Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Heart Rate Update

I think it's about time for a heart rate update. Seeing as how I track it pretty religiously these days, I might as well report back in case anyone out there is thinking about training using your heart rate.

Since running is the sport that I do the most (3 times per week rather than just 1 or 2) it's the activity that I am getting the most practice with in terms of figuring out heart rate.

What I've been trying to do is to keep my long runs under 160 beats per minute while keeping my shorter runs under 165. Last week I started doing speed work again and I'm planning to get back into hill workouts this week. For those I just go full speed ahead and then check what my heart rate is at the end. For the speed work I peaked at 174 beats per minute and for hills I'm guessing I'll max out at 180 since that was my max last fall.

Here is an example of how things have been going:
Saturday I ran 14k. I tried very hard to keep my heart rate between 155-160 and it stayed there easily for most of it but kept creeping over 160 during the last few kilometres. That being said, I ran 14k without too much effort and I did not stop once. Not even for 15 seconds at a red light. I just started running at the end of my driveway, ran 7k, turned around and ran back to my driveway. Best part was that I didn't want to stop. It felt easy enough that I knew I could do it so I did.

The tradeoff is that I'm slower than I used to be. Not by a lot but still slower.

That being said, I'll take 15 seconds per kilometre slower if the tradeoff is that I can run for 90 minutes with no great difficulty and feel completely fine for the rest of the day.

I'll be ramping up the mileage over the next few weeks as I train for my spring half marathon. I'm running 16k next week, 18k not long after and then I'm in the 20s for a few weeks in a row. If I can keep my heart rate down and glide through those distances too, I'll be completely sold on this new way of running.

On to other activities!

I have used the erg (aka rowing machine) four times now at my new fitness centre. I've tracked my heart rate each time as well as my distance. During my first two 30-minute workouts it was a struggle to get 6000m done. On the third one I did 6400m and just this past Sunday I was able to do 6650m. So I'm obviously getting the hang of this thing.

My heart rate numbers are pretty similar to my running ones. Once I get going I'm hovering in the high 150s, up to 160, for the rest of the workout. Strangely, that heart rate makes for a pretty easy run but it makes for a pretty intense erg session. At the end of 30 minutes I'm dripping wet, panting and exhausted.

For cycling, I can't seem to get my heart rate up to 150, never mind above it. Even when the dude on the video is yelling at us to climb faster or spin faster or push harder, I tend to hover around 145bpm. I feel like I'm working pretty darn hard but it's not reflected in my heart rate.

Tracking my heart rate during a swim is not an option at this point because I don't have the waterproof watch to do it.

Lessons learned so far?

1. Running using heart rate works very well for me. It might not work for the speed demons out there who like to give it their all during every run but it works for me as I try to find a way to run long distance races feeling strong from start to finish.

2. A given heart rate (say 155bpm) is easy to reach during some activities, hard in others and seeming impossible in others still. Yet the effort I'm putting out is different for each activity.
- 155bpm = pretty easy running
- 155bpm = pretty tough erg'ing
- 155bpm = I've never reached that on the bike so I'm guessing it might kill me if I do

Heart rate training may not be for everyone but it's definitely a tool I'm keeping in my fitness toolbox.

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