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FAQ ~ Strava Training Zones?

heart zones

My Tro Bro Leon 2014 Heart Rate Stats
An hour and forty-five minutes (47%) at Threshold or above...

I'm just updating my Strava Training Zones with the figures you sent me.  How do I best assign the seven HR zone figures you gave me across the five zones in Strava and Garmin?
Adrian Buchanan ~ London UK

Heart Rate Zones are a little bit of an anomaly within the cycle training world.  As systems have become more commercialised they have, to a certain extent, become a little more sanitized for general consumption. 

Even though we don't advocate training to heart rate, it's just WAY too random, we use (always have, always will) the British Cycling Heart Rate Zones, as these cover all the bases you need to break down your training in to meaningful post-ride analysis.  Sadly, the rest of the world is yet to catch up.

We also use heart range, not max heart rate; as is explained in the measuring heart rate link below.

The BC Zones incorporate seven levels; starting with Active Recovery at Level Zero!  This is because Active Recovery should not elicit a training response.  It isn't training, it's recovery, so comes in under the radar and is not allocated a "number".

But before you start anything to do with Heart Rate Zones, make sure you are measuring your heart rate correctly and using the correct numbers.  DO NOT, under any circumstances use any system that calculates your heart rate; ever! 

Heart Rate Zones

hr zones

Our zones are shown above as percentages, and are broken down in to their respective percentage fields.  Active Recovery under 60% heart rate range, Endurance 61-65%, etc, etc.

Strava (and Garmin, Training Peaks, etc) all use five zones, as they have adopted, unsurprisingly, the US system.  Which to me is fundamentally flawed.  If your resting heart rate is 50 bpm, how can you possibly accept that the beats below that contribute to your heart rate zones?

The US system loses the bottom two BC zones and shuffles the numbers along a bit.  So they bear no correlation to our programmes, or I would suggest, the real athletic world of performance!

It's strange that Strava and Garmin on their websites talk about the importance of heart rate, and monitoring efficiency on a recovery ride; yet neither of them have a Recovery Zone!

All you need to do is roughly match our numbers to their numbers.  I say "roughly" because if you train to heart rate you are "roughly guessing"; the reasons of which are explained elsewhere around our pages. 

For me, if you're not using power, it's better to train using self-pacing and/or perceived exertion than it is to train to heart rate.  Heart rate tells you what you did, the other options tell you what you are doing. 

That's why ALL our programmes say, ignore heart rate.  Do your best, ride for the prescribed time, finish the session and whatever your heart rate was, it was correct for that session on that day...

But here's a ballpark setting for Strava and Garmin Zones; again, in percentages.  Look in our zone boxes, find the corresponding heart rate number, then move the zone bar in Strava, or enter in the HR box for Garmin. 

Effectively, start at our Zone 2 and adjust accordingly.  Not ideal, but the information is of little substance anyway.  You either did, or did not finish the session; that's all that matters.

strava zones

Always use the customised setting and do it yourself, don't let the programme allocate heart rate bins to you. 

And remember, never take one ride in isolation and never take the heart rate analysis on face value.  You do not go from one zone to the next with just a flip of a heart beat.

Finally, never compare zones with other riders, ever.  If you don't know what system they are using (or even if they are talking heart or power zones), the terms mean nothing.  Lots of riders talk of Zone Two, without actually knowing what Zone Two is or why it is ultra important to your development..

A complex question, which doesn't have a simple answer, but the information you get from a heart rate analysis is of limited value, unless you are comparing absolute sessions. 

Comparing a Sweet Spot session of one week, against another later in the year should give you similar heart rate traces.  But hopefully, the one later in the year will be a few beats lower!

The Final Irony...
But if you look in the Strava Power Zones, you will see they have seven, and they match our zones perfectly!

strava power

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