Heart rate training


I went out without my phone today as it was charging (it is getting to that age where a charge only lasts 24 hours and I haven’t quite caught up with this); so you are spared endless beach photos.

I did a long run to heart rate today. Well to be completely honest I modified what my Polar (RCX5) was suggesting in line with what I wanted to do, and what felt reasonable.

This is the second or third time I have reverted to training by heart rate and time instead of by distance which is my default. I felt I needed to because my heart rate had gone up (not sure when it happened, sometime in the last 6 months) from mostly under 160 for basic and long runs, to the upper 160/170s for all runs. There are many possible reasons for this, I have switched medication from Citalopram to Duloxetine and fiddled with the dose of both (or more accurately my GP has). And my running has been patchy, my cycling non-existent. But the most sensible thing seemed to be to slow it right down again and build up from a base.

For me running to heart rate means following a programme from Polar Personal Trainer (mildly irritating) which involves 10 minute warm up in one zone; a basic, interval or long run and a 5 minute cool down. As the runs are timed I always have trouble estimating out and back distance, so I habitually ignore the cool-down. There are caveats to using  these programmes; they are one size fits all to a certain extent (they do allow for age/activity level/past stats) and my Polar thinks I am 30 not 50 as the max heart rate(MHR) it estimates for me based on age is very far below my actual MHR. It still means that a lot of the sections it assumes will be a slow jog I have to walk because I suspect my natural heart rate is quite high. (My resting HR is about 54).


Example: I ignored most of the instructions for today’s long run. It suggested Zone 2 (114-133 bpm) for the whole thing, I can’t run at 133bpm, so I decided to keep it under 150. Which you can see I managed quite well. The prom was quite full today, so there are some stops and some speedier overtaking moves. Even keeping to 150 meant I had to stop and walk every 10 minutes or so to slow it down, especially towards the end. I think this was probably due partly to tiredness and partly to a measure of dehydration which is quite normal.

It is also good to bear in mind that there are things that make HRMs read oddly. Battery going is one, interference from another signal, thinking about things that make you cross (I sometimes get into a repetitive whinge cycle when I am running, an HRM will demonstrate the stupidity of this), having a full stomach when running and so-on. There is a good article here that covers the pluses and minuses. For me it works because it is a relatively objective guide to whether I am making an effort, it removes me from the onslaught of ‘shoulds’ (should be able to do this in 9 minutes, shouldn’t be out of breath here ) and because it makes me go very slowly means that I can never use the excuse of being too tired to go out. 8 miles in aeons.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Kate says:

    When I remember to wear the heart rate monitor strap, I never actually use the data during (or, in fact, after) my run or ride, mostly just look at it as one more detail and then move on. I know I’m probably missing out on some good information that I could actually make use of. Your “shoulds” are definitely one of those things I share and would be happy to get rid of.

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