Heart Rate

Heart Rate Training…. is it necessary???  I would dare say no.  Now, before the community stops breathing because I have broken a cardinal rule of training, I want you to understand and know a couple things.

1.  I am old school.  I graduated high school in 1985… long before heart rate monitors were common place in training.  I was a sprinter (400m) who became a distance runner, and later a triathlete in grad school.  I ran cross-country in high school for something to do.

We measured intensity by our times.  You either were running fast or slow that day.  We knew practice ended at 5pm, and we needed to be back at the school from our long runs No Later Than 4.45pm.  We knew we were in trouble when we saw our coach on the road with his truck, coming to pick us up…. or when he was chasing us up a hill with a stick.

I ran fast without ever knowing what my heart rate was doing.  It went up when I ran and down when I wasn’t running.   In fact the first time I wore a monitor, I thought the beeping was because I wasn’t working hard enough, so I increased my tempo and effort, which I maintained for a 7-mile run.  Later, when I read the manual, I realized the truth.  *note to self:  read the manual before playing with the toy.*

BTW, I was fast.  And to this day, I can do a complete workout with a stop watch or timer and my sneakers.

2.  I completely respect the work of all the researchers who have developed and instructed and shared the zones for training.  It might important to know your zones.  It is not important to be dependent on them.

Sometimes, I observe newbies and oldies, so focused on all the technology and gadgets that they forget to just go RUN.  I mean by the time the programming and fixing and hooking and setting, I could have run already.  JUST GO RUN!  

A great book to learn the basics of heart rate training is Total Heart Rate Training, by Joe Friel.

3.  I have seen heart rate paralyze someone.  Heart rate should be empowering.  It should be used to monitor progress;  not to dictate it (unless you are overtraining).

I had an athlete so obsessed with the number on the screen that he missed out on a podium.  His heart rate paralyzed him.

Someone mentioned she didn’t like using it, because she didn’t like the bad results.

We associate a number with performance.

*did you know your competition heart rate is higher than your training heart rate?*

4.  The brain controls the body.  In Brain Training For Runners, Matt Fitzgerald, discusses science that is missed by many who rely soley on heart rate to manage their training.

5.  I firmly believe that endurance sports are supposed to be done fast.  We need to train to go fast.  We need to learn to step out of our comfort zone.  We need to practice this.  This means your heart rate may be higher than said training zone.


6.  Use the other tools available to you.  Percieved exertion, Cadence, your stop watch.  Learn how to put these in your training.  Ask your coach to teach you how to utilize these appropriately.  And when you are recording your training details include these.

Heart rate is a single tool in the tool box.  Heart rate is influenced by SO many things, the reliability can be questioned.  It is something to use for observation.  It is not something that should dictate what you are doing!

The most important part of training, is the training.

This post was inspired by the FB chatter today.  Thank you again for your candor and your questions.  I truly appreciate these and your insights.  Please, please, please feel free to reach out for clarification and/or questions you may have.

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