Running Training

Heart Rate Training

This is a training method that many athletes and coaches use for improving speed and cardio fitness, in a more controlled way.

I have never worn a heart rate monitor and being an old fashioned runner, I don’t need a watch to tell me I’m stuffed, I can usually figure that out all by myself!. But for people just starting to get into running or runners with have a goal they are trying to achieve, or just for the anal (which makes up for about 95% of runners) this is great way to train.

It’s based on the premise that if you increase your heart rate to certain levels whilst running or in any cardio fitness activity, you will be working at a rate that will improve your cardio fitness and give you better outcomes as regards to your goals, like speed, weightloss etc

In this type of training you use your heart as the monitor, and it’s the best natural one to use. When we exercise our heart beats faster. It has to, to pump the extra blood around your body, especially to the working muscles to get them to do what you want.

The fitter you become your heart starts to grow (after all it is a muscle too) and it still beats but it will often beat slower. The reason being is it’s getting stronger, so one big beat has enough force to push the blood out faster and quicker, therefore it doesn’t need to beat as much.

I liken it to the old fashioned strength testing, known as the high striker, at the carnivals If you have a strong, fit heart, it’s like the mallet when it does one beat, its force is enough to slam the puck (which is your blood) right up to the bell, however, if your heart is not fit and strong, it will send it about half way up and not ring the bell, meaning you have to pump twice as much to get it to the top!

The rate the heart beats per minute (BPM) is sign of fitness and very fit people have quite a low resting heart rate (some as low as 30 beats a minute, the norm is about 70). These fit people’s heart rate still rises when they work it hard and fast like when they are being very active, however, when they stop working hard and are in the recovery phase of their workout, their heart rate drops low again and this is the real telling factor of how healthy and fit a person is, the rate their heart drops back quickly after an intense workout.

An example of this is me

When I was 30 I remember having my resting heart rate checked and it was 70 bpm (beats per min)

Now at 49 my resting heart rate is 50 bpm. I am not a super dooper athlete, but over years of running and training for events, I have trained my heart to be more efficient. My heart has my personality now, it works the Lazy way, why beat two times when you can just do one beat and have a rest??

The Benefits of Heart Rate Training

  1. It’s a great way to monitor your fitness. Cardio Vascular fitness is all about improving your heart/lung capacity and in turn it make you fitter, faster and healthier
  2. Prevent Over training- some people work hard every time they are out there, and each time working harder and harder, which is not the right way to train. Short running and long running require different styles of training, if you are just belting it every time and working at your maximum heart rate, you will suffer from exhaustion and, injury
  3. Stop Under Training- Many runners get into their slow plod and can run for hours, great! However, many runners also come to me and say I’m not getting any faster, I’m not losing any weight…if you are just working at a heart rate to allow you to stay fit, but doesn’t improve on your fitness levels then you will not receive the benefits you are looking for.
  4. Training Smarter- it’s a way of being really time efficient with your training. So you are not spending hours on running and not getting the benefits of your workouts. Heart rate training takes out any time wasting or training that is just ineffectual
  5. Pacing- it allow you to pace yourself over a distance. A big problem for runners is going out fast and then having to stop somewhere along the road or walk, then going fast again to try to catch the PB their after, then slowing down to catch a breath. This is not an effective way to run. If you know the time you want to run a race in and you know the pace you should be running at all the way, then a heat rate monitor can really help you to regulate that pace for a more even run and a better chance of success with beating a PB

Here is how Heart Rate Training works

You need to measure your resting heart rate, this needs to be done when you wake up but before you get out of bed. You can measure it at the pulse point in your inside wrist or neck, with a stop watch, count the beats for 60 seconds, or you can measure it with a heart rate monitor.
This is called Resting Heart rate (RHR)

The next reading you need is maximum heart rate (MHR), this is the fastest your heart can beat when being exerted. For years we just used a simple formula MHR = 220 – Age, however , research and the experts are saying this is just too random. There are several equations used to suit males and females and varying ages and fitness levels.

This is the equation that is more suitable for women, MHR =206 –(0.88 X Age)

Here are some more equations you may like to use

Miller Method- MHR =217 –(0.85 X Age)
USA Researchers MHR =206.9 –(0.67 X Age)
UK Method for trained athletes-Males- MHR =217 –(0.85 X Age), Females- MHR =216 – (1.09 X Age)
If you would like to be more specific, you can use the Miller Method and-
Subtract 3 for elite athletes under 30
Add 2 beats for elite athletes over 50
Use this equation for running training
Subtract 3 beats for rowing training
Subtract 5 Beats for cycling training

Another way to get your Maximum heart rate is to push it to the limit and then count the beats. So you work as hard as you can running or on a stationary bike, when you get to your highest point of exertion, when you are really feeling you cannot push much further, hold it there for a while, then stop and take your pulse, this will be very close to your maximum heart rate. A good time to do this would be after a 3km TT or the Beep test.

