We use training zones in the workouts in our training plans and our training resources to indicate the intensity at which you should train during your workout. In this article we explain these training zones. We also tell you how you should feel in these zones while exercising. We show you how to translate these zones to your pace while swimming, biking or running. And we give you tests to determine your own personal training zones yourself, to maximize the results of your training effort.

There are several ways to indicate training zones. The most popular ways are RPE, HRmax and HRR. These are also the indicators we use in our training plans ourselves.

Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE)

The RPE is also known as the Rate of Perceived Effort or the Borg Scale. There are different scales. At Endurance Store we use a scale from 1 to 10. The RPE is your subjective experience of how hard you feel you have to work during your exercise. You rate your exercise intensity on a scale from 1 to 10. 1 is “very light, hardly no intensity at all” and 10 is “maximal all out effort, as hard as you possibly can”.

Maximum Heart Rate (HRmax)

Your maximum heart rate is the maximum number of beats your heart can manage during a minute of exercising. The maximum heart rate is different for everyone. It is personal and it depends on several factors, like your age. Someone with the same age can, and probably does, have a different maximum heart rate. In training zones we use a percentage of your maximum heart rate: %HRmax.

Heart Rate Reserve (HRR)

Your heart rate reserve is the gap between your resting heart rate (HRrest) and your maximum heart rate. If your maximum heart rate is 195 beats per minute (bpm) and your resting heart rate is 55 bpm, then your heart rate reserve (HRR) is 195 – 55 = 140.

You calculate your exercise heart rate as %HRR + HRrest. In this example, if you are exercising at 50 %HRR, your exercising heart rate will be 125 (50% of a HRR of 140 + your HRrest of 55).

The training zones in a table

In the table below, we have listed the different ways to represent training zones. If you own a heart rate monitor (HRM) you can use the column %HRmax of %HRR. If you do not train with a heart rate monitor, you can use the column RPE.

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  RPE %HRmax %HRR Swim pace Bike pace Run pace
Zone 1
Easy
1-2 68-73% 50-60% Technique drills Very easy. For recovery rides and recoveries in interval training. Very easy. For recovery runs and recoveries in interval training.
Zone 2
Light aerobic
3-4 73-80% 60-70%  Race pace +10 seconds per 100 Easy. For long rides. Easy. For long distance runs.
Zone 3 
Moderate aerobic
5-6 80-87% 70-80% Race pace +5 seconds per 100 IRONMAN race pace. Marathon and IRONMAN race pace.
Zone 4
Aerobic
7-8 87-93% 80-90% Race pace IRONMAN 70.3 / Half triathlon to Olympic Distance triathlon race pace. Half Marathon to 10k race pace . Also the intensity for the high-intensity blocks of an interval training.
Zone 5 
Above threshold
9-10 93-100% 90-100% Race pace -5 seconds per 100 Sprint triathlon race pace. 5k to 3k race pace, if you are very well trained.

Now that you know what the training zones are, it is important to determine your own personal training zones. We have a test to determine your maximum heart rate (HRmax). Knowing your HRmax, you are able to calculate your own training zones.

Calculating your maximum heart rate in a running test

You can calculate your maximum heart rate in a running test. For this test, you will need a heart rate monitor. Please consult a physician before performing this test if you do not currently do endurance sports, if you are over 40, if you are overweight or if you have any history of heart problems.

You can do this test on the road, on a track or on a treadmill in a gym. The test will take you around 30 minutes in total and is pretty hard. Do not do the test if you already feel tired. It is also best if you perform this test alone, so you will not be destracted by others.

Warm up
To warm up, run in an easy and relaxed pace for 10 tot 15 minutes. Do not push during the warm up.

First 3 minutes all out
After this warm up, run for 3 minutes. Go all out, as fast as you possibly can for the 3 minutes. Do not start too fast and run the 3 minutes in an even steady pace.

Easy jog in between
Run easy for 2 minutes.

Second 3 minutes all out
Run again for 3 minutes. Again, go all out, as fast as you possibly can. Run the 3 minutes in an even steady pace. Your maximum heart rate is the maximum heart rate you reach during this second 3-minute run.

Cool down
Run for at least 10 minutes easy to cool down.

Now that you know your maximum heart rate, you can use the table to translate it to your training zones. If you record your resting heart rate, you can also calculate your HRR zones.

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