Heart Rate Training for beginners.

Well who would have thought it?  I have been running too fast.  Yes I know.  Me. 

I was reading a couple of blogs recently (http://johnkynaston.com/, http://oldrunningfox.blogspot.co.uk/) where the authors were talking about their heart rates.  John made reference early on in his blogs about running a seven minute mile with a HR of 110 bpm and oldrunningfox (a gentleman in his early 80s) made reference about having a cold and finishing a run with a HR up in the 150’s!  Blimey. My HR goes above 110 just doing my warm up and in order to do a ten minute mile, my HR was generally above 160bpm. 

 So I figured, there had to be a way of running at a decent speed with a lower HR.  It turns out that there is.  It is called aerobic training.  I know that most people (especially those who run) know about aerobic training, but I didn’t.  When I started my marathon training to walkjogrun I didn’t really take much notice of the training days where it said run at 65-70% of HR on an easy day.  I just ran.  Likewise on the long slow days where I was supposed to run at 70-75% of HR I just ran.  It would appear that I was running too fast. 

 The whole idea of HR training is to build up your aerobic base, using fat as a fuel rather than the carbs in your muscles (glycogen).  If you run aerobically, you can run for longer.  A lot longer.  The training is all about getting more and more distance/speed for the same amount of effort.  I am all in favour of doing less effort, so this seemed ideal for me. 

I won’t go into great detail about how it all works, there is a whole range of information about HR training out there, from MAF training , to HADD training and more.  To start off with, identify your resting HR.  You are supposed to do this first thing in the morning (before you get up), over a few mornings.  I always forget to check mine in the morning but did check it when I had been sat doing nothing for a while (56bpm).  You need to sort out your maximum HR.  There are many and varied ways of doing this.  I plumbed for taking the highest reading that I had recorded in a game of football recently.  I also did a test whereby I ran hard for three lots of two minutes.  The maximum HR I am using is 186bpm.  Not too bad for (as a physiotherapist once told me) a man of a certain age.  From the maximum and resting HR you then work out your working HR. 

Luckily I can set the Garmin up with a workout which includes the HR range that I want to work in.  My timed runs are currently set in Zone 2 (65-70%) and my long runs are in Zone 3 (70-75%).  This means a HR of 141-147bpm and 147-152bpm.  I cannot explain how slow I have to go to keep the heart rate down to these levels.  And in all honesty that is still above what is determined to be my Maximum Aerobic Function. 

All the stuff I have read online indicates that HR training is slow, but I am almost at a shuffle.  And I sometimes even have to walk on the level bits, never mind the hills.  All the indications are, however, that after a few months of this training, my heart rate should stay the same but my pace should increase.  i.e.  faster for the same effort.  I can only hope.

My first run was 45 minutes in Zone 2 and was almost painful.  I kept to the roads and ran a loop past Tesco’s.  I did included a couple of fast pace bits to see what my maximum HR was but had to slow to a walk on a few occasions to get the HR down.  Total distance was 3.78 miles giving an average pace of 11.55 minute mile.  But I didn’t keep a constant HR due to the couple of burst of speed.

The second run was also 45 minutes in Zone 2.   I ran the paths and roads through Abbeymead to Upton St Leonards.  Thankfully, it being half-term, there weren’t loads of people out dropping their children off at school, so no one saw this slow old fool shuffling along the road  I did have to walk a few times to get the heart rate back down again.  I was really surprised at how easy the run felt though, which is what I guess it is all about.  It was definitely nicer coming downhill on the way back as I could open up the stride a bit while maintaining the hear rate.  Total distance was 3.38 miles giving an average pace of 13.19 minute mile.  Av HR 146. 

 I found a podrunner podcast with a tempo of 145 bpm but my feet are still taking very short steps to keep the heart rate down. 

I had a 30minute run to do this week before my long run and I ran the trail across the meadows.  Thankfully there was not the great big puddle by the stile.  However the mud was just as gloopy and the extra effort caused the HR to go up.  But before I knew it my half way point had been reached and I was heading home.  Average HR 146.  Average pace 14.18 minute mile.  I put the slower pace down to the mud which meant I had to slow right down to keep the effort down.

My slow run was a 6 miler in Zone 3.  I ran the alleys and paths to Upton St Leonard.  I took the dog with me and I think that my HR kept going up just pulling her back.  She shoots forward at the best of times but I think that she was really getting the hump running so slowly.  I continued through Upton St Leonards and took a back road back to Abbeymead before turning to run towards Robinswood Hill.  I found it a bit easier running in this Zone but still found that I had to walk a couple of times, especially on the hills (I use the term loosely).  I have to admit thought that I did feel good and felt that I could have kept this up for some time.  But then, why not, I was only going a bit quicker than a walk!

 The return journey was just as easy, although at one stage my HR shot up to 167bpm.  This was a combination of running uphill and then fighting to keep my dog from running across the road to say hello to another dog.  Thoughts of keeping within a HR Zone went out of the window until I had her under control.  As a result though, I had to walk for quite a bit to get the HR back down again.  Total distance – 6.05 miles at 12.33 minute mile.  Av HR 152.

 I have decided to stick with HR training for the foreseeable and will use the pace as a determination of whether I am getting better or not.  I do hope so, I don’t want to be running this slowly for ever.


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