Your Guide to Proper Heart Rate Training

READ TIME:2 min.

Something people learn about me very quickly is that I love math. I’m a bit of a nerd, and when it comes to training, I love diving into the numbers because they can explain so much about the body. But whether you’re a mathematician or not, you can still train smart and use your heart rate data in a meaningful way. So with that being said, bust out your calculator, and let’s get ready to crunch some numbers.

What you need:

  1. A calculator
  2. A timer
  3. A piece of paper


Resting Heart Rate (RHR)
While laying in bed, count your heart beats for 1 minute. Do this over 3 days and take the average.

Maximum Heart Rate (MHR)
Either perform a HR max test, or simply calculate your estimated HR max with an age calculation.
MHR= 220-age

Heart Rate Reserve (HRR)
This is the difference between your resting and your max.

Your Zones:

Zone HRR Minimum Zone HR Maximum Zone HR
1 50-60% HRR*.5 + RHR HRR*.6 + RHR
2 60-70% HRR*.6 + RHR HRR*.7 + RHR
3 70-80% HRR*.7 + RHR HRR*.8 + RHR
4 80-90% HRR*.8 + RHR HRR*.9 + RHR
5 90-100% HRR*.9 + RHR HRR + RHR

What It All Means:

Zone 1
Duration: Unlimited
Here’s where your health benefits start to kick in. For newbies and the elderly, zone one is a cool place to be. While you won’t experience serious cardio benefits quite yet, some research has shown zone one activities to decrease disease rates and increase overall health . It’s a great intensity level for recovery days as well.

Zone 2
Duration: <90 minutes
If weight management is your goal, then zone two is a fantastic place to begin. This workload is maintainable for up to 90 minutes, and it’s the lowest intensity level where your cardiovascular system can still see improvements. For long endurance training (half marathon or longer), aim for up to 80% of your training time to come from this zone.

Zone 3
Duration: 30–45 minutes
Zone three is where your body gets the most cardiovascular benefit, and it’s sometimes referred to as the aerobic zone. When it comes to developing stamina and increasing aerobic capacity, zone three is the magic spot. It’s shown to be the most effective training zone for developing strength in weight training as well. For general fitness goals, zone three is a perfect place to be.

Zone 4
Duration: 10–20 minutes
Between zone three and four is where most people switch from an aerobic (with oxygen) to an anaerobic (without oxygen) energy system. This is where the level of exertion is no longer sustainable since the body becomes less efficient at producing energy from fuel sources. When it comes to boosting your performance and increasing your lactate threshold, training in zone four is a must.

Zone 5
Duration:<5 minutes
Zone five should not be left to just elite athletes, but it should be used with caution. For the elderly, the beginners, and the inexperienced, there’s no reason to train at such a high intensity. If you’re fit and in good health, then it’s okay to challenge your body during those high intensity workouts. It can be just what you need to see a big increase in your performance. Use zone five for short sprints and in competitions.

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