Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Wading Through the Heart Rate Literature

I sat down the other night to do a bit of research into heart rates to see if I could make sense of any of it.

I've done this before. Every 18 months or so I get interested in heart rates and I try to find a way to incorporate heart rate monitoring into my workouts. From what I hear from my friends who are in the know, running based on heart rate is the thing to do.

I understand the concept and it does make sense. Running based on pace only works if you run in similar conditions all the time. I cannot maintain the same running pace while running up the Niagara escarpment or while running into a headwind or on slippery roads as I can running down a long straight country road on a windless day. Trying to do so would only lead to frustration.

Running based on heart rate on the other hand would mean that I was maintaining the same level of exertion whether or not I was running up a hill, down a hill, into the wind or with it. Run faster when it's easier, slow down when it's harder but the heart rate should ideally remain pretty constant.

At least that's what I understand.

The problems begin to arise when I try to wade through all the literature about maximum heart rate, threshold heart rates, recovery run heart rates, tempo heart rates, interval heart rates and suddenly it gets rather confusing.

Oh, and don't forget the fact that all of these numbers apparently change depending on the sport I'm doing.  So my maximum heart rate while running is not the same as my max heart rate while cycling. I don't think anyway.

On top of all that, I can't quite wrap my head around what I should be aiming for. Do I want to be able to lower my heart rate so that, over time, I can run a faster run at a lower heart rate? Do I want to be able to increase the heart rate that I can sustain over a long run? If so, why? If not, why not?

I can find plenty of literature on how to calculate all of my different heart rate ranges but I can't find very much (yet) on what I should be trying to do once I figure out those ranges. The message seems to be to figure out my ranges (for easy runs, tempo runs, half marathons etc) and then stay in them.

It can't be that simple can it?

1 comment:

  1. It is actually that simple! ;-)

    I started to answer here, but the comment got long enough that I decided to post on my own site. I hope that's okay.