Simple Method of Determining Threshold HR.

Simple Method of Determining Threshold HR.

One question I get repeatedly is “How do I determine my HR zones”

As a QT2 Systems coach, we base our zones off of the athletes “Threshold Heartrate”. One way to truly determine an athletes threshold HR is to continuously do blood lactate tests on a regular basis. In order for this to remain entirely accurate, you would literally have to do a blood lactate test, like, daily. For most age group recreational athletes this is not going to be possible. For my athletes, I like to take the simple approach that reaches pretty solid accuracy in almost all athletes.

To determine ESTIMATED Threshold on the bike I suggest conducting the following test:

Warm up for 10-20 minutes:

TEST: 8 minute all out time trial
To get your threshold HR, multiply the AVERAGE heart rate of the 8 minute time trial by .92. This is your new estimated Threshold HR for the bike.

97% of your TH heart rate is top of Zone 3.

To keep things simple, each zone is a 10 beat window. Lets say 97% of your TH heart rate is 170. Your bike zones would look like this.

ZR (recovery) : 120-132
Grey Zone (132-137)
Z1: 138-148
Z2: 149-159
Z3: 160-170
Anything above 170 would be used for “best sustainable effort” intervals.

To Determine your estimated run Zones, add 10 beats to each zone. The typical athlete would e about 6-14 beats higher on the run than the bike, for the purpose of this article we will say 10 as that is typical. Many factors are included in this calculation such as running economy, running experience vs bike experience, etc.. This would require your coach to analyze for specifics, but this is a safe number.

A good way to cross check your run zones, would be to do a 5k time trial. Your average 5k time trial heart rate is about 15 beats higher than your TH heart rate.

If you would like help cross checking and determining your zones, or how to pace your races based on these zones, I am available.

Suggested Heart Rate monitor system:
Polar Vantage V Titan


Paul is Active Duty Military serving on an AGR tour with the NVARNG as a Recruiting and Retention NCO. He is a USAT Certified Coach, QT2 Systems Level 1 Coach, and OutRival Racing Level 3 coach. He has coached athletes at all levels, from beginner to professional Runner to Triathlete.


Paul also competes in triathlon and running events in his spare time.

70.3 PR (4:24:26)
140.6 PR – (9:51:53)
Half Marathon – (1:24:21)
Marathon – (2:57:27)

For coaching inquires, click HERE.

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