From Dave Kabal of the Montreal Rowing Club and McGill University Rowing Club (Varsity Heavy 8)In my original post, I asked for the heart rate categories. The response was phenomenal. As promised, here is a summary. I hope I do not misquote you; I am attempting to paraphrase and summarize the many responses I got.

From: Nicholas Buffinger
From: Sarah Mullin
From: Andrew Dickson

Most folks cautioned me on the danger of relying on an absolute heart rate measure like the Category system, as it does not respect individual differences (and max rates). However, many were happy to provide the heart rate category distribution and a lot of bonus information and advice to boot. Thanks to all who reponded.

Andrew Dickson suggested I check out the polar site or get a book (for around $10) called “Training Lactate Pulse Rate”. Like many of the other folks who responded, he suggested the only reliable and foolproof way to set training heart rates is to be tested (blood, run ’til you drop type test) for max, etc.

Andres Dickson sent the following:

(reprinted from Nolte/Morrow/Marlow)

Intensity  Approx.  Duration Ratio   Goals                      Lactate
Category   H.R.     (min)    Work/                              level
Recov.                             (mmol/l)

I          max.     .5-1.5   1:4     - anaerobic capacity
i.e.              1:5     - ability & feeling of     > 10
180-200                     start/spurt speed
- aggression

II         max.      2-7     1:2     - race endurance           8-14
i.e.              1:3     - transportation
180-200                   - race speed feel
- race attitude/plan

III        max       6-10    2:1     - develop aerobic cap'y    5-8
i.e.              1:2     - strength endurance
180-200                   - tactics
- technique

IV         165-175   10-45   4:1     - develop aerobic cap'y    appr. 4
(anaerobic threshold)
- efficiency
- strength endurance

V          150-160   30-90    n/a    - basic endurance          appr. 3
- maintenance
- coord. of movements

VI         135-150    > 45    n/a    - regeneration             < 2
- maintenance
- coord of movements
- technique

Nicholas Buffinger suggested that heart rate information can be misunderstood and misused, and explained that heart rates can be sorted into aerobic, glycolytic (sugar burning); and anaerobic categories. He suggested that the method of finding these rates may be quite inaccurate (220-age for max) and that simply basing a workout on a fixed heart rate may be a bad idea. The resting heart rate remained a valid measure (for instance, in the morning).

Sarah Mullin gave the category distribution, and suggested that a test (from an Ottawa group) can determine recommended workouts and heart rates in a highly accurate way.

She also listed a correlation between pieces and categories, which I found very interesting:

VI:      135 -150      45' or more, steady state at low intensity
V:       150- 165      30' to 90', 2x20' with rate change, SR 10-20 less than
race pace
IV:      165-175       10' to 45', similar pieces, SR 3-6 less than race pace
III:       max HR      4x7', or 3x2000m, SR 2-4 less than race pace
ie 180-205?
II:       same HR     2' to 7', race pace over 1500-2000m
I:        same HR     30'' to 90'', 1to6X 500m (with start)
OR  intervals of 1' or 2' pieces

On finding your categories from a 20' test:

VI  - Average 20' test split per 500m, plus 12 seconds
V   - Average 20' test split per 500m, plus 7 seconds
IV  - Average 20' test split per 500m, plus 2 seconds
III - Average 20' test split per 500m, minus 2 seconds
II  - Average 2500m erg test split
I   - Lowest possible split for the distance

Thanks for all the responses. I hope the summary is useful!

Dave Kabal
Montreal Rowing Club
McGill University Rowing Club (Varsity Heavy 8)