## Wednesday, 9 October 2013

### Training to heart rate: resting, max, and zones

My aim for the rest of this year is to begin training to heart rate again. I last did this in May 2011, so quite a while ago. I keep an eye on my heart rate during most runs, but I've noticed "easy" runs, during which my heart rate shouldn't rise over 140, tend to average at 150 bpm. I need to start again.

I blogged about heart rate back in 2011 on my TWATS blog (I never realised it spelt that...). I've reposted it here, and another will follow.

As soon as I got my new Garmin watch for measuring and analysing my runs, I began to wonder why monitoring my heart rate while on a run would be useful. We all have unique resting and maximum heart rates, and knowing these values can assist with training for races and other activities.

I googled heart rate monitoring and found this site, which introduced to me the idea of heart rate zones. It also provided a method to calculate your max heart rate based on your age (from which you can calculate these zones). I did the calculation, but I didn't really understand the part about zones or what I should be aiming to do.

Thankfully, a friend offered to lend me an excellent book: Heart Monitor Training for the Compleat Idiot. This book contains another calculation for max heart rate (slightly different from that on the above website), but stressed the importance of doing a physical test to ascertain your max heart rate.

Max heart rate

The calculation in the book is 205 - {half your age} (+ 5 if you're a woman). Which gave me a rough max heart rate of 193 bpm.

The max heart rate test suggested in the book consists of a short warm-up run, stretches, and a 100 m sprint to get your heart rate up, followed by a series of 5 short uphill sprints (200 m), with recovery jogs downhill in between, gradually increasing the intensity of each uphill run.

My local running club does sprint sessions every so often, and it just so happened that a session similar to the above test was done a few days after I got my watch :) And my max heart rate peaked at 181 bpm, which I have now set as my max. (Goes to show how inaccurate the calculation can be.)

Resting heart rate

The test for this rate is nice and easy! The book suggests you strap your heart monitor on soon after waking in the morning and just lie there for a few minutes. (And you are allowed to go back to sleep!) My resting heart rate was 40 bpm (whoop, super athlete NOT).

Training zones

Here comes the section I was most confused about. What are heart rate zones and why should I care? Apparently, two zones are most important: the recovery ceiling (70% level) and the threshold floor (85% level). You can calculate these based on your max and resting rates.

For example: (Max - Resting) x 0.70 + resting = 70% level

My 70% level is 139 bpm and my 85% level is 160 bpm. The book recommends you keep your heart rate below the 70% level on 'easy' run days and at the 85% level on 'hard' days.