Confused about my HR zones

  • Creator
  • #83204

    Sorry for the somewhat lengthy post mostly for context, my actual questions at the end :).

    I’m 31 and have been consistently training in trail running for almost 2 years now. I started using a Garmin Forerunner watch a 15 months ago (and read Uphill Athlete around the same time), and have been training aerobically ever since.

    I have been training 15 months using the same Garmin zones which now feel intuitive (although that doesn’t mean they are right). But I definitely feel “something different” when I reach over 150 BPM, which happens to be the top of my Zone 2.

    I recently recently switched to a Coros Apex 2 and did the Coros Fitness test and it estimated my Threshold HR to be 181, which is almost exactly what I would have intuitively guessed based on feeling (~182 was my guess). But based on my HR reserve (which is pretty wide at 160 BPM: 44 BPM min, 204 BPM max), the zones it recommends don’t look familiar at all. Is that just Coros’ own calculation method?

    The current zones I have had for 15 months and which feel intuitive are :
    Zone 1= 120-135 (easy)
    Zone 2 = 125-150 (aerobic)
    Zone 3 = 150-165 (endurance)
    Zone 4 = 165-181 (anaerobic endurance)
    Zone 5 >181

    The Karvonen method gives me a slightly more elevated version of this (which is fine by me, I don’t want to overtrain…). I obviously should do an drift test ASAP do figure out my Aet and compare to the Uphill calculator

    I have no plans on doing a Metabolic Efficiency Test as 1) I don’t know of any lab here (in France) that would do it and I don’t care about my VO2max, 2) I couldn’t justify the expense. I just enjoy trail running 6 days/week as the most fun way to move through the mountains, no plans on running races or anything like that. I just want to train right because I like to optimize my potential for my own sake and run over long distances solo, hence the desire to set my zones correctly.

    The questions I can’t seem to find an answer to is:
    – If these zones are incorrect, why do they feel natural? Is it just conditioning after running in them?
    – Since my threshold is 181 BPM according to Coros, is it normal than I can maintain an average of 192 BPM over a 10k or even over a semi-marathon? According Uphill Athlete, that would make 192 my AnT.And trust me, it isn’t the wrist watch acting out, one can feel the difference between running at 90% of your max HR, and 95% (whether it is in the heart pounding, or the sheer amount of will you need to continue moving forward). I have a background of 15 years of competitive judo, so lengthy anaerobic work feels like home and extremely enjoyable, long-distance/aerobic training is a new world to me in that regard and why I am trying to get the aerobic zones right. Still, it feels “abnormal” that I can average that high an HR, am I THAT aerobically deficient then (despite years of hiking), or maybe I’m just anaerobically trained/gifted (and please, don’t get me wrong, I’m not a fast runner, 192 BPM gives me a 45′ 10K and a 1h40 semi-marathon…)?

  • Participant
    tom.1990 on #83358

    I wouldn’t over think it too much, there is a great deal of genetic variation in heart rate.

    Like you’ve planned, conduct a HR Drift test: 5% drift is top of your AET

    Conduct a DIY AnT test.

    Get these two numbers and train accordingly.

    It doesn’t matter if you’re aerobically deficient or anaerobically efficient, it is what it is, these numbers will guide you.

    at the end of each training block, retest, assess results, modify training as needed.

    GregW on #83361

    Thanks for the sound and practical advice! I enjoy the theoretical aspects of it for the sheer fun of it, I agree that, as far as training plans are concerned, it doesn’t matter much.

    anram_87 on #83422


    And one question, how do you pair your HR zones from training peaks (using the UA methods which anchors AeT to Z2 and AnT to Z3) with the one offered by Garmin. I mean, it is possible to define it in a way so the Traning Effect from Garmin returns back the same kind of response of the TP one?


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