Thursday, January 22, 2015

Finding My Heart Rate in the Fog

I'm slowly figuring out this whole heart rate thing. It feels like I'm walking around in a fog, getting quick glimpses of things but still not seeing the whole picture. The good news is that the fog seems to be thinning a bit. The bad news is that the fog horn is still audible in the distance.

My friend Jeff was kind enough to write his own blog yesterday in response to my meandering questions. It's here if you want to check it out.

It certainly helped clarify a few things for me:

1. Once I figure out my heart rate 'zones', they should be the same for all of my aerobic activities (running, cycling and swimming).

I don't measure my heart rate in the pool but I have been measuring it when I'm running and when I'm on the indoor trainer (which is quite often actually as I seem to be turning into a cyclist who spends more time on her bike in the winter than in the summer months).

From what I can see so far, my typical runs (7-12k) hold pretty steady between 160-170 beats per minute. My heart rate while pushing hard on the trainer (climbing a mountain or sprinting) are usually 145-155 beats per minute.

So either I should be working harder on the bike than I currently am or perhaps my level of fitness on the bike isn't quite at the level of my running fitness.

2. I really should be a little more deliberate when planning my activities. I typically go for two 7-8k morning runs during the week and then a long run on the weekend (between 10-15k unless I'm training for a half marathon). I don't schedule easy runs and I don't often schedule hill or interval training except when I'm training for a half marathon because it just feels like the thing to do. If I did add easy runs and really hard runs to my regular routine, I would be running in various heart rate zones rather than always running in the same one. I'm guessing that would be a good idea.

I do the same for cycling. I hop on the bike and pop in a video based on a) which one I'm in the mood for and b) whether I'm sore from having done too many squats in CrossFit the night before. Too sore and I do a video that has more fast spinning. Not sore and I tend to do videos that have me climbing mountains or doing off-the-bike squats.

3. Finally, I really should figure out my maximum heart rate since it seems that most of the calculations and zones are figured out using that number. I can choose a generic formula to figure that out. I can use a more specific one that is apparently more accurate. Or I can do a few hills sprints. Jeff explained that the maximum heart rate really is just the fastest that my heart can beat. Several running websites have said that one way to figure that out is to a) warm up for a few kilometres and then b) do hill work. I'm supposed to watch my heart rate the first two times I run up and then, on the third, run it as fast as I can. The highest my heart rate gets is my maximum heart rate (or pretty close anyway).

So, on Thursday morning, before this post even goes up, I will sacrifice my beloved 7k Thursday morning run for a hill training session. It will be good for my legs and my lungs and will help me figure out my max heart rate at the same time.

Stay tuned.

I didn't expect to turn my Tuesday heart rate blog into a week's worth of stories but this does take a bit of time to figure out and I thought I might as well take you along for the ride in case you were interested.

1 comment:

  1. It does sound like you're figuring this out. I'll just add two things.

    You can definitely use your maximum heart rate to figure out your zones, but many coaches prefer to use lactate threshold HR instead. The reasoning is that you can't change your max heart rate, but your LTHR changes along with your conditioning, making it possible to get zones that make sense for your fitness. (I bet the max HR tests probably actually figure out your LTHR.) The good news is that TrainingPeaks has already figured out your LTHR for you. No need to do extra tests. :-)

    And two: Be sure to have fun! It's possible to be too deliberate with training and lose the joy. I say this from my own personal experience. Sometimes the plan calls for things you don't want to do, and there's a good reason to do it. But when you find yourself adding lots of sessions to your plan that you know you won't enjoy, then it's time to reevaluate.