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KNOW YOUR ZONE: Efficient training starts with knowing your heart rate.

Updated: Mar 20, 2022

How hard should you work when #exercising? The trouble is that everything is so relative. What is hard for one person may be a piece of cake for another. The best way to gauge your effort is with your heart rate. Your heart rate will tell you how hard you are working, what sort of benefits you will get from that particular exercise, and how well your body recovers.

To use your heart rate to calculate these things:


The simplest way to calculate this is the equation 220 minus your age. So if you are 40 years old, your max heart rate is around 180. This is not perfect because it doesn't take into account your fitness level, #lifestyle, medical conditions, etc. However, for the sake of giving you a general idea, it works just fine. It is always a good idea to check with your #physician before you begin regular exercise to make sure you don't have any underlying health conditions. We will use the example of this 40-year-old individual with a maximum heart rate of 180 as an example for the rest of the calculations.


There are five heart rate zones. Zone 1 is pretty low intensity. This would be a great zone to be in on your active rest day, on a walk, casual bike ride, or doing yoga. It will help you recover while still moving. In this zone, you are at 50-60 percent of your max heart rate, so 90-108 bpm for our example.

Zone 2 is still considered light but picks up the intensity. You should be able to go for quite a while at this intensity which, again, is relative. Some individuals may be able to casually run and remain in Zone 2 while others would be walking in this zone. Pilates and barre may have some individuals in this zone. This is a good zone to be in for building up general endurance and this is a good zone for fat burning. In this zone, you are at 60-70 percent of your max heart rate, so 108-126 bpm for our example.

Zone 3 is considered moderate. You may be here during strength training, parts of a #cycling class, or in a more intense run. This zone helps improve cardiovascular endurance and helps build up #stamina in both the muscles and #lungs. In this zone, you are at 70-80 percent of your max heart rate, so 126-144 bpm for example.

Zone 4 is where things get real. This zone is where you are short of breath and fatigued. Interval training, speed drills, higher intensity weight lifting, etc can bring you here. This is where you want to train to improve speed and efficiency and be able to fight through higher levels of lactic acid. In this zone you are at 80-90 percent of your max heart rate, so 144-162 for our example.

The last zone, Zone 5, is your absolute maximal effort possible. You won't hand out here long, after just a few minutes the lactic acid build-up will keep you from performing. Average individuals don't need to spend much time here, performance is the main benefit of this zone. You may touch this zone during #HIIT classes, #tabatas, or hill running! In this zone, you are at 90-100 percent of your max heart rate so 162-180 bpm.


To test your heart rate, a fancy gadget isn't necessary, although you may want one. You can take your heart rate at the radial artery, located on the inside of your wrist, just below the thumb. You can also check at the side of your neck. Use your pointer finger and middle finger. Count how many beats occur in 10 seconds and multiply that by six for your heart rate. Use that to check in with yourself to make sure you are exercising in the right zone to reach your health and fitness goals. It is also good to check your heart rate immediately after exercise and a minute later to see how quickly you recover. That is another indicator of your fitness level, the faster you recover, the better!

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