Sunday, July 7, 2013

Heart rate training

I'm really enjoying heart rate training. I started doing it a few months ago, but only loosely following it; I would do some runs based on heart rate, but others, I would do based on pace, so I didn't get the full effect. But I finally decided to trust the process and just dive in completely.

The easy runs have been, well, easy. The only goal has been to keep my heart rate below a certain number (in Zone 1), even if it feels ridiculously slow. Zone 2 is for my long runs and steady state runs (a steady state run is slower than a tempo, but faster than an easy run). Zone 3 is for tempo runs. And Zone 4 is for speed work.

Like I said, Zone 1 was very easy to do. Then on Friday, I had to try out Zone 2 for my long run, and it was great. It made me a little worried about my tempo run, though. I wasn't sure I'd be able to get my heart rate high enough and sustain it long enough for the tempo run.

Anyway, today was a tempo run day, so I was nervous to test out Zone 3. I decided to just run until my heart rate reached Zone 3 (162-175 bpm), then run 3 miles in Zone 3, and then cool down until I reached 4 miles total. (So basically, three miles at tempo pace and one mile warm-up/cool down.)

I headed outside early, at 7:00, before it would get too hot. It was already super humid. When I started running, I tried not to start out too fast. It took a little less than half a mile before my heart rate reached Zone 3. I hit the "lap" button on my Garmin to start my tempo miles and tried to hold my pace to keep my heart rate in the zone.

It was a hard run! I really wanted to stop and walk, but I knew, logically, that I could make it through the whole three miles at tempo pace. Tempo runs are supposed to feel hard enough that you want to stop, but you could sustain that pace for about an hour. When my Garmin beeped after the first tempo mile, I saw that I did that mile in 7:56! I was shocked, but happy to see that I was still able to run a sub-8:00 mile after seeing my pace get slower as the days get hotter.

The second mile was a lot slower, at 8:22. That was kind of disheartening, because I was working just as hard (my heart rate was still up in the middle of the zone). During the third mile, I was tempted to try and pick up the pace to be done sooner, but it's better to have even splits, so I tried to keep the same pace.

When I hit the end of the third tempo mile, I was dying to just stop and walk, but I ran slowly to cool down until I made it home. I was pouring sweat, and I sat outside for a couple of minutes so I didn't drip sweat all over the living room. But you know what? It felt AWESOME.

It was then that I realized that I really like heart rate training. Training by heart rate gives me permission to run slowly on my easy run days (something I have a hard time with). Running slowly makes me really enjoy the runs while I'm running. The tempo run itself wasn't very enjoyable (it's hard!) but I felt absolutely fantastic when I was done.

Because I don't have a goal race right now, and I'm not working on a PR or anything, I think it will be fun to see where the heart rate training takes me. I'm going to trust the whole process and see what happens. I'm already looking forward to tomorrow's run, because it's going to be in Zone 1--which is very slow and easy.

So anyway, sorry that I've been writing so much about heart rate lately. It's been kind of experimental for me! (If anyone is interested, here is the website where I calculated my heart rate zones. I've tried other zones, calculated various ways, but I like this one the best so far.)

In other news, my eating has been really crappy this week. As soon as my sister and I stopped texting our food logs to each other, I picked up where I'd left off--eating too much, most of it junk. Grr! So I'm going to take some of the advice I wrote on yesterday's blog, and DO IT. I plan on weighing in at Weight Watchers on Friday, so that's an incentive to keep on track.

Tomorrow, we're getting together with Sarah and Ne one more time before they head back to Arizona. I think we're going to go out for pizza and then come play Euchre at my house. The last time we went out for pizza, I did really well--I ate two slices of a small, which I counted as 16 PP total. I plan to do the same thing tomorrow.

Sorry if you already saw this on Instagram, but I saw this funny card at the store and had to take a picture of it!

Don't forget, tomorrow is Motivational Monday, so if you did something that you're proud of this week, and want to share on the blog, you can e-mail me a pic and a short description (subject: Motivational Monday). I may include it on tomorrow's post!  My e-mail address is SlimKatie (at) runsforcookies (dot) com.


