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Heart Rate Based Coaching

In this article you will find everything you need to know about Heart Rate Based Coaching and hear rate features that are integrated into our platform experience.

Understanding Heart Rate Training Zones 

Anyone who has ever used a piece of cardio equipment at a fitness club is familiar with the concept of heart rate training zones. A typical set of heart rate guidelines presented on the display panel of a treadmill or elliptical trainer includes three target zones with names like “fat burning”, “aerobic fitness”, and “peak performance”. Each of these names is associated with a target heart-rate range that is given as a percentage of maximum heart rate. For example, the fat-burning zone might be 55 to 65 percent of maximum heart rate, aerobic conditioning 65 to 85 percent of maximum heart rate, and peak performance 85 to 100 percent of maximum heart rate. A formula of 220 beats per minute minus the exerciser’s age in years is used to calculate maximum heart rate.

Research has shown that most people ignore these guidelines and instead regulate their exercise intensity by feel. Specifically, they choose an intensity that feels moderately hard, because (at least subconsciously) they want to work hard enough to get something out of the workout but not so hard that they are uncomfortable. This effort level usually puts the heart rate near the high end of the aerobic conditioning range. And every workout is exactly the same: Challenging but not too challenging.

The results that exercisers get from this approach to training are much better than the results they would get from sitting at home on the couch. But they are much worse than the result they could get from a different approach that included various kinds of workouts with different heart rate targets, some lower and some higher than the heart rate levels people usually hit when they work out by feel. The typical gym exerciser has no idea he or she could get better results from the same amount of exercise with a better approach to heart rate training. That’s because the heart rate guidelines found on the display panel of a stationary recumbent bike at the gym are just too basic. They don’t explain why or how to use heart rate monitoring to get better results.

Heart Rate Zones for Runners: A Better Way The heart rate training guidelines used in running are more sophisticated and effective than the guidelines that are ignored by most gym exercisers.

There are four key differences: 1) Running coaches use more zones—typically five instead of three. 2) Running coaches use narrower zones. 3) Running coaches leave small gaps between some zones, so that certain heart-rate ranges are generally avoided in training.

4) Running coaches use the individual runner’s testing-determined lactate threshold heart rate to calculate customized heart-rate training zones instead of a general, age based maximum heart rate formula.

The heart-rate training zone system used by PEAR is similar to the systems that most running coaches use.

Here it is:

  • Zone 1 75-80
  • Zone 2 81-89
  • Zone 3 96-100
  • Zone 4 102-105
  • Zone 5 106+

A new runner, or even an experienced runner who hasn’t trained by heart rate, is likely to look at these guidelines and say, “Gee, this system seems more complicated than the one on the treadmill I use at the gym.” In fact, the PEAR heart rate training system is actually very easy to use. While it is a little more nuanced than the three zone system, it’s significantly more effective.

VO2Max Fitness Number

PEAR Sports now allows you to accurately find your personal VO2 Max number.  VO2 Max is a measure of aerobic capacity, or the maximum rate at which the body is able to consume oxygen during exercise. It is a reliable indicator of cardiovascular fitness. The upper limit of your VO2 Max depends partly on your age and gender.

PEAR is able to determine your VO2 Max (i.e. fitness level) to within 96% accuracy of a laboratory test. 

Your VO2 Max will be calculated each time you complete an outdoor running workout with GPS running and while wearing a heart rate monitor. But we’ve also designed a workout specifically for calculating your VO2.

Completing Heart Rate Calibration Workout:

In your My Workouts screen, find the Heart Rate Calibration workout. Complete this workout with a heart monitor to receive a VO2 Max result. Your workout results screen will show you your fitness number at the completion of this workout, and you can view your average score from your profile.  (For a shorter, walking version of this workout, search for the Fitness Number Walk workout using the search function.)

To Find Your VO2 Max Number Results:

Navigate to the main menu ☰ and tap your profile picture. Your most recent VO2 Max will be listed as “My Fitness Level.”

** To receive a VO2 Max result, you must set “Location Services” on and run outside. Please note that your VO2 max will not be calculated with an indoor treadmill workout. Distance tracking is necessary to obtain a result.

Heart Rate Calibration

The 20 minute heart rate assessment workout is a built in workout located in “My Workouts” on your device.

This workout must be completed outdoors on flat ground where you will not need to stop. In order for the assessment to be accurate you need to make sure you are wearing your heart rate monitor properly and that it is connected to in the PEAR app. Once this workout has been completed and synced your zones will be calibrated for you.  You can see your zones by going to Settings>Heart Rate Zones in the PEAR phone app.

The device will not stop you from trying another workout before you take the assessment. However without the assessment the coach will be unable to properly coach you so that you receive the most from your workout.  So we recommend you take the assessment before you continue with any other workouts. 

Compatible Heart Rate Monitors

The PEAR app will connect to many third-party heart monitors, including wrist-and chest-based heart monitors.  

The device model must have the following features:

  • Emits a Bluetooth 4.0 signal (i.e. BLE or Bluetooth Smart)
  • Non-proprietary (compatible with third-party apps)

Please note that some popular heart monitors, such as Fitbit and Garmin are proprietary devices and will not work with PEAR or other third-party apps.  

The following is a list of known compatible monitors that we have tested with the app.  

  • Apple Watch Series 1, 2, 3, & 4   (requires PEAR installation on watch)
  • Samsung Gear S2 & S3 (requires PEAR installation on watch)
  • Mio Fuse
  • Mio Slice
  • Galaxy Watch
  • Google Watch 
  • Wahoo TickR
  • Polar

Connecting a Heart Rate Monitor

Although a heart monitor is not required, it will provide you with additional feedback about your exertion level, helping you achieve fitness goals such as burning fat, training for a race, or gaining strength.

Turn on the Bluetooth option in your phone’s general settings, and follow the steps below to set up your heart rate monitor:

  1. Put on your heart monitor according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  2. Tap the menu icon ☰, then tap Connect Sensors.
  3. Your heart monitor should appear in the list of devices. Tap it so it shows as “Connected.”

You will now see your heart rate towards the top of the home screen. You’re ready to get training! We recommend starting with the Calibration Workout (Set Your Heart Zones), which can be accessed from the My Workouts list. 

Now that your HRM is paired with the PEAR Sports app, allow 5-8 seconds for your HRM to register and connect every subsequent time you open the app. Be sure to wear the device in order for it to register. 

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