What is Heart Rate Training?

Heart rate training is exactly that – calculating the intensity of your workout by the beat of your very own heart. With regard to your maximum heart rate, there are five heart rate zones (or HR zones) based on the intensity of your training. Each zone has varying frequency, duration, and intensity for the runner. With these zones split up, the runner is able to experience short and intense workouts, or long and light, or even a combination of different heart rate training zones for the more experienced and enthusiastic. 

How To Find Your Heart Rate Training Zone

One way you could calculate your personal heart rate training zone is using the age-based formula. This formula includes subtracting your age from 220. For example, if you are 39 years old then your theoretical maximum heart rate (MHR) is 181.

It is important to note that while this formula can help you sort of eyeball what your maximum heart rate may be, it does not take into account any inherited genes or the level of fitness that your body is currently at which could actually make your true maximum heart rate number either higher or lower than your age-predicted number. 


There are five heart rate training zones and each zone includes its own percentage of your maximum heart rate, as well as how training in that zone can be beneficial for you and your workout. 

Zone 1

The first zone in this training is an initial stage of heart rate training, as well as a very low intensity zone. This is why this zone is particularly beneficial to begin with. This zone allows your body to get moving with minimal stress or exertion which makes Zone 1 perfect for warming up before a training or for cooling down after one. 

This zone’s intensity is also beneficial for recovery, as well as readying your body for higher heart rate training. The heart rate percentage for this zone is between 55 to 65 percent of your heart rate max.

Zone 2

The second zone is where your training begins to improve your general endurance. Your body begins oxidizing (burning) unnecessary fat more effectively and your muscular fitness sees an increase, as well as your capillary density. This zone is reportedly used for the bulk of your training. 

This second zone is light enough in its intensity that you can train for a longer amount of time at this intensity, as well as relaxed enough that you can still hold a conversation with training partners. Your heart rate percentage for this zone is between 65 to 75 percent of your heart rate max. 

Zone 3

The third zone of heart rate training is where you comfortably experience moderate effort as you push the pace of your training in order to build up your strength and speed. Training in this zone is especially effective at improving blood circulation on the heart and to skeletal muscles. Conversing with training partners in this zone is reduced to single words or short and broken sentences as your heart rate percentage climbs to between 80 to 85 percent of your heart rate max.

Zone 3 is also when lactic acid begins to build up in your bloodstream and regenerate in your muscles. This is because during exercise, your skeletal muscles are producing more than your liver can metabolize which causes the build up to begin to occur and begins to fatigue muscles.

Zone 4

The fourth zone of heart rate training requires significant effort but is sustainable. Your breathing is quick and hard as you work aerobically and train to improve your speed endurance. Zone 4 is when your body steps up its game and begins improving upon its use of carbohydrates for energy. In this zone, your body is also improving its tolerance to higher levels of lactic acid in your blood for longer periods of time, as well as processing the maximum amount of those pesky acids as a fuel source for your training and efforts. 

Few words are exchanged in this zone with training partners and your heart rate percentage reaches between 85 to 88 percent of your heart rate max. Small intervals are recommended while training in this session.This zone’s training will benefit your body in its development and ability to efficiently operate at your training's next and final stage, your maximum sustainable pace. 

Zone 5

The fifth zone of heart rate training requires maximum effort, as well as your circulatory and respiratory system working at their maximum capacity. Your heart rate percentage will reach its max, as well, climbing to 90 percent and above of your heart rate max. Lactic acid in this stage builds up quickly in your blood making it harder and harder to continue at this intensity and level.

Training of your neuromuscular system occurs in this zone. Your body learns and begins to tap into and recruit additional muscle fibers, as well as how to fire those muscles more effectively. 

Benefits Of Heart Rate Training

There are many benefits to heart rate training. This type of training helps with getting the weight off, as well as keeping it off. Aerobic and cardio exercise are also extremely helpful with fighting cholesterol, both lowering your body’s bad cholesterol levels and boosting your good ones. 

Aerobic exercise is also great for improving and strengthening your immune system so that your body is better able to resist and fight off infections and viruses. Another added bonus to heart rate training is an improvement in stamina. By improving upon your stamina levels, you will find that your body will be better able to perform certain activities that require it for longer periods of time. Let’s discuss a few other major benefits below.


By tailoring your workout to your own heart rate, you are getting more out of each training session. When you are at the gym or out for a run, you may often find yourself sizing up those around you and comparing their efforts and training to your own. Instead of focusing on your own personal limits and goals, you may begin to find yourself speeding up to try and meet or match someone else's. 

Which is okay. Competition is healthy and a great motivator. However, when you are doing heart rate training, the focus – the pace – is set by your own heart and its pace. No longer are you dancing to the beat of anyone else’s workout session but, instead, you will find yourself moving and grooving to the beat of your own drum – your own heart. Sometimes a little self-focus and self-competition is good too. 


When you are training, you often can’t see how exactly hard you may be going or how much effort you may be exerting. Yes, you can definitely feel it, but that doesn’t always mean that you listen to it or pay close attention to it. With heart rate training, you are literally using your own body’s drumming to keep pace and maintain that pace. It is a safe and effective way to monitor progress, as well as to monitor and control the level of intensity that you are training in. This is especially beneficial in helping to reduce the risk of overtraining or fatigue. 

Heart rate training is also beneficial and safe because the only competition you are running against is yourself. It is a quieter and less “showy” training as your focus is more inward and on the occurrences within your own body rather than what’s going on outward and around you. Knowing your limit, especially by the monitoring of your heart and the exertion it is under, is extremely safe since it allows you to see directly the effect that your training is having on your body internally, as well as externally. 


Visible progress – progress that you can literally track – is much more motivating and generally satisfying before, during, and after workout sessions. Because heart rate training is trackable, it allows you to monitor when and if you are ready to push harder in your training or switch to a higher zone, as well as when you are in need of a break or perhaps a less strenuous zone. 

Anything you can measure or track, you can improve upon; i.e., weight loss, muscle gain, exercise times, reps or sets per exercise session, etc. Additionally, heart rate training is beneficial in tracking when you are burning fat versus carbohydrates since you can determine when you are training anaerobic versus aerobic. 

Consistency Is Key

Change never happens overnight. So, whenever training or working out, it is important to remember to provide maximum effort while also not pushing yourself past your own current limits. The purpose of training and working out is to grow, so be sure to allow yourself time to improve and to grow at a pace that is appropriate and comfortable for you and your limits. This is your journey. Be sure to enjoy it.