I have long suspected that I train at higher heart rates than I should. When I go out for a run I generally start out with a short walk, then a jog and by the time I am at a half mile I am running at a fair clip. I have learned how to listen to my body and know when I am running too fast to sustain my distance goals for the day. When I reach that point I pull back and run just below that line, which nowadays is about a 9:30 pace. I usually end my run with the last half mile at my 5K pace (around 8:00 pace or so). I stop at my driveway completely spent and hope that I am recovered enough to do it all again tomorrow. Little did I know that all that running wasn’t doing my fitness as much good as I thought.
When I do run with my heart rate monitor I see that during these runs I usually am around 160 BPM for most of the run, then max it to about 185 for the last half mile. I ran 1000 miles last year with this method and while I did see lots of progress I also had a whole host of negative issues:
- The more miles I ran in a week the more I became progressively exhausted. This resulted in running less miles that I would like to.
- For the amount of miles that I trained my pace remains much slower than it should. You will have to trust me on this.
- I get muscle tweaks, tender achilles and assorted aches and pains.
- My workouts are often so unpleasant that I have to maintain a high amount of “will power” to do them.
- The pain I feel when I run means I don’t enjoy the greatest joy of running outside… the scenery.
I had heard about heart rate training and read about it in books but largely ignored it because I felt I had so much to improve that I didn’t need to worry about being “optimal” and anyway, “No PainNo Gain” right? But I have had a few people recently tell me what difference it made for them that I decided to do some research. What I found really surprised me. there are quite a few very respected athletes, in fact world class athletes, that use HR training almost all the time.
Here are some great articles on the subject:
Basically the idea is that you calculate a heart rate that you should exclusively target in all your aerobic activity for at least 3 months. Throughout this time you will see your performance increase until it starts to plateau. Then add in one to two 15 minute high intensity workouts but still keep the rest at low HR training. When you plateau again then go back to low intensity only and continue this cycle forever.
This is how you calculate your target HR:
- Subtract your age
- Take this number and correct it by the following:
- If you do not workout, subtract another 5 beats.
- If you workout only 1-2 days a week, only subtract 2 or 3 beats.
- If you workout 3-4 times a week keep the number where it is.
- If you workout 5-6 times a week keep the number where it is.
- If you workout 7 or more times a week and have done so for over a year, add 5 beats to the number.
- If you are over about 55 years old or younger than about 25 years old, add another 5 beats to whatever number you now have.
- If you are about 20 years old or younger, add an additional 5 beats to the corrected number you now have.
Starting today I will be giving this a shot. I have no races scheduled in the near future so I won’t have the pressure that I know can make me feel crazy if I am not always pushing as hard and as fast as I can go. Based on the formula above I need to keep my HR around 133. This is probably going to be something 13 minute mile, so I know already that psychologically this is going to be difficult for me. I just need to take that “will power” I was using to push through painful workouts and instead apply it to making myself run slow.
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