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Heart Rate Training

With summer quickly approaching, it’s time I get use to the weather having an impact on my performance.  I am the worst for using the watch as a deciding factor in my runs.  Forget what my body says, it’s what the watch tells me that matters.  Perhaps that is why I end up injured a little more than I would like.  Fortunately, I have a heart rate monitor that I can use with my Garmin.  I just never seem to want to use it.  I think that is because the few times I did actually use it, it said my heart rate was much higher than I would have thought for the pace I was running.  In other words, the HRM was telling me I was working much harder than I thought.  And since I am so addicted to the numbers, I quit using the monitor.  But I’ve decided it’s time to pull back out the HRM and actually put it to use.  Therefore, I need to know…

What is my RHR? My max HR? And what are my training zones?

To determine RHR, it is best to do it first thing in the morning before getting out of bed.  Ideally, I would strap the HRM across my chest and take the lowest pulse as my RHR.  However, I didn’t do that first thing this morning, so I’m doing it right now.  I relaxed for a while before beginning to write this with my HRM and Garmin.  The lowest recorded pulse was 53 beats / minute.  It might read a little lower in the morning, but I think this is a good guesstimate.

To determine MHR, I found a couple of formulas.  The most common and simple one is to subtract your age from 220, but of course this is very general.  To really find out your MHR, it is recommended finding a hill of about 200 – 300 meters and sprinting the hill, then jogging back down.  Repeat this a few times and your highest recorded pulse is your MHR.  All of the different formulas I found, put my MHR at around 190 beats / minute.

During training, whether it be for a marathon, 5K, or a triathlon, each workout has its purpose.  Perhaps it is for speed, recovery, or endurance.  To achieve this, your heart is obviously working in different zones.  If you are doing an easy run, there is no need for you to be training close to your MHR.  There are five different heart rate zones (1-5).  Zone one is 50-60% of your MHR and you should feel comfortable and be able to have a conversation in this zone.  Zone two is 60-70% of your MHR and you will be breathing a little heavier, but still carry on a conversation.   Zone three is 70-80% of your MHR and you will be breathing harder while actually increasing the number and size of your blood vessels.  Zone 4 is 80-90% of your MHR and this is where you go hard.  And at the same time, you get faster and fitter.  Finally, Zone 5 is 90-100% MHR and this is when you go all out.  This zone is mainly used for interval sessions and it is the zone that is probably the most uncomfortable / painful.  (But it makes you faster!).

To determine your zones, use the following formula:

[(Maximum Heart Rate – Resting Heart Rate) × %Intensity] + Resting Heart Rate

My target heart rate is the following for each zone (and this is using 55%, 65,% etc. of intensity):
Zone 1: 128
Zone 2: 142
Zone 3: 155
Zone 4: 169
Zone 5: 183

This website has a great chart describing how long a workout should be for each zone and even breaks down interval and recovery sessions.

I think using a heart rate monitor can be a very valuable tool.  It can tell you if you are working too hard, too easy, and if you are over training.  Raleigh, NC is quickly warming up and I know my times will slow down.  Instead of focusing on the pace per mile, I plan to start using heart rate zones as a way to monitor my efforts.  Maybe it will help to keep me off the injured list a little longer too.

Happy Trails and Happy Running,




9 Comments Post a comment
  1. iRuniBreathe #

    Great topic. Maybe it’s time for me to pull out my HRM as well. I’ve heard some people have great success paying attention to HR. I also just get frustrated and give up as my heart rate always seems so high!

    June 9, 2012
    • I’m right there with you but I think it’s probably best to know as much as possible about your body and performance. I’m looking at it as a useful tool. What kind of HRM do you have?

      June 10, 2012
      • A Garmin 305. I really like it, I just don’t use the HRM part of it much.

        June 10, 2012
  2. I never use my heart monitor either. But I’ve been wanting for the longest to plan better and train smarter, I will def look into incorporating heart rate monitoring in my training.

    June 12, 2012
    • Adri,
      I want to look into this topic a little more in depth. I’ll plan to do a little more research into when we should be training and for how long in which zones. Maybe that will help you with your training, as I’m hoping it will for me. I will say though, the one downfall for females using a HRM is it just doesn’t fit so well under the sports bra. Really uncomfortable! =/

      June 12, 2012
      • hehe.. tru dat! oh well just another thing on the way on your chest… I will def keep an eye out, I also plan on using the Garmin software to see the graphs and stuff…

        June 12, 2012
      • Garmin has great software for keeping track of your data! I’m doing a tabata interval session tomorrow so I’ll wear my HRM and see how it goes. BTW- are you watching this Miami Heat game?

        June 12, 2012
      • Yeah! can’t believe they are losing their lead, they always do the same thing, ugh!

        June 12, 2012

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