TRAINING & RACING WITH HEART RATE
Here at Playtri we require all of our individually coached athletes to use heart rate monitors while training and racing. Although there are other tools for measuring performance metrics, we rely primarily on the tried and true heart rate monitor to guide our athletes. Why? Because it is the most consistent, and most accessible, tool for measuring how hard you are training and racing.
Power meters can give you a per second measurement of the output of your training, but a power meter will not be able to tell you how challenging that work was. Likewise, pace on the run is a good metric to see how fast you are going, but being able to maintain a certain pace doesn’t give you information about how hard or easy running at that pace actually is for your body. For example, if we have determined that your “Training Pace” (more on this later) heart rate zone is between 130-150 beats per minute and you begin the season doing your long run at a 8:15 minute/mile pace within 130-150 bpm, then finish the season doing the same run at a 7:45 minute/mile pace in the same heart rate zone, then at that point we have empirical evidence that you improved your aerobic capacity. Because of that, no matter what devices or metrics an athlete has available to them, we always read that data and prescribe workouts in relationship to heart rate data and zones.
At Playtri, we have adopted the K.I.S.S acronym for using heart rate in training and racing. We like to Keep It Simple and Systematic. Because of our commitment to this we have developed our own Heart Rate Zones. Where Traditional Zone systems typically have 5-6 designated zones, Playtri has only three: Training Pace, Race Pace, and Hard.
• Training Pace is equivalent to traditional zones 2-3. This zone typically starts 20 beats below lactate threshold, and ends just below lactate threshold. This is the zone that we use to optimize an athlete’s aerobic engine through endurance workouts. It is also the zone for long course competition. Active recovery between intervals, recovery rides, and fat efficiency workouts are typically performed Below Training Pace, which is equivalent to traditional zone 1.
• Race Pace is equivalent to traditional zones 4-5. This zone begins at lactate threshold and can be a range of 10-20 bpm depending on the athlete’s tolerance for anaerobic activity. This zone is the zone for tempo work and Olympic/short course racing.
• Hard (which I think is the best name for a heart rate zone) is the same as traditional zone 6. This begins at what cyclist typically define as “Functional Threshold,” or what you can sustain for one hour at an all-out effort. This zone is the zone for speed work and Sprint/short course competition.
The best way to determine your heart rate zones is through a blood lactate test, which during non-pandemic times, you can have done at one of our Playtri stores. However, we also have field testing protocols that can be done at home that help your coach to determine your heart rate zones. It is important to note that field testing is not as accurate as blood lactate testing, but it is the next best option when safety protocols or distance from a Playtri facility make blood lactate tests unavailable.
To determine your run zones, a Playtri coach will prescribe the following protocol and then analyze the resulting data from your heart rate monitor. This test is best done on a track or flat stretch of road with no interruptions like stop signs or stoplights.
• Warm up: 15 minutes easy walk/jog with 3-5 brief pick ups
• Main set:
• 3x1 mile best effort (goal is to have almost even splits for all 3 miles, while still feeling like you gave 100% by the end of the test)
• 5 minutes rest in between
• Cool down: Walk 10 minutes
To determine your bike zones we use a similar protocol. Again, this test is best done on a flat or slightly uphill piece of road with no interruptions, or (ideally) on a bike trainer.
• Warm up: 15 minutes easy, gradually building up to an effort of 5 on a scale from 1-10 with 3-5 brief pick ups
• Main set:
• 3x10 minutes best effort (goal is to have almost even effort or power for all 3 repeats, while still feeling like you gave 100% by the end of the test)
• 5 minutes rest in between
• Cool down: 10 minutes easy spin
Questions about training with heart rate? Feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Good luck this season! I hope to see you at the races!
Coach Jim Rowe is a Playtri Level 3 Coach, and also holds a USA Triathlon Level I Coaching Certification, and UESCA Triathlon Coaching Certification.