This is one of the first questions I had when I bought my first heart rate monitor: How To Find Your Target Heart Rate? The device I had bought was a very basic entry level one, the Timex T5G941, which basically only displayed your heart rate. If you go for a slightly more expensive model, then even an entry level HRM will come with built in target zones calculation. The easiest way to see what features are included in different models, take a look at this comparison table.
But even if you heart rate monitor comes with a built in zone calculation feature, it is very useful to understand what the different zones mean and how they can benefit your training.
A person’s heart rate is measured in beats per minute (BPM) and is a measurement of how fast your heart is beating at any given time. When you are working out, e.g. while running, your heart rate increases, and the total BPM is dependent on how intensive you are training.
A target heart rate is a value that can help you achieve your training goals, as the value is different dependent on what you want to achieve. For example, if you are aiming for weight loss then the target rate is a lot lower than the anaerobic rate a high performance athlete tries to achieve at certain times.
So, your target heart rate is dependent on how hard you want to work out and is divided into different zones. Most commonly you will see references to three heart rate zones, but professional athletes with highly tailored training regimes will quite possibly work with 5 or more zones.
As already mentioned, a heart rate zone is a margin of beats per minute at which your body will undergo different levels of strain. No matter what level of fitness you are at, and whether you are trying to lose weight or prepare for a marathon, using heart rate zones will help you to make sure your body is progressing towards that goal.
Generally speaking you will come across the following three heart rate zones:
The difficult thing about target heart rate zones is that they are different for every individual and have to be calculated individually.
When you are trying to find out how to find your target heart rate I would first of all point you to a very handy online calculator on this site, where all you need is your age and your resting heart rate: Heart Rate Zone Calculator. To get your resting heart rate, you should measure it first thing in the morning while you are still in bed. If you do this over a couple of days you should be able to get an accurate reading
Secondly, it is important to note that this basic calculation is accurate for most people, but in order to get a really accurate target heart rate you would have to undergo a heart rate test performed in a clinical setting. This is only recommendable if you find that the calculations made here do not seem to match up with your training experience.
For those that want to know the science and calculation involved, I will explain that here:
Maximum heart rate = 220 – 30 = 190
Working heart rate = 190 – 70 = 120
Fat burning zone lower limit = 120 * 0.5 = 60 + 70 = 130
Fat burning zone upper limit = 120 * 0.75 = 90 + 70 = 160
Aerobic zone lower limit = 120 * 0.75 = 90 + 70 = 160
Aerobic zone upper limit = 120 * 0.85 = 102 + 70 = 172
Anaerobic zone lower limit = 120 * 0.85 = 102 + 70 = 172
Anaerobic zone upper limit = 120 * 0.95 = 114 + 70 = 184
So, that is how to find your target heart rate, but as mentioned you can use this calculator to make things easier: Heart Rate Zone Calculator.