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Heart rate training - Long post

This last week has been so interesting. I have yet again learned so much about myself. I started the week reading a book last week called Heart Rate training for Compleat Idiots. (Yes that is how it is spelt, my dyslexic brain didn't pick up on it but hubby pointed it out). It took me two nights to read through the whole book, I was so engrossed. Mainly because I could see that this might just be the missing link for me as regards to my running.

I run/walk and I am happy with that but I think I have reached the pinnacle of my speed as regards to running. I am knocking time of my overall run but I now think my walking is getting faster not my running. My high heart rate always seems to stop me in my tracks after too long. So over the course of last week I logged my resting heart rate and went through all my event data to find my maximum heart rate. My personal maximum is 188. Apparently it's genetic and doesn't change no matter how fit you get as it's a static number. Your resting heart rate can be quite flexible apparently. More on that to come.

So I did all my calculations and went out for my recovery run. Set my workout on my watch. The plan is most of your runs are to be recovery runs. Now I would of sworn blind I was doing that. I really thought I was doing speed/hard runs and slow/easy runs. So out I went with my hrm on and set off to keep my heart rate under 147 bpm. Not long into my first spurt of running I felt the vibration in my wrist (Garmin 220) telling me My heart rate had exceeded the maximum 147 bpm for this run. I slowed down and it continued to vibrate. Moved on to a slow walk, it came down. Set off at a slower pace and it stayed down, forgot and went back to my usual pace off it went again. The whole run was like that.

The test run I was on was a 10km with hills, I wanted to have a base run so as time goes on I can check how I am doing. I was nearly at a stand still a couple of times on the hills but I kept to the plan. All In all the run took me an extra 10min to complete and that meant that I was 5min slower than my fast walk pace. But the whole point of it is to train my heart rate to work more efficiently and hopefully bring down my exercise pulse, therefore allowing me a better and faster run period.

I know that this is running getting a bit technical now but I'm a sort of learn all I can about my own body sort of person. I want to keep running and I want to keep my heart very healthy. I am always in awe Of What goes on behind the scenes with my own body. It does so much without me knowing. I just want to help it out a bit.

So on to the second part which was supposed to be today, my speed heart rate session. Well basically I'm not going. Yesterday I went and did a 50 Len swim and swum too fast. I was really pleased with myself but it means I can't speed run today. Part of the program for heart rate training is you take a morning pulse before you get out of bed. I do this with the help of my iPod touch and a free app. It uses the camera and led light to monitor you pulse, it's called Runtastic heart rate. So every morning I have been checking it. Most mornings it is pretty much the same but after a heavy training session it's about 7-9 beats higher so this means no heavy training until its down to the normal range again to avoid overtraining. Now to be honest this morning I really wanted to run but if I was totally honest I didn't feel quite ready but In The past I would of gone out. Today I will do some push-ups,squats and sit ups and some really good stretch work Instead.

Sorry for the really long post but I was keen to share what I'm doing and see if anyone has any thoughts. I would have had no idea that I was training to that sort of Intensity before. I'm hoping that as time goes on my ability to do more will go up but not to the point that I am exhausted.

Now where is Bazza, I'm sure he has a handle on all this. I'm sure he must be back off his cruise soon.

Happy healthy running to you all.

17 Replies

That's a very interesting post RFC and gives a lot of food for thought. I must say I have never trained to my heart rate but it makes sense and I should because the reason I started this programme was to get fitter but do it safely. And it would be good to work within your heart limits and not overdo it.

I've had a few treadmill tests over the years as part of company health/fitness assessments and I was always very surprised at how LITTLE your heart rate needs to increase for improving fitness levels. I think many of us probably push too hard too soon.

It sounds as if you are doing really well in monitoring your heart rate. I wish you well with it all.


Thank you. I'm feeling fitter and healthier than I ever have now and my sole aim is to stay that way. I have realised energy wise I'm tending towards boom and bust hence the new approach, like you I think it's better if its all about feeling healthier.


That is interesting, i have wanted to find my max HR as the calculation HRmax = 220 - Age which seems the most common calculation. seems a bit high and i never get anywhere near that number or maybe I am not pushing myself hard enough to ever get to the max.

Maybe i should read the book.

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I have always worn my heart rate monitor for events and I tend to go like the clappers at the start and during and my heart rate always tops 188. If I were to do the average way I would have a max of 185 so not that much different. One of the reasons for starting this is when I run my heart rate always run high and I'm trying to work to bring it down. I must admit I do find it hard to train really hard but I think that's natural.


This is fascinating, Thankyou so much for taking the time to explain it all... I have been a bit fascinated with it all since I got my new Garmin as it has an integral HR monitor. It's already worked out all my zones and I love doing random tests doing different activities!! It would be great if you could keep us posted on your progress and what you have learnt...


I think I've probably simplified it a lot but that's the best way for me to get my head round it. I will keep updating as I think it is going to make a really big difference to my training. I already feel more refreshed today from listening to my heart rate this morning and not running. I am really keeping my fingers crossed that I can run tomorrow providing there is no snow. Have you got the new Garmin with wrist hrm. That's on my list if I could justify needing a new one when mine less than 2 years old. 😄Happy panthering


Thanks for that. I don't measure my HR. Partly because about 15 yrs ago tried training for the Inca Trail at the gym and would hit the maximum HR they had given me before I was too out of breath and could still talk fairly easily. Often wonder how it would be now as am much fitter in general. Training didn't help much anyway- the altitude did for me!! Maybe I will give it a go.


