Hands down the most common excuse for not exercising is lack of time. Most of us fill our days up to the brim leaving little free time at all, let alone time to exercise. That’s where the idea of a Heart Rate Calculator comes in. Knowing your personal heart rate zones can help you work smarter, not longer—saving precious time and making your workouts more efficient. Sound complicated? It’s more simple than you think. Let’s explore what the different heart rate training zones are and then use the calculator below to find the best heart rate training zones for you.
Heart Rate Training Zones
The first thing you will want to understand is the basic premise of the different heart rate zones of training. Keep in mind that these zones are based on the Maximum Heart Rate of 100%; in other words, maxing out your heart!
There are basically 5 heart rate zones, going from easiest to hardest. Here’s a quick synopsis:
- Zone 1: Light: A walk with friends.
- Zone 2: Easy: A power walk or easy jog; you are able to carry on conversation.
- Zone 3: Moderate: A run. You can speak in phrases, but not conversational.
- Zone 4: Hard: You are unable to speak. Breathing and panting through your mouth.
- Zone 5: All Out: A sprint. Complete overload after 30 seconds or so.
Use the calculator below to find out your personal heart rate zones. Want to know more? There’s a little more detail on what each heart rate zone entails below the calculator.
Use the Heart Rate Calculator
What Each Heart Rate Training Zone Means
50-60% of your maximum heart rate. Think of Zone 1 as a walk with friends. You are moving, but your breathing is moderate, you can carry on a conversation and even laugh. It’s something you could do for a long time.
Related: What is Your Fat Burning Zone?
60-70% of your maximum heart rate. Zone 2 would be like going out for a jog. Still able to breath through your nose, you need to use your mouth a bit more than zone 1. Zone 2 is conversational, but with more breathing coming in and out during your word patterns.
70-80% of your maximum heart rate. This zone stresses the need for endurance. Zone 3 is how it feels when you go out for a run rather than a jog. It’s more intentional and purposeful. You are breathing solely through your mouth in Zone 3 and you have a definite ending in mind. Think “serious work.”
80-90% of your maximum heart rate. Zone 4 is the first crossover from aerobic (with oxygen) to anaerobic (without oxygen). Simply put, you run out of breath. Think of performing intervals where you go hard for a short time, then recover before going again. The “going hard” portion is the Zone 4 portion. It’s anaerobic because you run out of breath and you’ll feel the oxygen leave your muscles.
Zone 5 is not for everyone. Typically speaking, this zone is reserved for the serious athlete or the very fit person. Because you work to your maximum heart rate, the training times are super short—seconds—and very intense. Zone 5 will make you feel like every muscle in your body is burning.
What Heart Rate Zone Should I Train In?
So now that you know your zones, the question becomes “Which zone should I train in for best results?” The general rule of thumb is to get in zone 1 every day if you can, shoot for a few zone 3 workouts per week and try interval training in short bursts of zone 4 twice a week. Let’ s take a look at how this breaks down.
Beginners: Zone 1 and 2
Zone 1: This is really your basic movement zone. You’ll want to get some of this every day. Since we know that “sitting is the new smoking”, it is important to get just a little movement in every day. Sedentary is deadly. Walk, do light yoga, sneak in your gardening or tackle a good deep clean on your house.
Zone 2: This zone is particularly beneficial if you have been inactive for some time or are a beginner to exercise. * (also, see below) Try to get into zone 2 at least three to four times a week while you are getting in shape Newbies should spend several weeks focusing on zones 1 and 2 before moving on. Once conditioned, zone 2 can be a recovery day following an interval workout.
Intermediates: Zone 2 and 3….sampling zone 4
Zone 3: Once you are physically conditioned, most of your training should be done here. The idea in zone 3 is to work as hard as you can sustain for 30 to 60 minutes. Try to get a 30-minute workout in zone 3 at least three times a week. Remember, you want to be working hard enough to break a good sweat and breath heavy through your mouth. Don’t forget to incorporate Zone 1 and 2 activities as part of your recovery days rather than just sitting around in between good workouts. Remember, moving is the key!
Advanced or Looking For More: Zone 3 and 4
Zone 4: Want to lose weight more quickly? Interval training is your key. Interval training using zone 4 only needs to be done twice a week to get amazing results! Research shows that shorter, high-intensity workouts can do more for your health than longer, more leisurely workouts. Make sure you have spent time in zones 2 and 3 before moving into interval training. The bonus is that due to the high intensity nature of the zone 4 exercise training, you will only need 20 minutes to achieve results. High Intensity Interval Training (“Hiit” ) is a great way to achieve this. Check out our guide to HIIT for beginners.
Zone 5: As stated earlier, it is unlikely you will train in zone 5 unless you are a highly trained athlete or very fit exercise enthusiast. Zone 5.
One last thought: Remember that as you become more fit, your resting heart rate will be lower and your heart rate zone will change. You always want to be improving and challenging your heart. Once you spend enough time in a certain zone and it becomes more comfortable for you, it’s time to push a little harder and get that heart pumping a bit more. Challenge = Change.
So Before You Begin…
If you have not been exercising regularly and want to start training using these zones, answer these questions first:
- Are you a man over 40 or a woman over 50?
- Have you ever been told you have heart problems or high blood pressure?
- Do you often feel dizzy, light headed, notice chest pains?
- Have you had ANY other health problems or surgeries that think might complicate your workouts or put you at risk?
If any of these are a “yes” for you, check with your health care provider before starting your workout program and training your heart. And if you want to further your research and get more precise data, check out our top picks for heart rate monitors: they can help you be more precise as you’re actually exercising so you can determine what zones you’re in while you’re working out!