You can use yourmaximum heart rate to determine your ideal training zones, which essentiallyare the different levels of exerciseintensity. The four different trainingzones are described below in detail. Each zone corresponds to a differenttarget heart rate range. When exercising in Training Zone I, for example, youshould be at 50 to 60 percent of your maximum heart rate. So if your maximumheart rate is, say, 185 beats per minute, your heart rate should be between 92and 111 beats per minute during a Training one I workout (185 x 0.5 = 92.5 and185 x 0.6 = 111). Your targetheart rate is an objective measurement of how hard your body is working, butit’s important to monitor your subjective exercise intensity as well. In 1982,Gunnar Borg developed a scale for monitoring intensity based on how hard youfeel you are working. The rate of perceived exertion, or RPE, scale provides aquantitative rating of exercise effort. To determine your RPE, just do a briefmental scan of your body while working out. How labored is your breathing? Howhard are your muscles working? Are they burning? Then use the following scaleto give your “exercise effort” a number. RPE Scale 7 – very, very light exertion (This is a feeling similarto that of getting up from the couch to get a beer.) 9 – very light exertion (You barely feel like you’re exercising.) 11 – fairly light exertion (You’re just starting to breaka sweat.) 13 – somewhat hard exertion (Your breathing is becomingpretty labored.) 15 – hard exertion (You begin to feel lactic acid sensationin your muscles.) 17 – very hard exertion (You cannot speak one sentencewithout running out of breath.) 19 – very, very hard exertion (You cannot speak. Fast-movingrivulets of drool begin to stream down the corners of your mouth.) 20 – Wow! Each of the fourtraining zones below corresponds to both a target heart rate range and a rangefrom the RPE scale. Together these two numbers help you to accurately gaugeyour exercise intensity so that you know you’re exercising “in the zone.”
Recovery / Endurance / Anatomical Adaptation: These workouts are conductedat a nice, easy pace. Your heart rate should be at 50 to 60 percent of your maximumheart rate and should not exceed 130 beats per minute. Your RPE score should be10 to 12. This zone builds aerobic fitness,strengthens immunity, and uses your body fat as the primary source offuel. The purpose of these workouts is to get out there, have fun, and gainaerobic fitness without fatigue. This training zone is where you will spend themajority of your training time, especially if you are just getting back intoshape.
Tempo/Long Intervals: When you are exercising in this zone, your subjective feeling is “comfortably challenging” (RPE of 13 to 15). In otherwords, you’re working, but you’re not out of control. Your heart rate should beat 60 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate. These workouts build excellentfitness for sports like running and triathlons, since you will likely spendmost of your time on race days in this zone. Tempo workouts are designed tohelp you keep a strong pace throughout your race. These workouts are done at asteady state over a longer duration (10 to 40 minutes). Long intervals servethe same purpose but are performed as a series of short bouts (three to eightminutes) at a slightly higher intensity than the tempo workouts.
Short Intervals/Speed: When your aerobic fitness begins to plateau,it’s time to sprinkle some Training Zone III work into yourprogram. Theseintervals can last anywhere from 30 seconds to two minutes and should only beperformed after at least four weeks of consistent, injury-free exercise. They helpyou focus on increasing your speed. When doing a Level III workout, your heartrate should be at 70 to 80 percent of your maximum heart rate and your RPEshould be 16 to 17.
Explosive Power: These sessions are reserved for serious fitnessenthusiasts and athletes who want higher-end fitness, particularly competitiveathletes. Efforts should be from five to 20 seconds in duration and shouldbuild into an all-out effort. These sessions will dramatically improve yourmaximal oxygen-carrying capacity and your biomechanical technique. Your RPEshould be 18 to 20 and your heart rate should be at 80 to 90 percent of yourmaximum. It may be difficult, however, to determine your heart rate duringexertion, because an explosive-power effort lasts only 30 seconds or less, soyour heart rate may not jump up until after the burst of power is over. Such asession is best done on feel. Go as hard as you can while maintaining goodform. Regardless ofyour fitness level or goals, you should spend the vast majority of yourtraining time in Zones I and II. Training in these zones helps you become moreaerobically fit without fatigue. Mark Allen, one of the greatest triathletes ofall time, was religious about sticking to Training Zone I and II workouts. It build him into an injury-free,aerobic-powerhouse, world-dominatingtriathlete. And these principles will work for you, too. Exercise with a heart monitor – and it will change the way you look, feel, and perform.