The Endure EQ

The Endure EQ Vol. 005: How to set up your HR zones without needing a lab

Published over 1 year ago • 3 min read

Hello Reader,

Welcome to Vol. 005 of The Endure EQ.

Every week you'll get a deep dive into a topic related to endurance training, maximizing your potential or reaching peak performance.

Let’s jump in.

How to set up your HR zones without needing a lab

Training with proper zones will increase your endurance performance.

But testing and setting your HR, pace and power zones can be complicated.

You might feel overwhelmed with so many tech options, testing protocols, and tools.

This is your guide on how to set your zones without needing an exercise physiology lab.

Why should you train with zones

Before we go too far let’s talk about the reasons why you should train with zones and not “wing it”.

When we use zones we have a consistent language to communicate with a coach, and assess the effectiveness of your training.

Using intensity will allow you to train in specific domains and achieve specific training adaptations as a result.

Adaptations are what we are looking for with training. “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” - Numerous

There are 3 big types of intensity zones we will highlight today:

  • HR
  • Pace
  • Power

Having an understanding of each zones will help you verify how hard you are working. In the heat HR usually spikes so you can look at power and pace to adjust.

Each of these can be tested, measured and used for training with a minimal tech stack (and no lab):

  • GPS watch
  • HR monitor
  • Power meter
  • Online training software

What are the zones based off of

Each of these zones are an approximation for meaningful changes in your physiology.

As you increase the intensity of your exercise the body’s energy production has to change. As these changes happen, predictable things occur: breathing rate increases, HR increases, lactate production increases, and fatigue increases.

The domains of training are based on the large, meaningful changes that occur.

The simplest breakdown of this is the 3 zone model by Sielier. Meaning you have an easy, moderate and severe domain.

These 3 zones are based on the lactate turn points: or the point when lactate increases in the blood stream. We can measure this with lab and lactate testing.

These are what we consider your lactate threshold. Under LT1 (or VT1) is your zone 1-2, above LT1 is Zone 3, beyond LT2 (or VT2) is zone 4 and 5.

We estimate your other zones based on these predictable curves. Since we know that HR rises in relation to other variables.

If you want the most accurate zones you should consider doing lab testing but today we are focusing on non-lab testing.

What metrics for each sport + equipment/tech you will need

Each sport in triathlon has slightly different need for zones.

Here is a breakdown of potential metrics for each sport and the tech you will need to assess them:

What are the different zones

Again each zone is an approximation of what is happening with your physiology. We can use this to communicate and check how hard you are working.

Here is the zones we use with Excel Endurance:

How to set your training zones without needing a lab

Step 1: Perform a field test

There are 2 major types of field tests that you can use to assess your threshold.

  1. Submax
  2. Maximal

The tests we are going to be completing are maximal tests. Meaning that you will be pushing to your max for the duration of the test.

Here are the 3 performance tests we use with Excel Endurance:

Keys for performing the test:

  • Assess every 3 months, rotate the sports
  • Only assess if readiness to train is high (low fatigue, stable HRV, low stress)
  • Limit heavy training the day before
  • Pick a repeatable area to perform test
  • Maintain similar conditions for each test

Step 2: Calculate Thresholds and Paces


  • CSS = 400m time in sec - 200m time in sec / 2


  • FTP = 20 min avg power - 5%
  • Threshold HR = 20 min avg HR


  • Threshold Pace = 20 min avg pace
  • Threshold HR = 20 min avg HR

Step 3: Set Zones

Once you have those values you can calculate your zones.

You can calculate them in TrainingPeaks since we are sticking to the Friel Zones select that option from the drop down menu.

You can also calculate them by hand or with a spreadsheet if not using TrainingPeaks. Send me an email or DM with the word ZONES and I’ll send you my calculator.

Step 4: Adjust zones in TrainingPeaks and Garmin

Once you have the zones calculated you will need to adjust them within your GPS watch settings. Here is what the screen looks like on Garmin.

This way as you are training you will see the correct zones listed on your watch.

If you have any trouble setting up your own training zones please don’t hesitate to send me an email or DM me. I would happily walk you through the set-up and get you training smarter.


  • Using training zones allows your training to be more specific and focused then training without zones.
  • You can use field tests to set your zones in TrainingPeaks and Garmin.
  • You should update your zones for each sport every 3 months or so, making sure to test when readiness is high for that day.

Thank you for being here!

- Chandler

ps. If you have any requests for future editions of the newsletter DM or email me.

Join EE Triathlon Training Squad:

Starting Fall 2022 Excel Endurance is launching The Triathlon Training Squad. Squad combines Sustainable Endurance Training with on-demand race plans to help you become a triathlete, keep you healthy, and finish amazing races.

👉 More info here + waitlist

More Content

Read Chandler's Blog

Follow Chandler's Instagram

Follow Chandler's Twitter

Join the Free Excel Endurance Community

Fuel the newsletter: Buy me a coffee

The Endure EQ

By Excel Endurance

Welcome to The Endure EQ by Excel Endurance. Get a short tip for triathlon training, sustainable performance and reaching your personal potential in this weekly newsletter. Join here to get the next volume emailed to you:

Share this page