Establishing Your Training Zones
One of the most helpful things you can do to ensure you are improving your fitness is establish your training zones. Establishing training zones help you differentiate or polarize the way you train by separating easy from hard. An easy run should truly be “easy”. A hard day should hurt, some. Well, how do you know if you are going easy enough to reap all of those super important easy day benefits? More times than not, what one may think was easy, is actually a little harder or faster than what they need.
You accomplish this by finding your aerobic training zones. There are different ways to do this and each person/coach may prefer one over the other. Options are listed below:
- Threshold Heart Rate and/or Pace. This is done on a flat surface, preferably a track. After a thorough warm up, the athlete should run the best 30 minutes they can. The goal is to have 30 minutes of the best pace you can hold. This is not starting too fast and failing to finish strong or starting too slow and saving it all for the end. Think of this as one smooth effort. Your threshold HR and Pace can be determined from this test (via a calculation), which can allow you to establish your training zones.
Pros: Accurate, truly custom to your ability, can be retested well
Cons: Tough to pace if not experienced, tough test in general,
- MAX HR. This is an “ok” test, but the athlete must be able to truly attain their max HR. New athletes should not use this method as it is difficult to truly know how to suffer hard enough to truly obtain their max HR. Your easy aerobic zone is 75 to 80 percent and below of your max HR. As an example, if your max HR is 200, everything below 160 would be considered “aerobic” training.
Pros: Custom to athlete, easy math, typically it is fixed
Cons: If not experienced, may be difficult to achieve, dependent on accurate HR monitor
- MAF or Maffetone method. Although, I am not huge fan of one size fits all formulas, this can put you in the ball park. The math is 180 minus your age. If injured, subtract 5. If you are in great shape and have been training consistently, add 5 to that number. For example, a 30 year old athlete would look like (180-30). This comes out to 150. If they are in great condition and injury free, their aerobic HR ceiling would be 155.
Pros: Simple formula. MAF test available to measure improvement
Cons: It is a formula (one size fits all)
Again, there are different ways to approach this, but finding your aerobic zone is one of the most important things you can do if you are interested in improving your endurance fitness, getting faster, and avoiding injury/burnout. I prefer the threshold tests, but the other two methods should put you in the ball park of where you need to be.
If you need direction or have questions with any of this, feel free to email me at Set my zones and place Set My Zones in the subject line. I’d be happy to help you ensure your zones are accurate!