Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Heart Rate Training - It's got my blood pumping!

   Why does 5:05 excite me? It excites me because it points to progress. It excites me because it is very achievable and it excites me because I have something new to chase. For a little background keep reading, to get to what I’m excited about skip to the heart…

   My last couple of posts have been about my training and how I’m using me Heart Rate to guide my training and racing to maximise my effort at a maintainable level. A couple of years ago I tried a similar strategy and I think I gained some good growth in my running with it, but I never persisted with it. I did improve my pace from initially over 6:00 min/k pace to 4:55 pace. Then I stopped. I’m not sure why, ego?  
   Now I have started again and it excites me. My early training – since Feb this year was purely by HR, and I had no indication of the pace I was running at. I targeted 145 Bpm as I had trained to this before and my reading suggested that this number is the ideal number for nearly all runners, regardless of ability. 

   There are many formulas you can use, I struck on this one due to a blog that I read. As with anything new, you always question it and a little research lead me to and Both blogs heavily support the 180 rule developed by Dr.Philip Maffetone  which is essentially 180Bpm – your age for your long run HR pace, or maximal aerobic capacity development. I've also posted on these pages and eagerly await some feedback on my training mix. 
   Since picking up the Suunto Ambit in early March I was only recording my HR. Now I can record my HR and then analyse the pace at the end of a run, and in more detail on the computer at home. My last three weekend long runs have been at the 145 Bpm average, but the varied terrain and incline made it difficult to gauge average pace. Close analyse of the data showed I was running at 5:45- 5:55 on the flats.

   Last Tuesday I did what I call a HR pyramid on a flat 700m section of the trail. This was to gauge my pace on the flat at set HR zone. Rep 1 was above 140 Bpm, rep 2 was above 150, rep 3 above 160, rep 4 was above 170 and rep 5 was to be a flat out HR max.  I could only hit 177 as the max and held it to make 2 x 350 intervals. What were the times I was doing?
  •  140-145 Bpm = 4:36 km pace
  •  155 – 160 = 4:32
  •  165 – 170 = 3:56
  •  170 – 175 = 3:37
  •  175+ was 3:18 pace
   This has been fairly consistent with my other training runs and 160 – 170 Bpm seems to be the ‘comfort zone’ where I can now push for a couple of km to finish the last 300-400m at the 180 redline and roughly 3:30 pace for a strong 5km finish. My recent Parkrun was very similar –I started at 160 Bpm and a roughly 4:30 pace and the last 1.5km was run at 170+ for a 3:35  final km.

Heart rate training
   Now why did today's run excite me? I was feeling a little full of cold before heading off to run, so the planned tempo hill run became and EZ run. It took about 800m for the HR to settle (a little longer than usual), it maxed at 179 then instantly settled at 138 Bpm. Yes, it was an extra EZ run and I enjoyed the 2-3% downhill for 3.5 of the 6.25 kms on the 30 minute out trip.To give an indication, when running this trail the gradient change is subtle, but when riding you go from coasting along to a constant pedal to keep moving. The exciting part is that my average pace was 5:04 and even hit 4:16 on the slightly downhill sections. On the return trip I allowed my HR to push to 143 average up the hill and the pace hit 5:13kms, with a peak of 4:16 on the true flat of the last 300m.

   The question is, is my two high intensity, 165 + interval or tempo sessions where I aim to build endurance at the high end going to complement the strength I'm developing at the low end?

   I’m hoping this is the tip of the iceberg, the breakthrough run where it all falls into place. If I can maintain this pace for the effort level at the Great Ocean Road half marathon I will smash last years’ time out of the water.

  My 12km #citytrail run Sunday the 19th will be another experiment - can I mainitain that magic 160 Bpm for 8 km, and then finish strong at 170 Bpm for the last 4km? It will be a physiological and psychological challenge but one I am very much looking forward to!

   I'll let you know!


  1. great post lachie! i've also tinkered with heart rate training but for whatever reason don't focus on it as seriously as i do on plain ol' pace-driven training. i admire your ability to map and track your progress - here's hoping the citytrail run is another breakthrough for you!

    1. Thanks Patrick. Like you I have toyed with this on and off, but now I'm taking it seriously. As I said, not having gps meant that pace driven training was not really an option for me, and tracking the data after each session is lots of fun. You should give it a go on your next EZ run. Chuck on the strap, hit 145 BPM and see how your pace goes. I'd love to know, I reckon Stan should give it a crack too!