Mar 122012

Today we are continuing in our weekly series on how to train with a heart rate monitor. This week, Jennifer will cover the Sally Edwards method of using heart rate to improve your training. Jennifer is an instructor at Studio S in Cincinnati, and  teaches Pilates, spinning, YogaFit, and is a personal trainer. She  writes our weekly Fitness Electronics blog covering all aspects of  heart rate training with a heart rate monitor. To learn how to use your heart rate monitor while training, all that you need to know is how to measure your heart rate using a heart rate monitor watch, and Jennifer will teach you everything else. To read past columns, check out this link.


Hello again!!! I am hoping my latest blog finds you all are doing many fun and exciting activities with your heart rate monitors! Throughout the course of these blogs, we have discussed a step-by-step scientific method to achieve your peak fitness! Today, we will once again give credit to the amazing Sally Edwards who has relentlessly educated the world on how to train smarter and more successfully using heart rate monitors. As I mentioned in my previous blogs, Sally Edwards has written multiple articles and books on this subject matter. In my blogs, a great deal of my data comes from The Heart Rate Monitor Guidebook to Heart Zones Training. It is extremely detailed and an excellent resource for any athlete or fitness enthusiast. All of that being said, let’s get on with it!


In our previous blogs, it was your assignment to collect heart rate numbers (resting heart rate, maximum heart rate, ambient heart rate, threshold heart rate) and also to decide what your personal fitness goals will be. This information will be applied today to the “training tree.” In The Heart Rate Monitor Guidebook, Sally discusses a 10 step method that works from the ground to the top of the fitness tree! We will learn about the 10 branches and how to make them work for you.

The lowest section or base of the tree is designed to build your base (roots of the tree). This is often know as the endurance phase. This is the starting point of any program. Base training takes place in Zones 1,2, and 3 only. During base training you can workout for sustained periods of time without a great deal of fatigue and muscle soreness. During this phase of training, you will see the following physiological changes: improved VO2 max (VO2 is the volume of O2 that you can consume in one minute), improved movement efficiency (balance, coordination), enhanced fat burining, strengthening of the joint system (ligaments and tendons that connect bones, muscles, and joints become more capable of securing you during weight bearing activity) , and improved stamina. In this first phase (branch 1), you will practice 3-5 workouts for 15-30 minutes for 2-4 weeks in Zones 1-3.

The middle part of the tree, or second phase, is a little more difficult. In this strength focused phase, you will implement 2 strength workouts per week (strength workouts can be weight lifting or  focused on hill climbing, for example). The purpose of strength focused workouts is to allow you to develop more power which will allow you to become faster and stronger! In addition to your 2 strength workouts, you will also be performing 3 endurance workouts (long walks or rides in steady state). All of the workouts during this phase are slated to last between 20-60 minutes. The benefits of phase two training are: improved VO2, more distance per calorie (miles per gallon), increased amount of fat burned while at rest, thickening of connective tissues that hold the joints together, extended aerobic endurance/stamina.

The third phase, close to the top of the tree, is the speed phase, which hopefully seems pretty straightforward….just focus on moving faster.  It is at this point that you will really have to mentally prepare for a shift in exertion. This is the first time you will train in your upper zones. You will be pushing toward your maximum heart rate and working to achieve an improved threshold heart rate. This phase will include 2 workouts in Z1-Z3 (strength or endurance) and  2-3 workouts in Z3-Z5. All workouts will last 20-60 minutes. Your benefits in this phase are as follows: improved VO2, improved lactic acid buffering ability (ability to tolerate “the burn” a little better), improved biomechanics (enhancement of structural alignment and enhanced coordination), enhanced glucose and fat burning, and now the  ligaments and tendons that connect the bones, muscles, and joints become more capable of securing you during weight bearing activity.  Additionally, you will be recruiting different muscle fibers for the first time in this phase. Your body has fast twitch and slow twitch fibers. The body uses both during this phase. Finally, you will see improvement in your overall body economy by being able to maximize your fuel burn, oxygen uptake, muscle recruitment etc.

The next phase, as we climb higher on the tree, is peak. This puts all of the previous branches together into one: endurance, strength, and intervals. Wow! Once you get here your should throw yourself a party! During this phase, your will perform 6-7 workouts per week (2 endurance, 2 interval, 2 strength, and 1 recovery workout)!!!! Holy cow! That’s awesome and exciting . In the peak phase, your workouts will last between 30-120 minutes, and because this phase is so intense, your will only do this phase for 2 weeks through the entire season. The benefits of this phase are a combination of all the benefits from all of the aforementioned phases.

Branch 5 is know as the racing phase. This phase requires constant recuperation and rest!!! During this phase, 4 workouts per week if it is a race week and 6-7 workouts per week if not racing. This period can last up to 12 weeks with workouts in all zones lasting from 30-120 minutes. The benefits are again a combination of all phases.


During your exercise regiment, a recovery period is critical and could last 4-8 weeks depending on how intensely your are training. All recovery workouts are in Z1 and Z2. and should be very relaxed and last only 15 min to 1 hour 4-6 times per week.

The secret to training is being revealed right here….it’s not that complicated….start out easy…get hard…..go back to easy! It’s a cycle just like life. We work hard then we vacation. Think of your training in that way. Work hard and then take a vacation to reward your efforts.

Here is a 10 step way to recap all we have learned:

1. Determine your maximum heart rate.

2. Calculate and set your five heart rate zones

3. Decide and write down your fitness goals.

4. Determine your current Training Tree Branch

5. Determine your weekly training time in minutes

6. Calculate your time in zone based on the Training Tree Branch

7. Fill out the Heart Zone Training Planner (see image below)

8. Do workout as planned

9 Keep a log of each workout.

10.  Complete monthly self tests.

That’s a ton of info to take in so please email me with questions!!! My name is Jennifer Lynn and my email is 

I will have more blogs on the way!  Thanks again for reading the Fitness Electronics Blogs!! Make it a great day!!!



[1] The information on the Branch Sytem was created by Sally Edwards and I used several charts in her book on pages149-170 while describing the benefits etc.

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