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How to get the best from your Heart Rate

Categories: Exercise, Goals

What is HR Training?

With this type of training you can forget about the pace your running at, but instead focus on what your heart rate is doing.

Depending on the type of run you’re doing will affect the heart rate zone your wanting to run in.

Heart rate training is very personal as we all have different resting heart rates and therefore different maximum heart rates. So you’ll find a beginner or a retuning to running runner will have a different maximum heart rate to somebody who is an experienced runner.  

Your resting heart rate is when your laying in bed, or sitting on the sofa relaxing, whereas your maximum heart rate is when you push yourself to the max, for example running as fast as you can for 100m. You’ll find everything else you do in the days falls somewhere in between.

Remember stress, sleep and illness will all affect your heart rate.

There are lots of benefits to heart rate training, it helps you to get in tune with your body and you will start to know what it feels like to run in the different zones.

You’re fitness will improve, can you can notice a difference in your speed when you really push yourself.

You can split Heart Rate training into Zones 1-5.

Generally Zone 1 would be for your recovery runs up to zone 5 for you fast speed work at maximal effort.

I find a lot of runners do their easy long runs too fast and this in turn affects their heart rate. By slowing down these runs, you’ll find you’ll be able to stay in zones 1 and 2 for longer. When it then comes to and endurance event on race day, your body will naturally be able to capitalise on being able to keep your heart rate lower, get more oxygen around your body for longer whilst keeping in the aerobic energy system and therefore using stored fat in your body for energy rather than relying on energy gels and drinks for the glucose boost for energy to keep you going.

  • Zone 1: Recovery runs. Very light exercise 50% to 60% of MHR, hold a conversation with ease.
  • Zone 2: Easy runs. Light exercise, 60% to 70% of MHR, still able to hold a conversation.
  • Zone 3: Longer, tempo runs. Moderate exercise, 70% to 80% of MHR, may start to feel breathless.
  • Zone 4: Interval training. Hard intense exercise, 80% to 90% of MHR, tough to keep a conversation going.
  • Zone 5: Very short intervals. Very hard exercise, 90% to 100% of MHR, working to your maximum, shouldn’t be able to push any further.


Most training watches now have the ability to track your heart rate, for even more accurate reading you can wear a chest strap.

To work out your maximum heart rate MHR, the simplest way is to do 220 – you age. For a 39 year old this would be 181. For a more accurate and recent calculation you can use this formula [208 – (0.7 x age)]. The same person would be 180.7.

Once you’ve worked out your own training zones you can transfer this across into your training plans. Remember your easy runs that are completed in zone 1 or 2 will often feel too easy because you’ve had to slow your pace down. Don’t worry this is all part of the process to getting fitter and running better.