I have been following Heart Rate Training (HRT henceforth) for my running since Feb 2022. I have had few successes and learnings as I went through it. I have been sharing some of my learnings through Strava chats & private whatsapp chats. I want to start a thread on it here so a) I can share what I learnt with others b) If I am doing/stating something incorrectly an opportunity for other experts in this area to point out so we stop the spread of misinformation I encourage others to join the discussion. Remember running is a team sport!Before we proceed, it is important to call your attention to few things. Heart rate training may not be for everyone. If you've had heart based ailments in the past (light headedness, out of breadth condition, irregular heartbeats etc), you should not attempt to do this method without consulting your doctor first. Lastly, one doesn’t need HRT to become a great runner. You could just follow the guidelines for your everyday runs in Finalsurge and become a better runner every day. Many have followed that path and went on to become great runners that I admire. HRT may be one of the methods to achieve that and not the only method of course.Who this is for?HRT works best for those training for half marathon or longer. Since the method calls for longer periods of time, this may not be suitable for 5k/10k participants. That said, everyone can benefit by running slower at a lower heart rate than at a higher HR.What is Heart Rate Training (HRT) in a nutshell?Fundamentally there are three ways to measure the intensity when you run.
Pace (how fast you complete a mile)
Heart Rate (At what Heart Rate you are running)
Rate of Perceived Exertion or RPE (How hard or easy you run)
There are several schools of thoughts around these three methods and you could often find people online touting one is better over the other. Personally, I use the first two methods in my running training and rarely use the third (I know I would get some flake from some quarters for saying that). In this thread, I am going to share on what I learnt using the HRT method and when to make an exception and run at a higher heart rate.
Are there any books to get me started?Yes, there are several books on this subject if you search Amazon. I recommend the following books to get started.
This book was recommended to me by coach @Anirudha Joshi. A huge shoutout to him as this book fundamentally changed on how I view running as a lifestyle activity. This book goes into great detail behind human physiology and exercise science as it makes a case for Heart Rate Training for all endurance sports (Running, Cycling, Rowing etc). This book could get boring at times due to its technical descriptions, so be forewarned.
This book recommends that 80% of your training load to be "low intensity" and the remaining 20% should be at a higher intensity. This method is also known as polarized training. There is plenty of reference to HRT methods in this book but it talks about other methods as well.
In addition to these two books, I also listen to lots of podcasts, YouTube videos and blog posts. Be forewarned though, there are a lot of conflicting opinions out there. Sometimes I try few things I learnt the previous day and have failed miserably (My Strava followers would attest to this). .Are there any downsides of HRT?There is only one. It takes a long time to see significant progress. Coach @Bala Sankaran often talks about Macro/Meso/Micro cycles in training programs. HRT falls in a macro cycle approach and as such can span to multiple seasons. Sometimes one may feel that they are not progressing at all or even lost some of their earlier progress. This is the most grueling part of the training and you have to have a great leap of faith to pursue this method of training.Lets cut to the chase. How do I control my Heart Rate while running?That is one question I am often asked. Another favorite of mine is how do I lower my HR? Here is another: my HR is high when I am running what am I doing wrong? My suggestion to all of these people is to approach the problem in a different way. One cannot "control" their heart rate. They cant "lower the HR" either. What they can do however is to keep their pace at the HR they want to keep. That is the only way to control or lower your HR. (Told you, this is going to be a boring method) What is an ideal Heart Rate we should target?Maffetone method is a great place to start. Subtract your age from 180. That is your MAF (Maximal Aerobic Function) rate. Use that as a base HR for your easy runs. Let's say your age is 40, then your MAF is 140 bpm (180 - 40). You have to keep your "Easy Runs" or "Conversation Pace" runs at between 130-140 bpm.For some people, this HR may be too low to run. You may hit this HR if you start jogging or walk a little faster.. That’s fine, keep jogging. Keep an eye on your watch, when it exceeds the target HR, slow down even if we you need to walk for a while to be at that HR. (told you, its gonna be boring)Wait, I thought this is going to be a running program and not a walking program?In matter of weeks, your walking will turn into running. As you "train" your heart to pump blood at a low rate over a long period of time, your body "learns" to process the blood efficiently across the body and slowly you are able to increase the intensity of your runs without impacting your heart rate. Key here is to train slow for a long period of time so your body adapts to the new rhythm of the heart.What do I need to get started?You will need a Heart Rate monitor. It is a strap that goes on your bare chest. It listens to the electric signals to calculate your HR and much more accurate than the wrist based HR that Garmin and Apple make. There are two popular models. Polar & Garmin. If you use a Garmin watch I would suggest go for the Garmin HRM. If you have a apple watch you could use either one. If you are on budget you could also consider Wahoo which gets great reviews. Garmin HRM ProPolar H10Wahoo HRMWont the chest based HRM makes you uncomfortable when you run?Not anymore than a watch does. After a while you will get used to it and wont notice it much. For longer runs (90 minutes or more), the HRM may leave chaffing marks on your body. Use Vaseline or petroleum jelly to avoid it. (don’t put the jelly on the sensors). Run Slow for a Long time, I get it. But how do I get faster since that is what my ultimate goal is?Once a week do a speed workout. Some examples of speed workouts are Fartleks, Short Sprints, Tempo run, Interval runs etc. While 80% of slow running trains a certain type of muscles, the speed workouts are your other 20% and they focus a different type of muscles so you get the full benefits of a running program.What heart rate should I keep at for these speed workouts?You have to keep these runs at your slightly above Lactate Threshold heart rate. There is a great deal of info on thresholds and other running related metrics that was shared by Coach Bala in an earlier podcast. Please watch this to get a better understanding of these metrics. I will write a separate thread on how to determine your LTHR and Maximum HR. But for now, look up any of your previous runs you did that lasted for an hour or more. Whatever average pace you used for that one hour run, you could consider that as your LTHR pace. Your average HR for that one hour run would be your Lactate Threshold Heart Rate. Sounds great, but wont all of this conflict with RHWB program that I signed up for?Not at all. When your Final Surge is asking you to do a conversational pace run, do your runs at low heart rate. When it calls for short sprints, tempo etc, go for higher intensity running. How long does it take to see results?That is indeed a tricky question to answer. No two people are same and not two hearts are same. There are several factors play into this and it is hard to put a magic number on this. Having said that, here are some guidelines.Thomas Maffetone recommends to do the low heart rate, easy runs for six months and introduce speed workouts after that first six months. But in my experience, you could incorporate speed workouts almost simultaneously.All of this sounds great as a theory, does it really work though? Can you share an example?I am glad you asked. I will share the progress I have been making using HRT and also some of my own learnings on what worked and what didnt. Stay tuned.