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Determining your heart rate (HR) zones for the bike or run

There are many ways to determine your heart rate zones. HR zones are important tool for gauging effort and incorporating this key indicator into any good training plan or workout.  Many Empire Triathlon workouts will reference these HR zones – so it’s important to know your zones!

The common and least effective is 220-age formula (with differences in the formula if you’re a female).  A more accurate way of calculating your HR zones is located in an article here.  I like Joel Friel’s method because it is simple to use and doesn’t require any special testing equipment. Once you calculate these zones, you can set your heart rate monitor to targets to see if you’re meeting your training requirements.  If you have a mid-high end heart rate monitor, it’ll be able to tell you the amount of time that you spent in any particular zone during the training session, and the minimum/average/highest HR achieved.

When conducting this test, either indoors or outdoors, it is very important to test under the same conditions.  For this reason, I like to do the run portion on a treadmill or a track (with a GPS watch) and the bike portion on a Computrainer – on any indoor trainer/bike. Make sure if you’re bike outdoors that you 1) have a bike computer and that you 2) choose a consistent route and this relatively flat.

Be sure to test every fourth week if you are following a training plan. That “recovery week” should also include consistent benchmark tests so see if your training plan is effective or not.

Be great!

Bob Leong, Empire Triathlon Club Ambassador