by Mbio Staff August 16, 2016

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When you first begin your foray into the wide world of running, you might be more concerned with factors like distance, speed, and how your body feels during and after a jog. However, many runners quickly delve deeper into this athletic activity and become interested in form, breathing techniques, and the benefits of monitoring heart rate and adjusting as a means of maximizing performance.

Heart rate training is used by all kinds of athletes, runners included. It involves using a heart rate monitor to keep track of how fast your heart beats during exercise. The benefit is nothing short of better health and enhanced performance.

Runner's Heart Rate

Many runners make the mistake of pushing themselves too hard, running too fast for too long or doing this too often. Running feels good - right up until it doesn't. When you push too hard you can not only fatigue your body, but you could also cause injury, derailing your progress and sending you back to the starting line, so to speak.

With heart rate training you'll calculate heart rate zones that provide specific benefits during running and try to stick to a set regimen for optimal results. How can you determine ideal heart rates to produce desired effects? Here are a few tips for every runner interested in heart rate training.

Calculating Your Target Heart Rate

The easiest way to begin when it comes to calculating ideal heart rates for running is by determining your resting heart rate and your maximum heart rate. These are the basic numbers you'll need to begin further calculations.

Your resting heart rate is nothing more than your average, everyday beats per minute, when your body is in a resting state, so to speak. The best way to determine this number is to check your beats per minute before getting up in the morning for several days in a row and then average out the numbers.

As for your maximum heart rate, start with the number 220 and subtract your age. If you're 30, your maximum heart rate should not exceed 190. If you're 50, it should be 170. This method isn't entirely accurate, so you'll have to adjust based on how you feel, but it's a place to start.

Next you can calculate your heart rate reserve (HRR), or the available beats per minute that you can devote to exercise above and beyond your resting heart rate. In other words, it determines the level of intensity your body can endure. Your HRR is calculated by subtracting your resting heart rate from your maximum heart rate.

If you're a 30-year-old with a resting heart rate of 80, your HRR would be 110. The reason this number is important is because the maximum heart rate is just a rough estimate based on age - it doesn't account for individual resting heart rate and how it can affect performance.

Your HRR provides additional information to help you determine appropriate ranges for heart rates during activity so that you can gain the most benefit from every running session.

Heart Rate Zones

There are different heart rate zones that are used for different portions of a workout, and knowing them is essential to proper heart rate training. The percentages used are based on maximum heart rate.

  • Zone 1 = 60-70% of your maximum heart rate. This is the zone you should shoot for during the warmup and cool-down portions of exercise to gradually prepare for and recover from more intense activity.
  • Zone 2 = 70-80% of your maximum heart rate. This is the zone where most runners will stay during training activities. You should be able to carry on a conversation with your running partner while you're in this zone.
  • Zone 3 = 80-90% of your maximum heart rate. At this rate, you should still be able to talk with a running partner, but your breathing will be more labored. Generally speaking, you'll only gain benefits from staying in this zone for up to about 10 minutes.
  • Zone 4 = 90-100% of your maximum heart rate. Consider this type of activity a sprint. This should be reserved for when you're nearing the end of the race and you want to make a mad dash to the finish line. You can only reasonably sustain this strenuous heart rate for up to about 2 minutes.

Setting Goals

Runners have many goals, such as burning fat, increasing aerobic endurance, and improving athletic performance. Using target heart rates and zones appropriately during training can help you to accomplish your specific goals.

Mbio Staff
Mbio Staff



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