I train at Vent Fitness on IC7 bikes with power. I love it because I can watch my watts, cadence, heart rate and more. I can see when I am gaining fitness and when I feel like I am working, but my heart rate is lower or my power abysmal. I know this changes and that I need to look at my workouts with a macro view as well as a micro view. Wednesday I ran the Veterans Day Dash. Good strong effort. I did not wear my heart rate monitor, but I was high 160s I am sure. The race was at 10 am. At noon I went to Vent to teach my power class. I did wear my heart rate monitor and watched watts. I could not come near the punches I normally get and my heart rate stayed lower in class. I had nothing in the tank to give at my normal level. I was OK with that knowing I had already had a hard push for the day. If I had tried to push into the red zone and hold it there as long as possible I would end up injured. My goal is to train smart. That means I have easy days and I have hard days. After the hard days I have recovery. It is during recovery that we get stronger, but that will be another lengthy post!
So what do you need to know to at least get started? You need to get reasonably accurate zones.
Maffetone – The Formula:
1) Subtract your age from 180
2) Modify this number by choosing below:
a. If you have or are recovering from a major illness or if you are on medication, subtract an additional 10
b. If you have not exercised before or have been exercising but have been injured, sick, going “down hill” or have asthma or allergies, subtract an additional 5
c. If you have been exercising for more than two years and making progress without any problems, add 5
d. If you have been exercising for up to two years without any significant problems, then keep the result of 180 – your age Next – Put the number to work:
This is your Maximum Aerobic Heart Rate number or a close approximation. Most exercisers do not have a big aerobic base, so this will be close on. If you have exercised for years to develop an aerobic base then this number might be low for you. In my case it is, but again that is because I have had a focus on building a big aerobic base (means for most people working out and feeling like they are doing nothing just to keep their HR down. As the base builds the HR will stay even and the pace gets faster). Aerobic base is where you are utilizing oxygen to create energy. (blue-green zone). The red zone is anaerobic.
- Anaerobic endurance activity is very stressful to the body, if done too soon (without an aerobic base) or too often, your health will suffer.
- Anaerobic activity is performed whenever you are working above your maximum aerobic heart rate, most types of weight lifting (regardless of HR), and racing.
- Do not exceed 3 anaerobic workouts per week, never back-to-back, never more than 5 weeks in an “anaerobic block”, and never over 90% of your MAX HR (not aerobic max), other than during short (20 second) sprints.
So what is the red zone and MaxHR? If your heart muscle is pumping at 70-75% of its maximum and your legs are pumping at only 20-25% of the maximum speed you can run, do you think your aerobic conditioning needs some adjusting? Aerobic conditioning is all about how much oxygen each one of your red blood cells can carry. The reason well conditioned runners and cyclists have such low resting heart rates is because their red blood cells are carrying a lot of oxygen. Their oxygen capacity is much higher. A less conditioned person won't transport as much oxygen on their red blood cell, in turn their aerobic capacity is lower. To get the same amount of oxygen to their muscles their heart has to be faster. Some people look in the mirror or at the scale to determine their fitness. Yes strength is important but if you are running, cycling, swimming, skiing, etc. then your need a strong aerobic engine.
- 1) Maximum Heart Rate - Your Maximum Heart Rate (MaxHR) is the fastest your heart can beat in a minute. You need to get your true Max HR tested in a lab, but there are on-line calculators or test that you can do to get an approximation. That said they can be off by as much as 10 - 15 bpm!
- 2) Target Heart Rate - Your Target Heart Rate is a percentage of your MaxHR. Think about the graphics in gyms that shoe 60%, 80% and so on. These are target HRs. Depending on the type of training you are doing you will be in a different zone. Some people use perceived exertion or the Borg Scale to figure out how hard they are working.
- 3) Recovery Heart Rate - Recovery Heart Rate is the change in your heart rate after you stop working out. Many watches will allow you to set this lower limit so that you can pay attention to how quickly you recover after a workout. This is another indicator of fitness. Watch for 1 - 2 minutes. If you do not have much change in your heart rates, you are not very fit (your heart still has to beat rapidly, even though you have stopped working out. ) To calculate your Recovery HR, take your heart rate 2 minutes after completing a workout. When working out in an aerobic zone, a common recovery heart rate is 20-30 beats per minute drop. The more fit the athlete the greater the drop.
So if you are going to take classes that want you in a certain zone then you need to know how to calculate. A method I like is the Karvonen. This calculation takes into account your resting HR (your HR when you wake up in the morning before getting out of bed). I like this version because it takes gender into account along with resting HR.
Some athletes can get up to 80% max and still be aerobic (use the talk test). After that you are in what studios are now calling the orange 80-90% and red 90-100% zones. Red zone is VO2max - maximum effort. You can be in the orange zone for up to 10 minutes. You will increase your performance capacity here and it will be muscularly and aerobically taxing (hence anaerobic zone cause you can't get enough in!). The red zone is for loading and unloading - hee hee. The red zone is where fit athletes train for short bursts to increase max ability (lass than 5 minutes). Another way I know people are not exercising in the red zone for 45 minutes is because when in the red zone your body is using glucose as fuel. You have about 2,000 or so calories stored at any time. If you go into a class and have not topped off your stores you can be damn sure your brain (which needs glucose and will stop all other function to get it) will cut you off before you run out.
You want your zones to be calculated correctly otherwise if you think you have burned 1,000 calories you may have only burned 700 (a portion of which you would burn sitting on your butt at work). So take the time to do a test - at Vent you can do a FTW test to calculate your power threshold, this will help you get HR zones too. There are a number of different field tests you can do to get your HR zones down and then you can use all this great data to your advantage! Or hire a coach and have them do the calculations for you and you can focus on the workouts!