runthings

mundane adventures in running

the key to my heart (rate training)

“Want to come for a run? I need someone to pace for 8 minute miles for 8 miles.”

My friend is doing a marathon training program off of some app or other. She tells me it’s been pretty gentle so far, but has just asked her to step up the pace.

I’m crap at converting pace from km to miles, so I looked it up on my phone. It translates to sub 5 minute kilometres.

This seems mental to me: really quite fast, probably too fast. It sounds like bad advice and potentially injury inducing.

A lot of the training programmes you find on the net (or in books, or on apps developed by sports shoe companies) seem to be really blunt. They tend to stipulate X runs a week, of different lengths and different pace. The more sensible ones give you leeway to work out what hard or easy feel like yourself. The really bad ones, evidently, dictate a specific target pace.

Pace is a fairly arbitrary variable to dictate a training regime. It’s wonderful to watch your pace pick up over time, it’s an gratifyingly tangible measure of getting faster and of improving, but, as a guide of how we should be training it’s pretty horrible. What we really want to guide us in our training is an indication of effort and pace doesn’t do this. Assuming the same effort, my pace changes from day to day: if it’s hot I run slower (for the same effort) if i’m running trails I run slower  (for the same effort) If I’ve got a cold/ hangover/ heavy bag/ am tired I run slower (for the same effort).

There are ways to measure effort, heuristics like being able to chat, feeling your legs getting heavy, but they’re pretty blunt. The best indicator is heart rate. Your heart rate tracks effort, it’s your body’s very literal reflection of effort. Heart rate constantly reflects effort whatever the situation, it compensates for sickness or heat or hangovers without you making any adjustments.

My running ambition is to run further without hurting myself and for the minimum effort. I am never going to compete, never going to win a race, and I have no desire to push myself so hard I hurt myself. Reading a few books (like the Compleat Idiots guide to HRM and the Maffetone Method) I got more interested in shaping training around aerobic/ anaerobic respiration.

I am a bit of a convert. And I want to share with you my secret special heart rate training system

  • work out your anaerobic threshold, this is the heart rate where your body stops aerobically respiring and goes anaerobic (work it out here, there are more complicated ways to do this, but I find they tend to give me the same answer… about 140 )
  • consistently train at under this heart rate, without ever going over this heart rate. Train as much as you want. Push your heart as far as you can without going over the magic number.
  • that’s all

This should work for most amateur runners. I recommend it for anyone who just wants to run a lot, or run a long way, or improve gradually, or train consistently, or run a marathon. Your training won’t leave you nearly as knackered. With no lactic acid build up, and no blood sugar depletion, your recovery times will improve. Not running as fast will mean you’re less likely to injure yourself. You’ll be able to run further. You’ll be able to listen to the In Our Time podcast as you run and focus on every word Melvin Bragg says. Even better, you won’t have to get into the slightly bullshitty territory of heart rate zones, and the weird distracting pseudo science of trying to achieve very specific target heart rates at different times moments in your run.

That’s it. Do it.

 

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3 comments on “the key to my heart (rate training)

  1. SM
    13/12/2016

    ‘work out your anaerobic threshold, this is the heart rate where your body stops aerobically respiring and goes anaerobic (work it out here, there are more complicated ways to do this, but I find they tend to give me the same answer… about 140 )
    consistently train at under this heart rate, without ever going over this heart rate. Train as much as you want. Push your heart as far as you can without going over the magic number.
    that’s all’

    Yes, this. I think it’s the key to long-term training of many kinds. I stay under 140 at virtually every training session, apart from one HiiT session a week where I occasionally touch just over 150-155 for short periods.

    • tommarriage
      13/12/2016

      It’s really that easy, right? I’ve become so much fitter following it, and even then it’s in a half arsed lazy kind of way.

      • SM
        13/12/2016

        Yeah, and I feel so much better; sleeping better etc. I am hoping it catches on a bit more- so sick of these programs where you are supposed to knacker yourself every day.

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