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Heart rate training: 85 percent of max equals my half-marathon pace – on a cold day

Posted Aug 18 2011 12:54pm

I had one of those, “Let’s see where I’m at” type of runs today.

-Let’s see how fit I am.


-Let’s see how out of shape I am.

I like to wear a heart rate monitor on these runs, not so I can monitor my heart rate during the workout, but so I can see what my perceived effort during the run looks like on a computer screen after the run.

I secretly hope I have enough energy and willpower to keep my heart rate over 85 percent max during a workout like this, which is like a glorified tempo run.

What’s magic about 85 percent of your maximum heart rate?

For me, 85 percent is how hard my heart works during a half marathon.

90 percent or higher is my 5k to 10k pace.

On EVERY run that is not a 5K or 10k, I want NO part of 90 percent max heart rate (unless it’s for a few minutes during a ½ mile or 1k interval.

For a speed workout, you are really not stressing your body in the right way with a workout where your heart rate doesn’t get above 80 percent.

So 85 percent max heart rate is my “Must-do” number. And 90 percent means I’m working too hard.

As you can see from the chart, I warmed up for two miles before hitting my stride, so to speak. At 85 percent of heart rate maximum, I can still talk and it doesn’t feel like I’m drowning. Mile 5’s slow time (7:52) was due to the fact that I stopped for water, stopped my watch, and after re-starting, it took a little while before I was back to running hard again.

Felt pretty good that I was able to do sub 7:30 the last mile without tryining too hard, i.e., without my heart rate soaring past 90 percent max.

The verdict is that I’m still nowhere close to the shape I was in during January, when I could run a half marathon at 85 percent heart rate max at a pace of about 7:00 min/mile. 30 seconds faster than today.

But it’s still 80 degrees out when I run. And with a December marathon, I’ve got time to regain my fitness.

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