Saturday, 21 March 2015

My Summer Training strategies - Heart rate training

   A while ago I posted about my experiences with Heat Rate training (initial post and the follow up post). With my increasing training load for the Roller Coaster run (a write up to come) and the Great Ocean Road in May, for my training during the Australian Summer I needed to find a baseline and manageable limit to my training.
   With a change in family lifestyle in February this year, my weekday training had to make the switch to afternoons. At the time I was super excited to not have to get out of bed, hit the road early and train before school. Most of the time I really enjoyed it, but in trying to establish better sleeping habits I liked the idea of an extra 20-25 minutes in bed each day.
   Fast-forward 6 weeks and it’s tougher than I thought. A long day, the drive home and then a regular 27 – 30 degree C heat I’m needing to find motivation and regularity. For me the regularity has become my heart rate.
I’ve continued to love my easy long runs, and have had no issue with running them at a heart rate of 140 – 145 on the flatter runs, while on the hillier runs I aim to keep it at 145 and up to 150 on the incline. Yes speed drops, but effort has to remain consistent. This also means I need to push a little harder on the decline – no slacking off. I’ve again built up to happily running 2 hours over varying terrain and gradients.
   As I mentioned, after work has been the challenge. So in the last 4 weeks and after some experimentation and realisation, I’ve been targeting 160 BPM as my happy place. I calculated it as about 90% of my working heart rate – 185 recorded max this year – 10%. Using a formula from Brian Mac, Sports coach, my 85% zone is 163 so when I push it that little more or allow it to fluctuate due to the many variables in a run and life I’ve been hitting the sweet spot. There are many different formulas out there. 160 seemed to be where I could manage a stupid steep 2km hill climb or push 3km on a constant 3-6% uphill course at about 4 – 4:15 minute km pace.
You can check out some of the data @

   So how am I utilising this? My weekday runs are a mix of a 5.5km rather steep hill run (Roughly 50% mix of ascent and descent as its out and back) where I limit 165 on the up and push to stay at 160 on the down (that stupid 2km incline inc), 7km over 3.5km out at a 3-6% gradient hill at 160 before pushing the speed to hit and maintain the 165 on the descent, 1km trails repeats on a favourite track at 160 bpm, dropping to 145 bpm during static recovery before the next repeat, diminishing ks where I start at a pace and increase the speed every k over 5km and finally varying high speed intervals (100m on an incline on a bush trail or up to 500m on the Warby Trail) where I try to max and sustain 165 – 170 and recover with a 50m walk. I think I get a great mix of training on my two nights a week and as I lost my foot pod, I’ve only had HR to go on.  And, this gives me a constant when the temperature has been hot. With the new Ambit 3 I bought I’ll be able to monitor HR and speed. The speed component I’ll only look at at the end of each run as I want to train my heart, not the head.   

   How do I know where I’m working? At 145 bpm or less I rarely have to think about my breathing, and if I do I can easily breathe nasally during the intake and exhale through the mouth. 150 bpm and higher I start to focus on my cadence and breathing in for three strides and out for two, on a 3-2 inhale-exhale cycle. At 160 BPM I drop to a 2-1 inhale exhale cycle and really have to focus hard to breathe nasally although I do revert to all breathing through the mouth when pushed.
   So, the big question is, has it worked? I’ve only really just found 160 BPM to be that happy place in the last few weeks and as luck would have it, my evening run nights have been those hot and humid nights that we all don’t love to train in. I’ve pushed the 1.1km repeats to 170 but by the third my time over the 1.1km dropped by 35 – 35 seconds.  Perhaps 160 has been an inflated target that’s not pushed me enough. I'll also monitor my resting HR by lying down for a minute (just enough to relax) and work from there. If it's a lower HR I'll be able to push harder, if it starts higher I may just take things a fraction easier. And, theres always just going by how you feel. 
   You’ll have to come back for my Maroondah Dam 8km race report to find out just how it all worked, as this was a race of pure forget the rest strategy. It was all about me and learning what makes my keeping ticking.

   Cheers and happy training, the Fish!

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