Strategy #1: Vary Your Training
Finally, one important factor that contributes to high heart rate when running is muscle economy. In particular, how conditioned the body is at using certain muscle groups in a specific way. Athletes with inefficient form or not adapted biomechanics cannot produce as much force as they could. As a result, the heart rate will be higher.
There are a few ways to improve running economy:
Faster running promotes good running form and activation of posterior chain muscles hamstrings and glutes. To start with, add a few strides after an easy run or even do a fartlek session once a week. The body adapts quickly to faster running you might even notice that 1-2 days following such a session it feels a little easier to run.
Uphill running puts the body in a more efficient position against the ground and also promotes good running form and activation of posterior chain. In the beginning of the season its a very good idea to include long hill repeats to improve running economy.
Strength training is an efficient way how to improve running economy and over time lower heart rate while running. In particular, it helps to develop strength in run-specific muscle groups and do so without the detrimental effect of additional volume. Include 1-2 strength sessions per week focusing on strength of prime movers and core.
A Beginners Guide To Heart Rate Training
Written by Mikula
A lot of occasional runners want to improve their performance but dont know how to train to achieve this. Depending on your goal, gaining endurance or getting faster, you need to train at different intensity levels. Heart rate training can help you learn to run at the perfect pace to get closer to your goal. Also a great thing about measuring your heart rate on the run is training analysis. With the technology and devices available today, its easy to have an automatic training log with quite some data to measure your improvements.
How To Calculate Your Maximum Heart Rate
Calculating your personal HR max can be done a number of ways, including the following:
- Use an age-based formula: The classic 220 your age formula is now considered inaccurate for older people. A revised formula, 208 0.7 x your age, is better, but is still based on a statistical analysis of large numbers of other peoples lab test results. Formulas like this also miss the mark because factors like genetics, physiology and certain prescription meds can lead to different HR max results for people who are the same age.
- Get a stress test in a lab: This involves your cardiologist setting up a session or, if you aspire to be a world-class athlete, heading to an elite training facility. Some universities might also do a stress test if you agree to be part of a study they are conducting.
- Do your own field HR max test: If your doctor gives the okay, you can do a field workout that gets your heart up to maximum intensity. Short of a lab test, this is the best way to get a result that accurately reflects your personal factors and physiology. Below is one example of a DIY HR max test:
- Run as fast as you can for 3 minutes.
- Rest for 3 minutes.
- Repeat the 3-minute hard run again. The highest reading will be your HR max.
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Heart Rate For Aerobic Endurance Workouts
Continuous, aerobic running lasting 30 to 60 minutes or longer should be performed at about 70 to 75 percent max HR . These runs target cellular changes within the running muscles, such as increases in mitochondrial and capillary volumes. For this type of workout, 70 to 75 percent max HR is all you need to cause those changes.
Complete most of your running at 70 to 75 percent max HR during base building, when you’re increasing weekly mileage. If the length of the run is well within your aerobic capacity and is a regular part of your training, it is possible for your heart rate to remain nearly constant throughout the run, as long as the terrain remains flat and it is not excessively hot. During very long runs, however, when glycogen levels are getting low and body temperature rises, heart rate will begin to drift upward as the body fatigues.
How To Use Heart Rates During Your Workouts
Now that you know your target heart rates, how do you use them during workouts? Many runners often do all their runs at the same pace, so it can be a bit of adjustment to push yourself to harder heart rate zones. But its also a challenge to keep your heart rate low enough when necessary.
For most runners, trying to stay within the easy/long HR zone will feel really easy, maybe too easy. But there is a reason they call long runs LSD long slow distance. Some runners find it almost impossible to go slow enough to keep their heart rate that low while running. To which I say, no shame in taking a walk break. If I cant keep my heart rate in the target zone for my entire run, sometimes I instead aim for the overall average to be within that zone.
For races, I often ignore my heart rate at the beginning of a race while Im warming up. Once Im warm, I work to bring my heart rate into the target zone and keep it there for the majority of the race. Ill let my HR go over the target zone at the very end of the race if I still feel like I have gas in the tank. If I do a good job at staying in my HR zone, I almost always have some gas left to push at the end.
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What Is Low Heart
Low heart-rate training was pioneered by running coach Phil Maffetone, who found that it was a very efficient form of running training that improves the aerobic fitness of athletes without over training. Its benefits have already been shown by world class athletes who improved their performance while using the low heart rate training.
