We all have a personal resting heart rate and a maximum heart rate. Tracking your heart rate with a heart rate monitor and understanding what’s happening in each heart rate zone is important if you want to fully utilise your workout and fitness tracker.

Record your heart rate just before you get out of bed in the mornings. Do this every day for a week. This is your personal resting heart rate.

To measure your maximum heart rate, choose an activity where you can go all-out for a short period of time. Remember to do your warm-ups before. The rate at which your heart beats at during the highest intensity is your maximum heart rate.

Many things can affect your maximum heart rate – fatigue, lack of sleep, improved fitness, diet and a weakened immune system are all factors for change. This is why it’s advisable to re-test your maximum heart rate every month or two.

There are five different zones you can train in, with different benefits to each.

50-60% of Max HR
Warm Up Zone

You can reach this comfortable zone by walking briskly. Exercising in this zone will improve your general health but not your endurance or strength. This is a good zone to be in for those with heart problems or are start to work out on a daily basis.

60-70% of Max HR
Fat Burn Zone

Reach this zone by jogging slowly. Perfect for easy rest and recovery days, training in this zone improves your body’s ability to utilize oxygen and general endurance. Your body will get better at burning fat and you’ll build muscular fitness.

Workouts in this zone usually include long, slow runs or easy recovery workouts. As this is at a very comfortable effort level, you can use this zone for warm-ups and cool-downs.

70-80% of Max HR
Cardio Zone

Most training is done within this zone, which should feel comfortable enough for you to hold a conversation. Effective for overall cardiovascular fitness, exercising with moderate effort helps increase your body’s efficiency in transporting oxygenated blood to your muscles, and carbon dioxide away from them.

Over time, your heart increases in strength and size, and you metabolize carbohydrates and fats equally. This is also the zone in which lactic acid begins to build up in your bloodstream.

80-80% of Max HR
Intense Zone

You can reach this zone by going harder, as you get faster and fitter. Exercising at this intensity feels comfortably hard and you should still be able to say short, broken sentences. However, this is where you will “feel the burn” and most people won’t be able to keep exercising within this zone for more than an hour.

Here, you’ll improve your speed, endurance and lactic threshold. You’ll be breathing hard while your body gets better at using carbohydrates for energy.

90-100% of Max HR
Max Zone

This is where you go “all out” for a few minutes. You won’t be able to hold a conversation at this pace while your lungs and heart work at maximal capacity.

Training in this zone is hard, and often reserved for those who are very fit. However it doesn’t mean you should avoid exercising in this zone. You can incorporate exercise in this zone safely with interval training or HIIT workouts. Be careful though, as most injuries happen during workouts here.