Understanding Heart Rate Zones and Heart Rate Monitors

Training & Fitness

From Garmin's Fenix 7, Polar's Grit X Pro to Apple's brand new Series 8 Watch, most smartwatches contain a Heart Rate Monitor. Not only do smartwatches include this feature, Polar have a product dedicated to this; The Polar H10 Heart Rate Sensor accurately detects your heart rate and excels even when put to the test during high intensity exercise. The technology these gadgets use allows you to view what zone you are in whilst running, swimming, weightlifting or any other physical activity. But what are Heart Rate Zones, what is your own Maximum Heart Rate, and how can you use a Heart Rate Monitor to improve your training?

What is my Maximum Heart Rate?

To fully understand Heart Rate Zones you must first calculate your own Maximum Heart Rate. This can be done by subtracting your age from 220. For instance, if you are 27 years old, then 220-27=193. This would be your maximum heart rate.

What are Heart Rate Zones?

There are five Heart Rate Zones in total and each is segmented by a percentage of your Maximum Heart Rate.

Zone 1: 50-60% of your maximum heart rate
You’ll likely be in this heart rate zone while performing very light activities such as walking or a light cycle. Training in this zone will help you recover from previous strenuous activity.

Zone 2: 60-70% of your maximum heart rate
You’ll likely be in zone 2 if you are performing a light or steady jog. Training in this zone will help you enhance your endurance.

Zone 3: 70-80% of your maximum heart rate
Zone 3 is usually where your anaerobic threshold kicks in. You are now training a slightly different ‘energy system’ in your body, one that help you accelerate and run at a fast pace for longer.

Zone 4: 80-90% of your maximum heart rate
Zone 4 is likely what you’ll be training in while running up a steep hill or performing an intense weighted circuit in the gym.

Zone 5: 90-100% of your maximum heart rate
Zone 5 is pushing to the limit of your efforts such as running or swimming at sprinting pace and you’ll not be able to continue at this effort for long before needing to rest.


How can it improve my training?

Understanding Heart Rate Zones can be useful to help you achieve a specific goal. When you look at your heart rate monitor, some will display the zone you are in, but using the above calculation, you can work out what zone you are in just by glancing at the number your heart rate monitor is displaying.

Smartwatches such as the Garmin Fenix have a large bright display, making it easier to see what your heart rate is, even in harsh sunlight.

Training in Zones 1 and 2 can help boost recovery if you have had a particularly strenuous workout schedule earlier in the week and can assist your body in performing properly during your next high-intensity session.

You will only be able to last in certain zones for a certain amount of time. Therefore, if you want to improve endurance, for example, training for a 5k or 10k run, you will want to ensure you are training in a zone that allows you to sustain your efforts for your required distance. If you are training for 100m sprints, knowing when you can likely push yourself that little bit harder and cross the threshold into zone 4 or 5 can be beneficial when used sensibly.

Other useful Heart Rate metrics

Heart Rate Variability (HRV)

This is the variation in time between each heartbeat and is controlled by your nervous system. There is no easy calculation for this as it can vary daily depending on factors such as if you have been drinking alcohol or had a particularly strenuous workout without allowing adequate time to recover. Someone with normal HRV in the range of 120-150 can see their HRV drop to 50 or 60 the next day if the above factors have come into play.

Having a higher HRV is not necessarily better, what matters is that you are at the higher end of what your own normal range is. Performing regular cardio exercises, staying hydrated and getting enough sleep are all great ways to improve your HRV.

Resting Heart Rate (RHR)

Your resting heart rate is as it sounds - your heart rate when you are at complete rest. Lower resting heart rates are usually a good indication of good cardiovascular health. Similarly to HRV, getting a good sleep and stress-releasing activities such as meditation are great ways to lower your RHR.

Resting Heart Rates can vary by age but a good indication for adults and children over 10 is in the range of 60 - 100. If you are more athletic, then you can expect your RHR to be between 40-60.


Are Heart Rate Monitors worth it?

Heart Rate Monitors inform you of how hard you’re working and how much you should recover to perform your best. Utilising the five Heart Rate Zones and knowing your maximum heart rate (remember to subtract your age from 220) can help you train efficiently and provide continual valuable insights and help you learn more about your body.

Shop our range of heart rate monitors here.

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