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Mark Allen's Heart Rate Training for Triathlon

Mark Allen is well known as one of the "Big 4" of Triathlon’s early days, and won the Ironman World Championship (a.k.a. Hawaii Ironman) six times. An early proponent of training by heart rate, his somewhat unique training zone calculation is used by many athletes.

Find Maximum Aerobic Heart Rate

Start with 180 – your age

Adjust for your fitness:

  • If you are recovering from a major illness or injury lasting more than a year, subtract 10.
  • If you have not been exercising regularly, subtract 5 beats.
  • If you regularly exercise 2-4 days per week, for about 30 minutes, leave the number where it is.
  • If you have been exercising 4 or more times a week (for 30 minutes or more) for a year, add 5 beats.
  • If you are under 25 or over 55 years old, add 5 to whatever number you have at this point.

This number is your Maximum Aerobic Heart Rate (MAHR). For endurance workouts, train in a zone that is from 20 bpm below this rate up to it. This will build cardiorespiratory health without overly taxing your system.

For example, for a 40 year old who is starting a workout program: 180 – 40 = 140, minus 5 for not exercising regularly, equals a Maximum Aerobic Heart Rate of 135 beats per minute. For training, workout from 115 to 135 bpm.

So what about speed work? Go for 15 to 20 minutes fast, above your MAHR. This time can be continuous, or broken into interval segments of one to five minutes. If doing intervals,

  • Speed up throughout the interval, with the first half relatively easy.
  • Make the time between intervals (the Rest Interval, or RI) be about half the length of the interval. For example, if you do 5 minutes of speed work, your interval should be about 2-1/2 minutes.
  • If just starting speed work, make sure that your heart rate falls below your MAHR during each rest interval. If not, slow down your pace.
  • If comfortable with speed work, your HR should fall at least 10 bpm from the end of the previous interval.

You may find these HR zone to be very low, but remember Mark Allen has been very successful using his own technique!