Join our Mailing List  |   Sitemap
The file '/UserControls/LeftNav.ascx' does not exist. Skip Navigation LinksAbout Well-Fit > News & Events > Recent Articles > The Value of Performance Testing

The Value of Performance Testing
By Coach Sharone Aharon


Heart Rate (HR) training zones are still the most popular way to monitor training intensity.  This simply means that we are controlling our training intensity by keeping our HR at a pre-determined range, to make sure we are training the right energy system.  The time and frequency of training at each training zone is dictated by your racing goal, training schedule and level of fitness.  Over the years we have become more aware of the limitations of HR training and one of the adjustments we have made was changing the methods of which we determined these training zones.

Coaches and scientists mostly agree that training within the zones below (or some variation of these zones) will promote the physiological adaptation described below.

Training Zone

Percent of Max HR


Zone 1: Recovery


Promotes increased oxygen absorption and fat-burning capacity. Also used for recovery after intense training.

Zone 2: Endurance


Used to improve overall conditioning and endurance.

Zone 3: Lactate Threshold


Used to improve aerobic conditioning while introducing an anaerobic component. Training in this zone increases tolerance to lactic acid and raises the anaerobic threshold.

Zone 4: Threshold


Used for speed work and interval training.

Zone 5:
VO2 Max 


Reserved for use in very hard interval training or near the end of performance pieces.



There are three was by which we determine these zones

·       Calculating the HR zones as a percent of your max HR

·       Calculation the HR zones as a percent of your anaerobic threshold

·       VO2 testing.


The first method of calculating your HR zones from your max HR assumes that every person at the same age has the same max HR.  All you had to do was to subtract your age from 220 (female from 226) and that will give you your max HR.


Karvonen improved this method by adding to the mix your resting HR, thereby adding personal factors.  To calculate your training zones you still find your max HR like before (220-age) and subtract your resting HR from that number.  The result is called HR reserve.  To find your training zones you calculate the same percentages for the zones from the HR reserve and then add back your resting HR. This method of calculating your HR training zones is better but still has a large margin of error.


Since a person’s max HR does not change or only shows a minor change with the improvement of fitness, using it for calculating your HR training zones might not be the best approach.  Anaerobic threshold (AT) does change as you get fit, and therefore it is more suitable for calculation of your HR training zones.


·       Active Recovery: < 65 to 84% of AT, very easy pace

·       Aerobic: 85 to 91% of AT, slightly faster pace, still able to talk

·       Threshold: 92 to 100% of AT, moderate pace, increased breathing

·       Anaerobic endurance: 100 to 105% of AT, fast pace, breathing is getting uncomfortable

·       VO2 Max: >105% of AT, very fast pace, breathing is deep and quick


Over the past few years, using VO2 testing, we have realized that although the method of calculating HR training zones from your threshold is pretty accurate, many athletes that have the same threshold may not have the same training zones.


VO2 testing measures your metabolic system by analyzing the energy you use at each intensity level.  Its training zones are still expressed with HR ranges and therefore, it provides the most accurate and true HR training zones.  In addition to finding your accurate aerobic threshold -- the intensity level you are most efficient in burning fat and your anaerobic threshold, the intensity you can no longer process your energy demands with your aerobic energy system -- the VO2 test gives you a clear picture of your metabolic profile.  Metabolic profile or spectrum is an expression of the athlete's fitness position beyond threshold HR and max HR.  It gives the athlete a clear understanding of his metabolic fitness.  Let’s for example take two athletes that have the same threshold HR.  Athlete one spends most of his training time in zone 3 and above.  This athlete's metabolic spectrum will show a large zone 4 and 5 and very small zone 2 and 3.  In addition, in most cases his aerobic threshold will be very low.  On the other hand, athlete two is training mostly in the aerobic zones, zone 1 and 2, and spends almost no time training at or above threshold effort, zone 4 and 5.  This athlete metabolic profile will be very large in zone 1 through 3, his aerobic threshold will be higher than athlete one, though he will have almost no zone 4 and 5.  This information is very valuable to coaches and athletes that are looking to train accurately and perform at their best.  If you are an athlete training for an Ironman or a marathon, you want to know that your endurance zones are well developed.  On the other hand if you are a short distance endurance athlete, you want to make sure that your anaerobic system is strong as well.  Knowing your metabolic profile at the beginning of the season will help you set up training correctly, as you will have the opportunity to improve the necessary energy system for your key race.  Follow-up testing will let you know if you are improving and getting closer to your desired result.  Don’t just assume you are just the same as any athlete in your age group or that based on race results that you have similar thresholds.  Take a VO2 test and find your true training zones, which will help you learn what you need to do to improve your fitness and peak on race day.


Contact Coach Sharone with questions