I talked briefly about wanting to shift my training and focus on heart rate over speed for the next little while. The information out there is pretty overwhelming but I think I’m starting to gain a better understanding. The first step to heart rate training is to find out your maximum heart rate (MHR). Runner’s World suggests using the following equation: MHR = 205 – (.5 x your age) and Robin told me she used a different equation: MHR = 220 – your age. Both equations gave me 190 as my MHR.
Once you have your MHR, you can calculate what your heart rate should be during your workouts. According to Runner’s World (again), easy/long runs should be at 65-75% of your MHR, tempos at 87-92% and interval repeats at 95-100%. So my heart rate should look like this during my runs:
Easy/long runs: 123-142
Tempo runs: 165-175
Interval repeats: 180-190
Since I’ll be sticking to easier runs for a little while, 123-142 is the range that I’m aiming for. Whether I’m running at an 8-minute mile or an 11-minute mile doesn’t matter. It’s all about training my heart and learning what an easy pace should actually feel like. I’m hoping that this will benefit me in my next round of marathon training.
I tried it for the first time last Wednesday and set my watch to show only heart rate so that I wouldn’t be tempted to run faster. I had such a hard time staying under 142, especially on inclines. It was really, really hard to control. I ran 5 miles at a 10:08 average pace with an average heart rate of 140. It’s crazy to think I was running my “easy” runs in the 8:30s in my last training cycle.
I’m not going to lie, seeing the average pace at the end of my run made me a little concerned. I texted Robin and asked her if this was normal and if I’d ever get faster while keeping my heart rate low (I will…eventually). I’m still learning about the science behind all of this. She assured me that this process is going to take a lot of time and will definitely test my patience. At the same time, I will be able to run more miles and feel GOOD doing it because I’m not “taxing my ticker” like I used to. Slower runs = lower heart rate = faster recovery = more miles.
I was curious as to WHY heart rate training is beneficial and the most discussed reason (across several websites) is that it ENSURES PROPER RECOVERY. I think I can speak for a lot of runners when I say that we don’t treat our “easy” runs as we should. I’m guilty of wanting to get my runs done and over with as fast as possible, even if it’s a long run or a recovery run. Even when my pace isn’t supposed to be the focus of my workout, it still secretly matters – and it shouldn’t! I know this but I’m stubborn. We need our easy days to ensure proper recovery and to save our legs for those workouts and races where we want to push ourselves. It doesn’t make sense to destroy our legs every day, only to go into a tempo workout and fail to hit our prescribed paces because we are completely exhausted.
So it’s all about training my body to adapt and learning how to run slow for the next little while. I’ll ramp things up again soon and incorporating some hard/fast workouts into my heart rate training. Even though it’s proving to be a bit more difficult than I anticipated, I’m looking forward to the change. I’m going to be recording everything in hopes that I see an improvement (declining average heart rate) over the next couple of months.
There is so much more that I want to say about heart rate training (and a lot more benefits to discuss!) but I’m still new to it so I’d like to do a little more research and get more experience first. I’ll put together another more thorough post soon!
Do you train by heart rate?? I’d love to hear about your experiences!