Heart Rate Zones
Learn How To Set Them Right
Do you know how to determine your most effective heart rate zones and how often you should train in each zone? Read on to find out how to use your heart rate monitor more effectively.
Throughout the years I read many books and articles on the internet about heart rate monitor training and how to use your own heart rate values to set your training zones. Besides that I experimented a lot with different methods.
I recommend to set your zones by using your maximum heart rate, resting heart rate and Karvonen formula. Make sure to check your resting heart rate often enough to set your target zones right.
The Karvonen formula uses your maximum heart rate (MHR) and heart rate reserve to calculate a target heart rate range. The exact formula is shown below:
Recovery Zone (< 65%)
These runs are relatively short runs at a relaxed pace to make sure you are well rested before your next hard workout starts. They should be slower than your other workouts of the week.
You should feel as you're gaining energy rather than losing it. Don't go too hard on recovery days as it will make you too tired for more important, quality workouts. Make sure this workout is 30 to 40 minutes at maximum.
Aerobic Zone (60% to 72%)
General aerobic runs enhance your overall endurance through adding extra miles to your training volume. Don't underestimate the importance of these runs for your marathon preparation.
The most important goal of training in this heart rate zone is increasing your training volume. You shouldn't feel tired the day after an aerobic run. Usually this workout is between one and one and a half hours.
Long Run Zone (64% to 76%)
The long run is a crucial element of your marathon training. In this heart rate zone you run fast and long enough to strengthen your confidence for your marathon. On the other hand it is important to recover fast enough for other important training sessions.
My advice is to start at the lower end of this range and keep this heart rate and pace for at least the first hour. After that you can gradually increase your pace and finish strong. These long runs can vary anywhere between one and a half and three hours or more.
Marathon Pace Zone (72% to 85%)
These runs can be seen as a simulation of your marathon race during which you run most of the miles at your marathon goal pace. They are a great boost to your confidence and also allow you to practice your form.
Start with around 30 minutes running at this pace. Usually the length of a marathon pace run gradually increases to around one and a half or two hours. Make sure to plan a few easy days after a long marathon pace run.
Anaerobic Threshold Zone (76% to 89%)
These tempo runs provide a strong stimulus to improve your pace at the anaerobic threshold. Most trained marathon runners can maintain this pace for at most one hour.
Do the runs in this anaerobic heart rate zone with care and try to maintain this pace for 20 to 45 minutes at maximum. It will help to improve your marathon race pace as well.
Very High Intensity Zone (90% to 95%)
High intensity runs should only be done if you are an experienced runner. They ask a lot from your body so before attempting these runs you better make a health check first.
Warm-up for at least 15 minutes. It depends on your experience and pace, but two sorts of training I often use (one at a time):
3 x 1600m @ 5K race pace with 3 to 6 minutes jog in between
5 x 800m @ 5K race pace with 1 to 3 minutes jog in between
Heart Rate Monitor Books
Are you really into heart rate monitor training and want to get in-depth advice on training with such a device? I would suggest to read Heart Rate Training written by Roy Benson and Heart Monitor Training for the Compleat Idiot written by John Parker. The last book is oriented at runners and the first one is useful for anyone serious about sports.
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