I know what you mean. I was hyperthyroid for years without knowing and my heart rate ran really high, but I would be out of breath with it. I think it now goes there at any cardio. I'm trying to use this to find a happier beat to run to. Oh Inca trails that has always been on my. Bucket iist but they do warn you the altitudes are bad, I'm not sure how I would be with that.


Inca trail is something I am so glad that I have done but altitude and I don't go togethe. Never had an experience where my legs literally wouldn't move until had stopped to settle hr and breathing - and that was about every 10 steps at the highest poin. Can only think the little oxygen I had on board was going to vital organs onl. Marvellous things these bodies of ours.


I do occasionally run with the heart rate screen on my Garmin and try and slow myself down sometimes. It is a struggle though, especially when there are hills in the way. I was very pleased when I did my recovery run last tuesday as I actually managed an average heart rate of 141, whereas usually it's more like 150. According to heart rate zones it should be below 140, but I guess I was getting close. On my final HM training run though it was between 157 - 167, although I am sure that average is distorted by the fact that it's a long distance and heart rate stays high towards the end.


That's a good recovery heart rate. At that I'm more walking at the moment but I'm hoping that will change. It is going to be interesting how it changes as the intensity gets bumped up in the next few weeks for HM training.


This is a great post - thank you Rfc. I've been running to my hr since I got my Tomtom a year and a bit ago. It is a bit of an eye opener!

I too found that my slow runs were too fast - and some of my fast runs definitely too slow. I do use the watch to pace myself much more now. I find that concentrating on regulating my breathing can bring down my hr as much, if not more, than slowing down. It is a very different discipline running to a slower hr, but I have found it pays off. It helped increase my stamina enourmously and now I am gradually getting faster again, too.


Good to know your speed is coming back. I think its going to be quite a long journey for me but worth it. I agree before I slow down I try and take more relaxed breaths and that can help.


Hi Realfoodieclub

While I have been away, I have still managed to get in quite a few “runs” – in the ship’s gym and around the decks (none have been “optimal” ) and I did one “leisurely” parkrun in Capetown.

I used my HR monitor on the treadmill – this monitor is just a “cheapie” but it does talk to the machines and displays my HR numbers on the screen so I did not have to hold the treadmill handles (an impossibility when running)

I have done quite a bit of HR workouts over the past 2 years to try to get an understanding of my body. It is very important to get a fairly accurate understanding of your maximum heartrate to get much benefit out of HR training. Ignore the 220-age formula -this is very much a discredited formula these days – you will find closer approximations using other formulas found elsewhere on the Internet. But even these newer formulas still only give an “average” and are not personally specific. For me, the old formula gives me a max HR of only 150. However I have found on a few occasions after a hard parkrun including a VERY hard 200 metre “sprint” at the finish, that my max HR is 165. Hence, when I run on a treadmill, I have to tell the machine that I am only 55years old, otherwise it goes beserk whenever I get up to around 90% of my max!! 

Most running trainers seem to say that most amateur runners run too hard on the days when they are supposed to be running easy – and run too easy on those fewer days when they are supposed to be running hard!!  It seems that the best use for HR monitor training is to ensure that we keep our HR down on our easy and long run days!! Running too hard on these days leads to burnout out/overtraining. No more than two hard run days per week – and remember that a long run (even when run at an easy pace) turns into a hard day because of it’s length. A hard day (such as when doing FAST intervals) should take us up to around 90% of HR max – but only once per week. But also remember that we are NOT competitive runners – we really run for other reasons, and it is very easy to get sucked in by the competitive nature of running. I see this a lot at parkrun with it’s underlying ethos – of “Do your best!”, “compete with yourself!”, improve your PB!”. There is nothing wrong with this -- but not trying to do these things every week!!! 


Hi Bazza, good to hear from you again hope you have been having fun. I must admit I was very surprised at my lack of easy runs. The other thing that it has thrown up is my swimming is fast cardio as well as you can tell in the morning hart rate after a fast 50 Len swim so there have to be quite a few rest days factored in now. That is really helping me focus in my core and stretches and I am feeling stronger only after a couple of weeks. I think I have been training far to hard for a while now. The wake up call was after a sport massage I was told I had good strong legs but they were showing signs of over training so adding stretch sessions were more important than more runs. I am moulding my training to me now and it is suiting me quite well.

I still have my goals but no specific time frame that they have to be done by. My aim is to be trained up for 5-10km runs and HM walks. (Which I am already) Then enjoy the weekly training and do a bit of cross training too.


You last paragraph is about me too - 5-10K runs and HM run/walks at moderate paces :) Have been seeing people at parkrun injuring themselves and also people on Facebook showing obvious ( to me) signs of over training. Try run/walking around 1minute/30 secs - that is how I did my one and only HM. You should check out the Facebook group -- Galloway method UK group


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