Reason : High Heart Rate When Running Due To Not Adapted Biomechanics
Another common reason why heart rate is high even on easy runs is that athletes physiology is not yet adapted. Muscles are not strong or resilient enough to handle the impact of running. The form is not efficient or optimized for running, which means other muscle groups need to compensate. Or the heart and cardiovascular system are not yet developed to the point when they can provide oxygen and nutrients quickly enough.
Simply put, your running form might not be optimal and, more importantly, theres room to grow. An experienced runner can comfortably run a 10k in under 50 minutes as an easy training session, while someone without running background can struggle with that.
As I look back at my running progress over the years, I see that I struggled with high heart rate on my easy runs. And that is considering the fact that in kayaking I was competing at World & European Championship level. But over the years of building running endurance my easy pace went down to a point where I can comfortably cover a 10K in 45min.
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Reason : High Heart Rate When Running Due To Challenging Environment Or Terrain
High heart rate when running can also be a result of a hot day like in the example above. The body has to spend extra effort to cool itself and at the same time to ensure muscle contraction to maintain running pace. Naturally, the heart rate will be elevated. Alternatively, high heart rate can be an effect of being at an altitude when concentration of oxygen in the blood is reduced.
Alternatively, you can be training on a tough terrain rolling hills, packed snow or even dry sand . In that case, your heart rate will be high regardless of whether thats an easy run or not. That is because difficult terrain challenges our muscles more and in a different way, which means the body has to work harder than usual to keep going.
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If you have never done intervals before, then let me give a quick explanation.
Intervals are a series of repeated efforts. Usually, this will consist of time or distance spent running at a more strenuous pace, followed by a cooldown time/distance. This cycle will repeat several times.
- This workout could be a one-minute hard effort, followed by a one-minute cooldown. Runners would repeat this cycle four times.
- It could be one mile/kilometer hard, then a one mile/kilometer cool down. Again, runners would repeat this four times.
- The varieties are endless, and you can get creative with these.
For our purposes, we will follow a 4×2, which is two minutes at a maximal effort, followed by a one-minute cooldown. Runners will repeat this four times.
Before doing this, I recommend a similar warm-up and cool down to the one suggested in the 40-minute heart rate test.
Doing a warm-up and cooldown allows your heart rate to increase and decrease gradually and allows your body to ease itself into and out of the workout.
The four minutes hard should be an effort that you cannot sustain for long. Think sub-5k pace.
The minute rest will give you some time to recover but will keep your heart working so that you can get the most accurate result.
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How To Set Your Heart Rate Zones
To determine a target heart rate zone for each type of run or for your heart rate training plans, you have to first start by determining your maximum heart rate .
Maximum HR is the maximum number of beats per minute your heart can produce, and often this number will decline with age.
A common formula to calculate your maximum HR is: 220 age. For example, if you are 40 years old, then 220 40 = 180bpm is your max HR.
This is just one of many formulas. Some others include:
However, the formula approach is often not reliable. In these examples, for a 40-year old, they would have 180, 178, 183 or 180 again depending on each formula chosen, so there is an important possible spread.
So to determine ones max heart rate, it is best to do a test where you go flat out to determine it rather than relying on any formulas, especially as each person is different. There are a number of different testing protocols to achieve this, but one of the most straightforward is running a 5k or even 10k race at the upper limit of your effort levels, then seeing what the maximum reading you achieved was. Of course, you can always adjust this in the future.
Once you know your max HR, youre ready to begin heart rate-based training by determining your training zones. Here is an overview to guide you through heart rate monitoring:
Training Zones And Correlation With Lactate Levels
Training with a heart rate monitor requires adherence to a specific set of heart rate zones, each of which is designed to work you to a particular exercise intensity.
Unfortunately, maximum heart rate is not the ideal way to measure the bodies response to exercise.
So what should you use instead?
Blood lactate levels are more accurate.
Lactate threshold tends to occur at around 90% of maximum heart rate in well-trained runners, but it can occur at 50% of maximum heart rate for beginners.
Whats the bottom line?
Your optimal training zones could be far outside what traditional heart rate training advocates suggest.
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Who Should Use Maf Method
Is utilizing LHR something that might help you become a better runner?
