woman checking her heart rate

Training Tip: Heart Rate Zones Explained

Exploring Heart Rate Zones

Coach Carola from Zooma Run Club is back with us today to explain heart rate zones!

Zone 1

Zone 1 is used primarily for:

Zone 1 should feel almost effortless. It is a very easy, comfortable pace that you should ultimately be able to maintain for hours and hours at a time. You should be able to carry on a full-blown conversation with a fellow runner and breathe comfortably through your nose.

Benefits of Training in Zone 1

Training in zone 1 is used to get you warmed up and moving with little to no stress on the body. It also allows you to recover between intervals, lower your heart rate, and prepare yourself to train in higher intensity zones.

Zone 2

Zone 2 is used primarily for:

  • Long Runs
  • Endurance
  • Base Training

Zone 2 is a small step up from Zone 1 as it should still feel comfortable and you should be able to carry on a conversation with someone running alongside you. This is a zone you are able to sustain for hours at a time as well. It is predominantly used for long runs and base training sessions as it works your aerobic energy system.

Benefits of Training in Zone 2

Zone 2 focuses on improving your basic cardiovascular training and overall endurance. Working at this low intensity will ultimately result in being able to run faster, at the same effort level. Your muscle endurance will improve and your body will become a fat-burning machine.

This is truly the zone for endurance athletes to focus on. In your training plans, you will notice that about 70-80% of your training is in zones 1 and 2.

Zone 3

Zone 3 is used primarily for:

  • Improving aerobic conditioning
  • Marathon effort training
  • Steady state runs

Zone 3 is where training becomes slightly uncomfortable due to the fact that lactic acid is beginning to build up. It’s the in-between, not too easy yet not too hard. Even though it’s a bit uncomfortable, it’s an effort level you should be able to maintain for an hour!

Conversation in zone 3 is now reduced to incomplete sentences before a breath is needed.

Benefits of Training in Zone 3

In zone 3, we improve our speed, strength, efficiency, and running economy. After working this zone, harder sustained efforts will begin to feel less taxing and result in less fatigue.

Zone 4

Zone 4 is used primarily for:

  • Long intervals
  • Threshold training

Here is where training gets tough, real tough! Forget having a conversation, your breathing becomes heavy and labored, and you are just trying to push through these intervals.

Why does this zone feel so hard?

Because your body is switching from its aerobic to anaerobic energy system, arriving at the infamous lactate threshold. This is when lactic acid builds up in your muscles faster than your body can process it, which in turn makes your legs begin to burn.

Benefits of Training in Zone 4

Now that we are crossing over into long interval training, we will Improve our power output, speed and leg turnover. We will also develop running efficiency and tolerance of moving at a harder pace for a more extended period of time.

Zone 5

Zone 5 is used primarily for:

  • Sprinting
  • Short intervals
  • Max speed

Zone 5 is where you are running at your absolute maximum effort! This means you will be unable to work at this intensity for more than a few minutes. Your heart will be pumping close to capacity, and you will be building up lactic acid so fast that your body will not be able to process it.

Benefits of Training in Zone 5

In zone 5, you are working on improving your running economy including your form, turnover, max speed, reaction time, and power.

Which Zones Should I Train In?

Depending on your specific training goals, you should have a variety of different types of workouts. Remember! Even if you want to run faster, you should NOT only run in zone 4. Your overall plan should always include most of your training in the low-intensity zones of 1 and 2.

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