Heart rate training; or, how to run slow

Don’t be misled by the title, I run slowly all the time :)

But I’ve always been curious about training using a heart rate threshold. Now that I have this silly Fitbit I can keep track of my HR throughout a run; an average 3 mile run usually has me at about 170bpm near the end, well into my peak range, and in a race I might top out near 180. I’m comfy running for a good while in the 160s.

I started reading and there wasn’t a solid number for how to set the threshold. Some places said 220-age, some said 180-age. I’m 38; I picked the lower one for testing purposes, meaning my HR threshold should be in the low 140s.

Once I got started I realized that this was going to be a weird run. 3 miles of big hills (for some reason I chose the big hills route) and I’m trying not to raise my heart rate? Basically I needed to run incredibly slowly. I took advantage of the downhills to get my heart rate down, and focused on not breaking cadence going uphill despite taking the world’s tiniest steps. The 3 miles took me 43 minutes at slower than a 14’00” pace– but my average heart rate was 151bpm (the hills got me up to nearly 160).

But it was about the easiest 3 miles I’ve ever run? (It should be!) I’m back at home and I feel like I could go out again and run 3 more. I don’t feel tired or sapped, I feel refreshed. And it was a very mindful run; I had to focus on breathing maximally and keeping my short little stride, and be aware of when I started working harder.

The weather today is about 75F; it’s been raining for 2 days and it’s very sticky. I was glad today’s run was easy since the humidity’s so high. Thankfully the rain was just a light mist now. And it’s the time of year when trees drop their stuff all over the sidewalk; the wind knocked apples and walnuts and pine needles and pinecones and leaves down so everything is slippery and treacherous…

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One Response to Heart rate training; or, how to run slow

  1. dawnwairimu says:

    I used to do HR training but haven’t in a long time. I’d love one of those watches that does HR from the wrist so that i don’t have to wear the chest strap.

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