Coach's Corner

Coaches Corner

Dave Truman’s summary of HR zones                                     June 2017

HR Zones
I wrote about this in March. For the newer club members, or if you've lost it, here's a 1 page HR Training reminder...
When we are running in the park, we can’t really set target times like we do on the track. Conditions vary too much, there are hills and mixed road/path. So how to know how hard to go? The answer is heart rate zones. These are very useful whenever you are training. It’s a surprisingly complicated subject, but I’m going to keep it as simple as I can.
There are lots of different training zone schemes. So before you discuss “I did a 2 hour run in zone3” with someone, you need to be sure their zone 3 is your zone 3. British Triathlon recommends 4 zones. There are lots of others. Most use the 7 zone scheme proposed by Joe Friel. That’s what Paul Butler uses for the turbo sessions and I will use for running. Whilst we use the same 7 zone names in cycling and running, your heart rates will be different. Typically running is higher (about 10bpm). Also your z2 will probably be completely different to your club mates'. Some people have naturally higher or lower heart rates. That’s not good or bad. Just different.
There are many ways to set up your Heart Rate Zones. Your Garmin/iphone (other devices are available!) will probably default to using % of your maxHR. It will calculate your maxHR as 220-your age or something else hopelessly inaccurate. The best way to calculate your zones is to base them from you Lactate Threshold Heart Rate (LTHR). Just like we set your track target paces from your 5km PB. If anyone wants to know why this is the best approach I can happily provide more details.
We’ll take your LTHR as your average HR for the last 3km of a hard 5km. Just look back at your last 5km. A flat run is best. The Knole handicap course is mostly downhill in the last 3km.
So, here you go:

Run Zones
Zone 1 Less than 85% of LTHR
Zone 2 85% to 89% of LTHR
Zone 3 90% to 94% of LTHR
Zone 4 95% to 99% of LTHR
Zone 5 100% to 102% of LTHR
Zone 6 103% to 106% of LTHR
Zone 7 More than 106% of LTHR

There are plenty of online calculators where you just pop in your LTHR. Just make sure you get one that uses Friel’s zones.

Picking a random example from Strava. For the last 3km of a recent 5km run one of our team averaged 168bpm. So let’s take that as his/her LTHR.
Using that as a basis the top of each HR Zones would be:
1 143
2 150
3 158
4 167
5 171
6 178
7 >178

What do they mean?

Zone Title Maximum Effort Top of Zone
1 Recovery A long time
2 Endurance 12 hours
3 Tempo 3 hours
4 Threshold 1 hour
5 VO2Max 3-8mins
6 Anaerobic 30s-3mins
7 Neuromuscular <30 secs

Lower in the zone you could go longer.

If you want to know more ask me on a Tuesday.


Occasional ‘words of wisdom’ from the club’s very own Level 2 Triathlon coach, Dave Truman. Curated and added to by Level 1 coaches – Sam Begg and Jane Wiley. Please do suggest topics or share feedback.


March 2017:

Hills are the most intense sessions we do. That is a zone 6 (Anaerobic) effort. At that intensity your body is using a different energy production system which is much less efficient and produces a lot more waste products (let’s call them lactic acid for now). In fact it’s producing so much lactic acid that it can’t get rid of it fast enough. Which is why it feels pretty grizzly by the top of the hill. Your Aerobic Energy production system is limited. It can produce a lower level of energy for a long time. When you need a lot of energy quickly you will switch to Anaerobic.

But, I hear you ask, "Isn’t my triathlon at least an hour”? ("I wish" think the IM folks!) So why do we do such short intense sessions? There are three reasons we put hills in the schedule. There may be other benefits I haven’t thought of:

  • Improving running form. We all run better uphill. We naturally look up, straighten our backs, drive our arms and usually run more towards the forefoot.
  • Strengthening connective tissue. Hills put a lot of strain on your muscles, tendons and ligaments. If we do it carefully, they respond by getting stronger. Too much and they break or tear. Triathlons are endurance events and you need to be strong to do the training and to race.
  • Raising the ceiling. There is no single point when you switch from Aerobic to Anaerobic. It is more like a slide from mostly Aerobic to mostly Anaerobic. In z3/4/5 you will be using a mixture of both. There is a very useful point which we call “Threshold” at the top of z4. In a lab test, they increase training intensity whilst taking regular blood samples. “Threshold” is the point where blood lactate starts to increase rapidly. The graph looks like a hockey stick. We don’t want people bleeding all over the track, it’s very messy, so we use speed/HR for the last 3km of a 5km race as a very close approximation to Threshold. If we can raise the point at which your body starts to accumulate lactate we can raise the speed/power you can produce at the threshold level, which will mean you go faster even in longer races. Hard short intervals “pull" at Threshold from above.

Dave is currently coaching a group of club members for their first Ironman this year. The above is an excerpt from this week’s email to the team.