What is so useful about measuring our heart rate?

The most important factor of measuring the heart rate is to ensure you are training in the correct training zones. This way you can avoid over-training and get the maximum benefit out of your training. There are 5 main zones labelled Zone 1, Zone 2, Zone 3, Zone 4 and Zone 5. These zones are defined by the percentage of your current heart rate against your maximum heart rate.

Zone 1 – 50-60% of your Heart Rate Max – VERY LIGHT

The is the very low intensity zone. In this zone, you are not putting a lot of stress on the body, you are recovering it and preparing for your harder training days, so that when it comes to the training session, you are ready and not over-trained.

Zone 2 – 60-70% of your Heart Rate Max – LIGHT

In this zone, it will feel light and you should be able to maintain this intensity for long periods of time. By running in this intensity, you are boosting your general endurance, burning fat, a better adaptation to body oxidising and your muscular fitness will increase along with your capillary density. This is a very essential part of any runner’s programme.

Zone 3 – 70 – 80% of your Heart Rate Max – MODERATE

By running in this zone, you are improving the efficiency of blood circulation in the heart and skeletal muscles. Lactic acid starts to creep up into your bloodstream slightly in this zone but not as rapidly as it does in the next zones.

Zone 4 – 80-90% of your Heart Rate Max – HARD

Zone 4 is where things start to get a bit harder. You are now breathing heavier and running anaerobically. This is your tempo training zone. In this zone your body is able to flush out lactic acid as quickly as it is producing it. This zone improves your speed endurance which is required to get the best out of you. Training in this zone will allow your body to use carbohydrates better as your energy source and you will be able to withstand higher levels of lactic acid in your blood for longer.

Zone 5 – 90-100% of your Heart Rate Max – MAXIMUM

You are now all out. The heart is now working to its maximum capacity alongside your blood and respiratory system. Lactic acid builds up and the body can’t get rid of it as quickly as previous zones. Your muscles are in Oxygen Debt. You don’t want to be in this zone for too long though, you should be here towards the end of a race or a session.

To simplify everything, your easy runs should be Zone 1-2, steady runs Zone 2-3, Tempo training Zone 4 and high intensity training/races Zone 4-5. By Training with heart rate zones you will maximise your training whilst not over doing it, training smart!

It’s easy to monitor your heart rate zones, simply using a GPS running watch, like the Polar M430 can make training much easier. The Polar M430 for example will calculate your heart rate zones (based on your personal data), it is then possible to set device to your desired zone, depending upon the workout session planned.

For example, if it’s a session designed to improve speed, simply lock the device within Zone 4 or if it’s a session to improve endurance, simply lock the device to ensure that you keep you within a lower zone, like Zone 2. Going over or under the zone during a session the Polar M430 activates a vibrating alarm on your wrist to alert you. Using this feature really helps to take the effort out of heart rate training, meaning you can concentrate on your training.

I guess the saying is true… Listen to your heart, not your head!

Dean Newton, New Marske Harriers, Up and Running Darlington

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