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Discover the basics of heart rate training and how you can apply it to your own training to maximise your levels of fitness.

The idea behind heart rate training is instead of training at a specific pace, you train at specific heart rate ranges. By taking the scientific approach to your training you can maximise your fitness quickly, effectively and efficiently, without needless stress on your body.


Aerobic & Anaerobic Fitness

To understand heart rate training, you must first understand the two categories of fitness, aerobic and anaerobic. For each type of fitness, your respiration, heart rate and fuel source differ. 

Aerobic fitness is a type of cardiovascular conditioning, during which, your breathing and heart rate are maintain for a sustained period of time, i.e. long-distance running. During aerobic exercises, your body doesn’t require such immediate sources of energy, so fuels mainly from the oxygen that you are breathing and the fat stores in your body.

Anaerobic fitness involves quick bursts of energy, performed at maximum effort for short periods of time, i.e. sprinting. During anaerobic exercise, your body requires immediate energy, so, when it can’t get enough oxygen in to fuel the body it switches to a faster, more readily available fuel source, glycogen, a form of glucose that’s stored within the body.

The levels of exertion, i.e. heart and respiratory rates, at which your body switches between the fuel sources, is known as your Aerobic and Anaerobic Thresholds. To maximise your fitness levels effectively and efficiently, you must focus your training in and around these two thresholds.


Identifying your Thresholds

The graph below shows the results of a VO2 and Heart Rate Max test. During the test, the participant’s levels of oxygen usage and heart rate are recorded through increasing levels of activity over time. The test is able to identify the exact points of exertion at which the body switches to the different types of fitness, aerobic to anaerobic.

Heart Rate Training

Target Heart Rate Zones

Once the aerobic and anaerobic thresholds are identified, you are then able to map out the heart rate ranges in which to apply unique zones to your workouts. These zones are specifically designed to improve each area of fitness, including your Aerobic Threshold, Anaerobic Threshold, maximum work rate capacity and your maximum speed.

Aerobic Threshold Training

HR Zone: Moderate
Max HR Percentage: 70%-80%
Training: Long & Steady
Sustainable Workout time: 1-3 hours

By exercising in the moderate zone, you will increase endurance, improve overall cardio fitness and be able to sustain exercise at a prolonged period of time.


Anaerobic Threshold Training

HR Zone: High
Max HR Percentage: 80%-90%
Training: Tempo
Sustainable Workout time: 10-40 mins

Training at this intensity will help increase the threshold at which your body switches to anaerobic fitness.


Anaerobic Capacity Training

HR Zone: High
Max HR Percentage: 90%-95%
Training: Intervals
Sustainable Workout time: 2-6 mins per interval, 20-40 mins in total

Training at this intensity will maximise your anaerobic capacity to run harder for longer.


Anaerobic Max Training

HR Zone: Peak
Max HR Percentage: 95%+
Training: High-intensity intervals
Sustainable Workout time: 0-2 mins per interval, 10-20 mins in total

Pushing your peak zone develops strength, speed and power. 


Calculating your Heart Rate Zones 

Book your VO2/Heart Rate Max Test

If you’re serious about training and achieving your best results, we can’t recommend enough taking a VO2 and Heart Rate Max test to discover your heart rate zones and create a specific training plan tailored to you. Below are links to our endurance coaching specialists friends, Enduraprep, where you can book in a test or purchase a training plan from their training library.

Book Enduraprep VO2 Max Test

Enduraprep - Training Plan Library


Heart Rate Zone Chart

If you’re not in a position to undergo a VO2/Heart Rate Max test, you can work out your rough zones by using the chart below. This should provide you with enough information to work out your heart rate zones and form an effective heart rate training plan in which to maximise your fitness.

Age Peak Zone High Zone Moderate Zone Light Zone
20 190-200 180-190 160-180 140-160

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