I was asked recently about how to set a goal to “go harder” in 2016. If you’ve picked up your Goal Setting Worksheet, you know that this is a vague goal that we wouldn’t want you to set for yourself. We want goals that are objective and measurable. So, I suggested to this DCCF-er that he use his heart rate monitor and shoot for a “higher” heart rate at least once a week for the first two months, then twice a week for the next two months, and so on… I wanted to follow-up on that thought to give him (and you) more info on what these heart monitors are doing for us, so you can adjust your goals accordingly.
Put simply, they’re providing an objective measure of how your cardio-respiratory system is working, which you can use to gauge your intensity and either scale it back or crank it up.
Of the five heart rate zones our monitors show on the screen, here’s a quick breakdown:
Zone 1 (Gray): 50-60% – This is a comfortable zone for warmup and cool down.
Zone 2 (Blue): 60-70% – This is “average” effort which should allow you to maintain a conversation. This zone is good for maintaining your aerobic conditioning and recovery between our higher intensity interval WODs.
Zone 3 (Green): 70-80% – This “above average” effort is good for making improvements to your aerobic capacity.
Zone 4 (Yellow): 80-90% – You’ve now entered the “hard effort” zone which is good for maintaining anaerobic capacity.
Zone 5 (Red): 90-100% – This zone, where you’re going as hard as you can go, develops your anaerobic capacity.
CrossFit taxes the anaerobic system pretty regularly, so that’s why you need to be comfortable spending time in zones 4 & 5. However, some of us may find it easier to stay in zones 2 or 3, but upping the intensity to zones 4 or 5 will put our anaerobic energy system to the test. So, if this person is you or if you’re trying to “go harder in 2016”, you can use your heart rate monitor to work yourself into the red (zone 5) then stop and rest until your heart rate returns to the blue (zone 2). If you’re adding a new day to your workout week, say going from 3x/week to 4x/week, then this pattern of working to the red then resting to the blue can also help you slowly get accustomed to the additional volume. As you adjust to working in zones 4 & 5 more often, then you can stop resting once you hit red, and begin spending more time in those zones.
Keep in mind that being dehydrated can increase your heart rate by up to 7.5% and heat/humidity can increase your heart rate by 5%. Luckily, it’s the middle of January and it’s freezing outside, so you can’t use the second excuse for why you’re in the red during Monday’s workout.