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Cardio Training

Mastering Your Cardio Training with Zone Workouts

Written By Megan Brandt • 3 min read

Are you tired of feeling uncertain about the effectiveness of your cardio training? Maybe you’ve been putting in the effort but haven’t seen the results you want. Perhaps you’re concerned about injuring yourself by pushing yourself too hard? Concerns about calculating your maximum heart rate and maintaining consistency may have left you feeling frustrated. However, there’s hope. You can optimize your cardio training by understanding and utilizing heart rate training zones. Zone training empowers you to target specific heart rate zones during exercise, promoting both cardiovascular health and enhanced performance. Now, let’s jump into what these zones are and how you can make the most out of each cardio training session.

What is Cardio Training?

Cardio Training or Heart Rate Zone training involves exercising at different intensities based on target heart rate zones. During exercise, people use a specific heart rate range, measured in beats per minute, for monitoring training intensity. This is called a heart rate zone.Typically, people calculate heart rate zones based on a percentage of their estimated maximum heart rate (MHR). The most common method of calculating MHR is by subtracting your age from 220. For example: 220-50(years old)= 170. Then you multiple that number by each percent to get your zones.

  1. Zone 1 – Recovery (50-60% of max heart rate): This zone is characterized by low-intensity exercise. It’s ideal for warm-ups, cool-downs, and active recovery days. Cardio training in this zone enhances circulation and promotes recovery between intense workouts.
  2. Zone 2 – Endurance (60-70% of max heart rate): In this cardio training zone, you’re working at a comfortable pace that you could sustain for an extended period. It’s excellent for building aerobic endurance and improving fat metabolism.
  3. Zone 3 – Tempo (70-80% of max heart rate): Training in this zone increases your lactate threshold, the point at which your muscles fatigue. It improves your ability to sustain moderate to high-intensity efforts over time.
  4. Zone 4 – Threshold (80-90% of max heart rate): This cardio training zone pushes your limits. It’s just below your maximum effort level and helps increase your anaerobic threshold, the point at which lactic acid begins to accumulate in the muscles.
  5. Zone 5 – Maximal (90-100% of max heart rate): This is your all-out effort cardio training zone, reserved for short bursts of intense activity. Training in this zone improves your maximum speed and power.

The Problem With These Zones?

This calculation only adjusts for your age. It does not take into consideration important variables that can influence an individual’s heart rate, like genetics, medications, stimulants (hello, coffee!), dehydration, and insufficient recovery. Additionally, different devices vary in heart rate zone percentages, so one brand of fitness tracker might measure a moderate heart rate zone a few percentage points differently than another brand.

For these reasons, I recommend those who are using equations to predict HR max do so in conjunction with the use of rate of perceived exertion (RPE) and the talk test. The truth is you have no idea of an individual’s actual maximal heart rate when using any equation and the risk of being wrong is just too important. Using RPE and the talk test reduces the risk of someone pushing themselves too hard in order to reach a target heart rate. In other words, you should listen to your body as you exercise, not just go all out in an effort to hit a particular number. Below, is a table to use to determine what RPE and talk test to use with each zone:

The Bottom Line

Understanding and training in different heart rate zones can revolutionize your cardio fitness. By incorporating workouts tailored to each zone, you can improve your cardiovascular health, endurance, speed, and overall performance. Remember to listen to your body, adjust intensity as needed, and gradually progress to more challenging workouts. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned athlete, mastering these zones can elevate your workouts and help you achieve your fitness goals efficiently. Ready to take charge of your health? We’re here to help! Plan your visit to the nation’s leading wellness & weight loss retreat today!

Megan Brandt,
Director of Fitness
Premier Fitness Camp

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