General Discussion Triathlon Talk » Setting Heart Rate Training Zones Rss Feed  
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2018-11-22 3:59 AM

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Official BT Coach
Indianapolis, Indiana
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Subject: Setting Heart Rate Training Zones

Formulas aren’t accurate

If you have been training for any length of time, you have probably heard about ‘Training Zones.’

Before we talk about how to set your HR training zones, I want to talk about what you SHOULDN’T do.  Apart from the Maffetone Method, you should not set your HR zones using a formula.  Why is it OK for Maffetone?  Because the goal of Dr. Maffetone is that you exercise well BELOW your aerobic threshold.  Maffetone’s formula guarantees you will be exercising below your aerobic threshold.  A better way to set your training zones is to determine your lactate threshold with a lactate threshold field test and calculate your training zones from those results.

Before you attempt a Field Test

First thing, check with your physician and seek his/her medical release to exercise.  If you have never embarked on a training program, or you haven’t regularly exercised in the past year – please, go to your doctor, let him/her know you’ll be exercising regularly and check back with them after a month to make sure you aren’t doing any damage.

If you are new to exercise, or you are following any type of “Couch-to-“program, forego doing a field test until you have built a base level of fitness.  The test is strenuous.  Instead, track your HR as you exercise.  When you are finished, note your HR and record how long it takes your HR to drop 20 beats per minute.

Lactate Threshold Heart Rate Field Test

You are going to use a 30-minute time trial on both the bike and the run to determine your lactate threshold.  If you are testing both disciplines, it’s best to test on different days.  YES, you should do a separate test for the bike and the run.

Begin with a thorough warm-up.  The run warm-up is 15-minutes and includes some accelerations to prepare your body for a maximal effort.  The bike warm-up is also 15-minutes and includes going through all the gears.

  • The 30-minute time trial begins – press ‘start’ on your watch (or head unit on the bike)
  • At 10-minutes into the test, press ‘lap’ on your watch
  • At 30-minutes press ‘end’ on your watch
  • You should finish knowing you had given a maximum effort for the entire 30-minutes

Your average HR over the final 20-minutes of the time-trial is a close approximation of your Lactate Threshold Heart Rate (LTHR) for both the run and bike.  For running, your average pace over the entire test is a close approximation of your lactate threshold pace.

Calculating your Heart Rate Training Zones

After you have determined your Lactate Threshold Heart Rate you can use the following ranges to calculate your training zones (Joe Friel 7-zones for running, Joe Friel 7-zones for cycling).

Run Zones
Zone 1 Less than 85% of LTHR
Zone 2 85% to 89% of LTHR
Zone 3 90% to 94% of LTHR
Zone 4 95% to 99% of LTHR
Zone 5a 100% to 102% of LTHR
Zone 5b 103% to 106% of LTHR
Zone 5c More than 106% of LTHR

Bike Zones
Zone 1 Less than 81% of LTHR
Zone 2 81% to 89% of LTHR
Zone 3 90% to 93% of LTHR
Zone 4 94% to 99% of LTHR
Zone 5a 100% to 102% of LTHR
Zone 5b 103% to 106% of LTHR
Zone 5c More than 106% of LTHR

You can use this method to determine your swim threshold pace.

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