A handful of times since I started blogging, I’ve seen the question, “If you had one piece of advice for a new runner, what would it be?”
Last week I covered my first piece of advice – get fitted for shoes!
Today I’m covering my second piece of advice – stop running so dang fast!
No. Seriously. Run slower.
(I probably only read about half of the book because after going into detail about heart rate training, I found a lot of the concepts to be psuedo-science and to prevent myself from throwing my iPad across the room, I found it best to put it down).
What is Heart Rate Training
Traditionally, when someone starts with a training program, they pick a goal time and train to that. Usually, people have a pretty good idea about their overall fitness, but it can be really easy to be training at too fast a pace and not know it.
Heart rate training does away with the arbitrary pace requirements and allows you to train specifically to your body. Instead of focusing on a certain pace goal, you focus on training within a certain heart rate zone.
While they may not be vastly different, I feel like heart rate training does a better job at reflecting where your body is.
Why Train by Heart Rate
Ever since I started running, I’ve been pretty passionate about running long runs slow.
Like, really slow. Slower than that 😉
Training by heart rate does away with this obsession we have with our paces.
How often have you had a run that was, in all honesty, a good run, but then you felt crappy because your pace was slow?
It’s kind of stupid to let that number affect how we feel about ourselves and running isn’t it?
Our bodies do not know the difference between stress brought on from running, lack of sleep, emotional stress, a bad day at work, a fight with your partner, an unusually hot day, an unusually cold day, and the list goes on.
Stressors in life usually result in an elevated heart rate. In a typical training scenario, we head out the door with our goal pace in time and fight to hit those paces. But when we use our paces, we aren’t adjusting them for the curveballs life throws our way.
By relying on heart rate as an indicator of effort, we may end up running at a somewhat slower pace on a high stress day, and by doing so, we aren’t overloading our bodies.
In short (and what I probably should have said at the outset): running by heart rate will make you faster and reduce injuries.
Runners get injured when we increase distance and intensity too much, too soon. Heart rate training puts a cap on that intensity number while still allowing you to get your distance in.
What about that whole “getting faster” think you ask?
As you continue to run in the easy heart rate zone, your body will adapt and you’ll be able to run at a quicker pace in that easy heart rate zone. Sounds pretty awesome, right?!
(There’s also a whole bunch of theory about how this will train your body to burn fat as fuel on long runs instead of relying on glycogen/carbohydrates. Check out some of the links below for more detailed information on that).
How to Train by Heart Rate
Step 1: buy yourself a heart rate monitor 😉
Step 2: figure out your heart rate zones.
The MAF 180-formula is a very simple way to determine your easy day (recovery day) zones for your heart rate.
Step 3a: if you aren’t currently training for a race, my recommendation would be to spend 6-8 weeks (yup) building your base by solely running by heart rate. This means all of your runs should be in that MAF 180-formula zone.
Step 3b: if you are training for a race, take a week and run how you normally would, but pay attention to your heart rate. For any long runs and recovery runs, make sure you’re running “in the zone”. For speed work and tempo runs, take a peek to make sure you’re not pushing yourself beyond where you should be.
Applying Heart Rate Training
My marathon training program is currently 5 days per week. Of these days, two are what I call “working” days (where I have speed work, tempo runs, pace goals), two are easy/recovery days and one is a long run.
I will only ever look at my pace on the two working days, but even then, I still consider my heart rate. If I’m aiming for a pace goal that is supposed to be a tempo pace, but my heart rate is at 90% of my max, I’m running too fast for me, for that day, so I’ll slow it down.
On my recovery and long run days, I run within my MAF prescribed heart rate zone and I pay zero attention to my pace (seriously, I don’t even have on my screen).
[Tweet “Run slow to run faster? Come learn about heart rate training for runners #runchat #fitfluential #sweatpink “]
Metabolic Efficiency Training with Sunny Blende and Tim Flemming (a great podcast from Trail Runner Nation)
While finishing my research for this post, I came across an article by Runner’s Connect listing reasons Why You Shouldn’t Train with a Heart Rate Monitor, and yet, a lot of those reasons are ones I think you should train with one. It just goes to show that different people have different results.
Do you have experience with training by heart rate? Tell me about it!
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