You can also get your MHR measured by a professional

Ok, you have your two figures RHR and MHR

Now you have to work out your training percentages
The best way to do this is to work on percentages with your MHR 100% and decrease in 5% increments, you will get many levels

I will use my heart rate calculations as an example

There for in my case-
MHR (based on women equation) 172.88 and my RHR 50

To get my 95% Heart rate level, I use this equation
((172-50) X .95) +50 = 166
so 90% is ((172-50) X .90) +50 = 159
so 85% is ((172-50) X .85) +50 = 153.7
and 80% is ((172-50) X .80) +50 = 147.6
and 75% is ((172-50) X .75) +50 = 141.5
and 70% is ((172-50) X .70) +50 = 135.4
and 65% is ((172-50) X .65) +50 = 129.3
and 60% is ((172-50) X .60) +50 = 123.2
and 55% is ((172-50) X .55) +50 = 117.1
and 50% is ((172-50) X .50) +50 = 111

Ok, now you can set a program

So if you decide you are going to run at 70% for a 10km training run, and you have the same heart rate as me, you will keep your heart rate at a steady 135.4 bpm…I know you think, how the hell do I do that? You go and buy yourself a Heart Rate Monitor it will keep track of your heart rate.

To train to your heart rate you need a Heart Rate Monitor

They come in lots of styles and prices but they all work in the same way

They have a thin plastic strap that goes around your chest, just under your heart line (sternum), and a wristwatch receiver. There is another type that has a finger sense monitor and only the wristwatch monitor, however, the most common have the heart strap.

It’s the belt that is picking up your heart rate and it transits it to the receiver so it’s easy for you to view when running, on that wristwatch will be your current heart rate.

The monitor usually will have a base and ceiling rate as well, where it will beep when your heart drops below the base you want or beeps when it goes over the ceiling you want to be working at. You program all this in yourself, so if you do not want to go under 60% or your heart rate, you will program a beep to let you know if you have.

So for instance if you were on the 70% heart rate for the 10km I mentioned above (my figures), you would set the base for 135.4 BPM and it would beep if you went under it, and if you decided you did not want to go to 80% or more, you would set the ceiling at 147.6 and it would beep again if that happened.

Once you get your heart rate monitor, all your individual levels would be programmed in, so you would just have to program the percentage in that you wanted to work at, or it could tell you!

You could then set up your own weekly program or ask your trainer to

The basic heart rate Zones are (and no there is no fat burning zone!)

1.60-70%- Endurance zone. This is what new runners would aim to work on the running phase of their workout, or what long distance runners may do their longest run of the week on, just a steady pace, but a pace that is working on improving cardio vascular fitness with endurance.

2.70-80% is the Aerobic Zone- this means you will improve your cardio fitness more and get benefits from your running, it is the zone that burns more energy quicker, and I guess it’s what the gyms get their ‘fat burning zone’ terminology from. However what it really means you are using more energy. The energy you have given your muscles through carbohydrates and fats, and if you burn it at a faster longer rate, it will result in weight loss and a higher level of cardio fitness.

3.80-90% is the Anaerobic zone-it is often referred to as the lactic training zone. In this heart rate zone you use your glycogen energy that is stored in your muscles which triggers a fat burning response. The Lactate threshold is the point at which you cannot get rid of your lactic acid from the working muscle quick enough, it then accumulates in the blood

4.90%-VO2 Max- (I refer to this as the bucket zone) You would know this as sprinting, meaning running as fast as your legs can carry you. In this phase you can only do short spurts, these workouts make you faster and fitter, it works on growing fast twitch muscle fibres as well

As you can tell the four zones are all different, and all should be used when setting yourself a training program. You know you cannot train at Zone 4 for very long and how frustrating and horrible would it be facing that pain every time you went for a run. You know if you are training for a half marathon or marathon you would need to be in Zone 1 on your long runs. Tempo runs should be done at Zone 2 and Zone 3, alternating every km or half km. And of course all Lazy Runner know you would finish a race or a run on Zone 3 or 4!

Regardless of all this very well planned and well thought out scheme to get you into an effective running training program, of course there will be anomalies.

It doesn’t take much for your heart rate to rise or drop and exercise is just one of many factors that affect it. Stress, excitement, heat, being unwell, stimulants like coffee and alcohol, and some medications can affect your heart rate. You may want to do a 70% heart rate run, but a hill or a head wind or a hot day will make it rise, and then when the pressure is of it should recover and work at the rate you want, so you need to be flexible in your training.

Also the fitter you become the lower your RHR will be, so you should check monthly and make adjustments to your percentages again.

Heart Rate Monitors come in all styles and prices, but mostly they work on the same principle, some are just more technical and offer more features. They can range in price from $50 to hundreds of dollars.

The main difference is the amount of features they have included. Most will give you target training zones, the cheaper ones offer 3 target zones, but the pricier models may have up to 6. You will put in your personal heart rate details and then you can pre-program it to offer you different types of workouts

Some come with more features like a sport watch; a stopwatch and split times; a recovery heart rate mode, which shows you how long it takes for your rate to drop back to normal after a workout; a feature that tracks the times you spent in the various zones; calorie counter; speed and distance monitor (so a GPS, this is in the more expensive models), a PC interface where you can download your training workout to your computer or facebook or iphone; However, as yet they haven’t got a feature that will do the workout for you while you sit and have a beer, keep your fingers crossed I’m sure its coming!

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