. Zone 5 is ideal for advanced athletes who want to push themselves and break plateaus.
Your legs will burn as you push forward, and you’ll be gasping for air. Your body will need serious recovery time after this very intense workout.
Remember, 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 lightheaded, stop your workout. It could be a sign of over-exercising or dehydration. An excessive and abnormal spike in heart rate, pain in your chest, nausea, and lightheadedness can be symptoms of arrhythmia. If experiencing these symptoms, call 911.
Why do I need a TICKR?
As mentioned before, heart rate training is only as helpful as the data you pull from it. So if you’re serious about your training, a heart rate monitor is crucial to measuring the highs and lows of your workout and maximizing your workout efficiency.
While the manual way of taking two fingers to your wrist or neck does work, it can be difficult to derive an exact number in the midst of a workout—especially for cyclists—where removing one hand to get your pulse can be a little dangerous.
That’s where Wahoo’s TICKR X comes into play. Our heart rate monitors can help you adjust your effort so your heart rate falls within a specific zone in real time, every time.
The TICKR X tracks the upper and lower intensity limits of your workout program and then stores the data which can later be analyzed and optimized to help you make changes for more efficient training, letting you know when to push harder and when to cut back.
Check out our TICKR comparison chart to choose the heart rate trainer that is right for you, and let us know how you feel after a few weeks of heart rate training!