HR Training – More Responses

A question or two were posed in a thread on HR training. One key was that the HR of an individual doing a walk-run approach to training, seemed too high and asked if she should not run at all because it was “too high”.

Of course all comments have to be taken in context. The concept of base miles is out of date. Now, that does not mean you don’t need to get miles in and build them up to get in shape! Quite the contrary. The concept of just doing EASY miles as your base is what is flawed and now counter to current research. From day one intensity rules – as long as it is appropriate for the person (i.e. I wouldn’t have a novice runner out doing 16×400 repeats with a 1:00 rest). So, interspersing faster and slower days is what enhances conditioning and expedites the conditioning process.

Most of the details are in an article I wrote on the topic:

Max HR as detailed in the article is highly variable depending on the formula used. I have also found through other readings that even getting tested for max HR is not fool proof. It in fact can vary by the tester (their own proficiency) as well as how you feel that day. If you are under the influence of any of the variables listed in the article that effect HR then your max HR test is flawed and then again… so will all the HR ranges you calculate.

Save your money and do a 1 mile all out time trial. From that number simple math can determine the optimal paces you should do your quality runs in. Add in some goal paced miles (the actual pace you want to run in your goal race) and you already have a good basic program that far outshines any HR program.

And before anyone claims that I think HR is completely useless, that is not true. For a novice runner it can be viable biofeedback on effort. It allows someone new to working out to learn about his or her body and how easy, moderate or hard efforts feel. This is good. It becomes a learning tool. Naturally, over time it becomes less valuable for all the reasons stated.

Also, resting HR is an indicator of conditioning but it has been shown to be most indicative of recovery status. If your morning resting HR is more than a few beats higher than the day before then you will want to consider a recovery day. But, even this is used with other criteria (aches, energy level, mental readiness) and not alone.

A couple terms that were mentioned in the discussions bear clarification because they are commonly used. Anaerobic Threshold (carbon dioxide and ventilation) is often used synonymously with Lactate Threshold (the point at which lactate builds up in the blood stream) but technically is different. Also AT is a poor predictor of performance whereas LT is a very strong predictor of performance and therefore training your LT is critical.

Even for those interested in “fitness” rather than “racing” or getting faster it is far more efficient AND effective to avoid HR training. By it’s own nature limits progress (see article – HR Drift and HR lag). More miles create far more injuries than increasing the pace of select workouts. Increasing pace decreases time spent training with far better conditioning yield therefore is a better investment of time. Oh BTW, higher intensities have also been shown to burn fat better than those highly touted “fat burning zones”. You can be FITTER on LESS training and decrease odds of injuries if it is done right.

So, get out and run and do not let HR deter you. An elevated HR MAY indicate that you are working hard but that doesn’t mean and should not be construed as TOO hard. If you are always holding back you will not progress (especially if it is something so unreliable as HR). The key as you learn about your body and how it reacts to workouts is more complex. I would have a number of questions to ask to determine if you effort is appropriate… HR is not one of them.


About Dean Hebert

I’m a mental game coach, author and speaker. I work with individual athletes, parents, coaches, and teams on sports performance enhancement. Beyond my academic post-graduate work in sports psychology - the psychology behind athlete performance – I am a certified Mental Games Coaching Professional (MGCP) and certified hypnotherapist. I’ve authored several books and hundreds of articles. “Coach, I didn’t run because…” (2008) is a seriously light-hearted look at making excuses not to workout and how to overcome them. “Focus for Fitness” (2009) and “Screw the Goals Give me the Donut” (2010) are two of my eBooks on mental game approaches for the everyday athlete. I wrote these because I believe that everyone can benefit from the powerful mental techniques that the world’s best athletes use. I have been cited in Runners World, Best Health magazine (CN), SWEAT Magazine, and the Washington Examiner amongst many other publications. I have been a featured mental games coach in Runner’s World and for the internationally acclaimed trail running resource - I also regularly appear on sports and fitness talk shows such as LTKFitness, Runnersroundtable and for more than three years I have co-hosted a weekly video series with Coach Joe English for I specialize in mental toughness training. My clients include tennis, synchronized swimming, golf, race-kart, soccer, motocross, volleyball, MMA, cycling (road, off-road, time-trialist), running, duathlon and triathlon, basketball, football and baseball athletes. I have coached world-class athletes and athletes internationally. I have a passion for working with youth athletes and helping them apply mental game skills and techniques to all areas of life. Most importantly, my aim is to have people enjoy sports and life to their fullest through peak performances.
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One Response to HR Training – More Responses

  1. Greg says:

    Absolutely. I fully agree with you about pace / HR importance. As it has been my experience and ultimately does make sense. Nevertheless, I do use a HR-monitor as biofeedback on almost all of my runs (as you do). 0ne thing that I notice regularly, at the end of a run, HR usually is higher for the same pace as compared with the beginning of the run. Reasons being most likely general fatigue, a normal state of dehydration and higher demand for thermo regulation (I run in a hot climate). Hence, pace is what makes the difference.

    Finally, could you please elaborate on the “obsolete” concept of “doing EASY miles as your base” and “From day one intensity rules”. Don’t you need an aerobic base first to sustain intensity?

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