  1. So are you doing the MAF program? I've never tried the heart rate training but I'm starting to think I might like it. I didn't know if there were different programs or if it's all the same.

    1. I'm not sure what program that is, but I just wrote my own training plan, and instead of basing the runs on a specific pace, I base them on heart rate.

    2. I'm thinking about doing MAF for a few months when I return to running. It's meant for developing an aerobic base (having your body trained to metabolize more efficiently, and to use fat instead of glycogen for fuel). It gives you an objective measure of when you have achieved that, and can begin speed training (tempo runs, intervals, etc). MAF is a specific type of heart rate training; it's not all the same.

  2. I like that heart rate calculator site. I have read so much about heart rate training that I was completely overwhelmed and didn't know what zones to use and what numbers to put to each zone. It looks like that one uses a Karvonen or "heart rate reserve" method to calculate the zones, which I prefer. I like that they map it directly to types of runs, and that there are only four. I'm going to reprogram my watch with those zones right now!

  3. Great run!! Running sub 8min miles is something that many of us earthlings are only dreaming of. You did this in training, so it can only get better from there! You can't go wrong with HR based training, but make sure you don't fall into the trap of liking it too much, it teaches your body to run slow if you don't mix it enough with some hard sessions like this one. ;-)

  4. Great job on your run and your sub eight minute mile! I used to always feel the need to push myself each run and I'm sure I was doing a terrible job at staying in the right zone. Now that I am marathon training I have no problem taking some runs easy and look forward to those easy ones! And that card basically sounds like our house at Thanksgiving. :)

  5. My son goes to overnight camp in WI (Camp Chi) and their favorite pastime is playing Euchre, I've never heard of it before (I'm from the East Coast originally) but I've been learning that it's a pretty popular thing in WI! Good luck with your Friday weigh in - I've been weighing in on Fridays also :)

  6. Just wanted to say how inspiring your posts are,...thanks for sharing your journey!

  7. Thanks for talking about the heart rate training. I am always at a loss for what do with running now that I am not training for anything. I just go out and run and I always try to do my best and I try to do some variations with running faster, or adding in a longer run. Some days I am slower than others. I was able to do 3 miles in 30 mins or under this winter and spring, and now that it's hot and humid, I am much slower. I have a hard time breathing and then get a cramp in my side which slows me down. With running, the hardest part for me is breathing. My legs and body feel very strong and usually they never feel tired unless I am doing more than 5 or 6 miles, but I get out of breath. I guess it's because I still have weight to lose, so maybe as I lose more weight I'll be able to breathe better.

  8. I found your blog the other day through a commenter on Women's Running Community (WRC) Facebook's page.
    I have to say that I am in awe of you! I read a couple of your past posts already and I can't wait to be a reader of your blog!
    Thanks so much for sharing your inspirational story!!!! :)

  9. Glad you're enjoying our heart rate calculator and found the zones helpful. Our goal was to keep it as simple as possible and sounds like it worked :)

    If I may add some resources to the conversation, here are three articles and an interview I think you will enjoy:

    3 things to be wary of when training by heart rate:

    Cardiac drift and HR:

    Using HR to monitor overtraining:

    Someone mentioned the MAF method, which is based on Phil Maffetone's work. Here is an in-depth interview with him:

    Best of luck with your training!

  10. Thank you for posting the link to the heart rate calculator site. I have been curious for months on how this works. I bought a heart rate monitor several months ago. Now I am going to actually try training with it. My problem is keeping it in the "easy" run zone. I tend to have a higher heart rate than the chart says. I am going to give it a try! Thanks again for the information. As usual, you have been a help to me :-)

  11. Your posts are always so timely for me in my training process! I loved the CamelBak review as I've started looking into water carrying options, and I've been studying like mad this whole heart-rate training stuff. I know I am constantly in Zone 3 and 4 and I think it actually works against me after a while. I'm so grateful for the link and knowing you are discovering this along with me. Thank you!