Anatomy of Zone Training

If you read anything in fitness magazines or literature nowadays you have likely been inundated with terms like Zone, HIIT (high-intensity interval training), Interval, LSD (long slow distance), base training and the like.  The purpose of this section is to look at the various levels of Zone training and how they apply to you! Zone training is basically a system of levels delineating intensity based on a percentage of your maximum heart rate (MHR) so you can target your cardiovascular training to achieve various forms of results for health and performance. MHR is roughly determined by taking 220 – age.  Therefore as you get older your MHR declines and so your relative exercising heart rate zone should be adjusted accordingly.  The 5 levels of Zone training and their benefits are as follows.

Zone 1 (Very Light intensity) – 50-60% of MHR = light walk or stroll, gardening, light biking; result – helps with basic cardiovascular health (CV), improving recovery, and can help prevent various diseases i.e. Cardiovascular disease, dementia, diabetes etc. 

Zone 2 (Light intensity, LSD, Base training) – 60-70% of MHR = brisk walking, moderate biking, light swimming; result – a key zone for overall metabolic health and burning fat, starting to improve CV performance and fitness.

Zone 3 (Moderate intensity, LSD) – 70-80% of MHR = hill walking, running, lap swimming; result – starting to improve CV performance through improved blood circulation and dealing with some lactic acid (that burning in your lungs!).

Zone 4 (Hard intensity, Interval or Sprint training) – 80-90% MHR = Running hills, biking hills, weight training; result – improved use of carbohydrate for energy, improved CV performance, lactic acid tolerance.

Zone 5 (Maximum intensity, HIIT) – 90-100% MHR = anything that is ‘all-out’ fatiguing; result – optimizing CV performance, optimizing carbohydrate use for energy, optimizing caloric expenditure.

I realize this is a lot to take in!  The key takeaway is that ALL of these zones have benefits and can be explored by most people.  However, depending on your training experience, injuries, disease profile, and your goals, you will have a different blend of these zones in your routine.  For general health and fitness, most people should be daily doing 30 to 60 min of Zone 1 and 2 training and 20 to 30 min of Zone 3.  If you are looking to optimize performance in your sport or recreational activities, or are trying to build more muscle, Zone 4 and/or 5 is for you, however, the amount of this training is very dependant on the individual and can be overdone, leading to overtraining…so proceed with caution!  Lastly, if you are looking to improve your metabolism, lose fat, and/or change how you look all of these zones will create a caloric expenditure with increasing effectiveness as you go from Zone 1 through 5.  

A great way to figure out where to start is to perform a cardiovascular assessment and get a baseline score.  Subsequently, you can see where you need to improve and therefore determine the right zones for you.  Fortunately for you, we can help!  Consult with your Preventous fitness specialists today and make sure you are Zone training the right way today. 

Colin Davis
Personal Trainer

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