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Maximize Training Runs: Using a Heart Rate Monitor

Posted Nov 29 2010 6:20am
The obsession with running is really an obsession with the potential for more and more life.
~George Sheehan

Do you train with a heart rate monitor? Training with a heart rate monitor is a great way to determine how hard you are working. Maybe you are working too hard, or maybe you are not working hard enough. Either way, monitoring your heart rate is a great way to determine the appropriate intensity for your workouts.

There are 2 ways you can measure your heart rate: Maximum Heart Rate and Heart Rate Reserve

Maximal Heart Rate can be determined by a functional capacity test or by age predicted maximal heart rate, which is typically 220 – age. The age predicted formula is not perfect, but it is what I use.

The Heart Rate Reserve method is similar to maximal heart rate, but takes into account your resting heart rate. The formula looks like this
Training Heart Rate = (Max HR – Resting HR) x Desired intensity + Resting HR
This all sounds very confusing but it is really simple! Stay with me and I will give you an example.
In order to make the most out of your training runs, each run should have a purpose. Here is a list of various types of runs you can do
Types of Runs
(According to Advanced Marathoning )
Long Run: Any run 16 miles or longer. Should be run at 10-20% slower than goal race pace.
Medium-Long Run: Any run of 11-15 miles. Reinforce the physiological benefits of your runs.
Marathon-Pace Run: Medium-long or long runs during which you run most of the miles at your goal marathon pace. These are a great confidence booster.
General Aerobic Run: Your standard, moderate-effort runs of up to 10 miles. Slower than tempo runs, shorter than medium-long runs, and faster than recovery runs.
Lactate-Threshold Run: Tempo runs in which you run for at least 20 minutes at your lactate-threshold pace, usually 15k-half marathon pace. 
Recovery Run: Relatively short runs done at a relaxed pace to enhance recovery for your next hard workout.
VO2 Max Intervals: Range from 600 meters to 1,600 meters in duration and are run at current 5k race pace.
Speed Training:  Repetitions of 50-150 meters that improve leg speed and running form. Speed training trains your nervous system to allow you to maintain a faster rate of leg turnover during your races.
After you plan what type of run you are going to complete, check the table below for the intensity range. For example, just say I am going to complete a Lactate Threshold run (tempo run).
Make the Most of your Training Runs
Training Workout % Maximal Heart Rate % Heart Rate Reserve
Long-Medium Long 74-84 65-78
Marathon Pace 79-88 73-84
General Aerobic 70-81 62-75
Recovery <76 <70
Lactate Threshold 82-91 77-88
VO2 Max (5K Pace) 93-95 91-94

According the the age predicted formula, my maximum heart rate should be about 194. According the the chart, a tempo run should be completed with an intensity of 82-91% of HR max.

194 x .82 = 159
194 x .91 = 176
Therefore, my target HR range (beats per min) should remain between 159-176 bpm.
You can also set your heart rate monitor to display in percentage of HR max instead of beats per min. For me, bpm is easier to analyze for some reason.

Why use Heart Rate Reserve?
Heart Rate Reserve takes into account the difference between resting and maximal heart rates, which represents the reserve of the heart for increasing cardiac output. Taking into account the resting heart rate allows for a more accurate target heart rate because it considers current fitness levels.

ExampleMax HR: 194
Resting HR: 55
Run: Lactate Threshold ( 77-88%)
Target HR = (194 – 55) x .77 + 55 = 162
Target HR = (194 – 55) x .88 + 55 = 177
Target HR Range: 162-177 bpm
This does seem like a lot of work before you can even head out for a run, but the numbers don’t change much so you can calculate all your numbers and put them on an index card or print out the table above and set your HR monitor to percent range.

Knowing your target heart rate zones can tell you if you are working to hard during a general aerobic run or if your VO2 max run is really only a threshold run. It can help you to train smarter and become a better runner.

What do you think? Is this too much work or smart training? Do you run or workout with a heart rate monitor?
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