Heres a few ways to know the Maffetone Method could benefit you:
- Runners who need to improve aerobic base
- If you, need to learn pacing by effort not just your watch
- Desire to improve fat utilization in running
- Constant soreness and aches during training
- Frequently dealing with high sugar cravings during training
- Those with high body or life stress which are already impacting the body
- When youre consistently not recovering well from training
- Runners finding themselves injured repeatedly
- Those experiencing more than normal fatigue every time they increase mileage
If you are someone who enjoys speed workouts or a lot of variety then the MAF method will likely bore you to tears.
However, it might be worth adding to the beginning of a training cycle for base building.
How To Find Your Heart
There are many different formulas that you can use to calculate your maximum heart rate and find your personal heart-rate training zones. The easiest way is by using an age-based equation these are straightforward and easy to work with, as they offer a general guideline. The most common rule is simply 220 minus your age so a 40-year-old would have a theoretical MHR of 180.
The American College of Sports Medicine, meanwhile, suggests age-based formulas with a lower standard deviation, for example, the Gelish equation: 207 minus or Tanaka: 208 minus .
French, however says that purely age-based equations may not be a good fit for everybody because there are too many factors that can affect their accuracy such as gender, fitness level and genetics. Also, research has shown that dehydration, heat, altitude, time of day and natural variation between individuals can all influence heart rate by up to 20 per cent.
The gold standard for finding your maximum heart rate is a treadmill stress test in a lab, but you can simulate one on your own with a heart-rate monitor. At a track, do a warm-up mile or two, followed by a mile at tempo pace, then gradually increase your speed over 400 metres before running a final 400m all out. The highest number on your monitor will be close to your maximum heart rate. Or race a 5K at your fastest pace , running the last one or two minutes as fast as you can. Your heart rate at the end should be close to your MHR.
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What Happens When Running Heart Rate Stays Too High For Too Long
The biggest medical concern about training at high heart rate is the potential damage to the heart muscle. The argument is that the heart spends too much time in hypoxic state and doesnt get enough nutrients, which is not really the case for healthy athletes. I explain it and the science behind heart rate training in video below:
The bottom line is, if youre visiting a cardiologist and doing heart ultrasound on a regular basis, as well as your physician cleared you for intense exercise regimen, then high heart rate when running is not necessarily a bad thing.
However, even though running hard for extended period of time feels like a good exercise, it does not benefit aerobic development in the long term. You wont train the aerobic energy system, if you consistently run your easy runs in Zones 3 and above .
You will likely see quick improvements and maybe even enjoy slightly faster speed at shorter distance races , but training too hard too often will wont allow you to recover enough to gain full benefits from such training. Eventually, running at a heart rate thats too high for the purpose of your training will lead to a plateau in race times, burnout, or injury.
Common Low Heart Rate Training Questions
Does running at altitude change my LHR?
No. Dang it. I really wish it did.
But instead you, as I am now, will have to just slow down. Overtime again the body will become stronger and adaptthen that sea level running will be awesome.
Is there a specific MAF training plan?
Not from him. The plan is run under your HR, which is why again I recommend working with a coach. They can help you figure out the appropriate mileage and how to adjust things during training as you progress.
I have created an entire Low Heart Rate course with multiple plans to help you through the process > >
What about the reduced fatigued?
For me this was one of the biggest benefits! I couldnt believe that I made it through multiple marathon training cycles in Florida, while going through early menopause apparently without feeling that crazy fatigue!
Do I follow MAF on race day?
No on race day, you let it rip!
All that base training will allow you to push yourself without redlining. However because you are pushing past your LHR, be prepared to fuel with some carbs. During most long runs, you might find you need nothing, but on race day a little can help.
In essence, there is a HR at which your body switches from burning fat to burning carbs.
Something like the VO2 Max test can tell you this, but for ease of use its your Max Maffetone HR from the 180 method.
Tired of trying to figure this whole thing out on your own? I created Maffetone Training Plans for the half and full marathon > >
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What Is Low Heart Rate Training
Low heart rate training, also commonly referred to as Maximum Aerobic Function training, is when you focus all of your training on lower intensity workouts.
Which sounds overly simple, but thats sort of the point.
The basic premise is that you use a maximum heart rate as a threshold for all of your workouts all you have to do is keep your heart rate lower than that maximum BPM, and youre set.
Now, we know what you might be thinking
If keeping your heart rate low means running at lower intensity, how is that supposed to help you get better at running? After all, if you wanted to improve your performance, why would you slow down in order to get faster?
And thats a totally valid response. Fortunately, though, theres actually quite a bit of research to back up the seemingly counterintuitive training methodology.