Dipping My Toes into Heart Rate Training

Many years ago I bought a Polar running watch with a chest-strap heart rate monitor. Honestly, I was new to running and really didn’t get much out of the whole experience. I think this is common to new runners, and for good reason. Heart rate training is complicated!

Recently, I decided to try heart rate training again. My TomTom running watch suddenly stopped working so I had to buy a new running watch. I decided to buy a Garmin and bought a slightly older model through Amazon, the Garmin 630 with heart rate monitor (a chest strap versus wrist-based). I opted for this model because I feel like chest straps are more accurate than wrist-based. You can read a whole article just about chest straps versus wrist-based heart rate monitors here. They both have their pros and cons. Knowing I never had any problems with my Polar chest strap before (as far as chafing, etc.) I didn’t think wearing one now would be an issue.

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Ok. So now you have your heart rate monitor, whether it’s wrist-based or a chest strap. Now what? To begin, you’re supposed to take your resting heart rate. That’s the easy part. Then it gets much more complicated. Unless you can afford a stress test, by far the most accurate way of getting baseline numbers for heart rate, it’s all kind of a guess from there.

There are calculations for determining your maximum heart rate, heart rate reserve, aerobic heart rate range, aerobic training range, anaerobic training range, recovery training range, and lactate threshold zone. Have I lost you yet? Runners Connect has some pretty good info on getting started with calculating resting and maximum heart rate here and there’s more info on Active.com for calculating heart rate training zones here. I’ve also seen the calculation Maximal Heart Rate (MHR) = 206.9 – (0.67 x Age). If I do the calculations for myself using the three suggestions, the final way of calculating MHR is right in the middle, so I’m going with that one.

Depending on the type of workout you’re doing, you want to focus on keeping your heart rate within a particular range. For example, if you’re doing a recovery run, or an “easy” run, you should try to keep your heart rate within the recovery training range. If you’re doing speed work, you should try to stay within the anaerobic training range. This is high intensity, where you can only sustain that pace for a couple of minutes at the most, and not where you want to spend the majority of your training, or you’ll just wear yourself down.

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As my title states, I’m just dipping my toes in at this point. By no means am I an expert on heart rate training. At this point, I’m exploring heart rate training, educating myself, and trying to use it to supplement what I’m already doing. I didn’t have a stress test so my numbers are a best guess. If I start to stray over my targeted maximum heart rate, I’ll back off a bit to get my heart rate to go back down a bit. I try to stay within my recovery training range on easy runs, and let me tell you initially it feels like you’re just crawling! My hope is that eventually my body will adapt and I’ll be able to go faster without my heart rate going crazy. We’ll see. I’ll try to keep you all updated after some time has passed.

Do any of you do heart rate training? What methods do you use? How did you figure out your target heart rate ranges? I’d love to hear any and all comments!

Happy running!

Donna