Heart rate zone training for runners. Is it essential? Should you do it? Well, I'll say that I've been a Luddite for a long time and really avoid using technology. I'm a big fan of rate of perceived exertion, but today I want to talk about heart rate training and why I think it's really essential and how you can incorporate it into your training schedule.
I'm Jesse Funk, the founder of Solpri.com and the host of this show, Runner's High, where we talk about everything running. And this is our cat, Bo's decided to hang out with me. He's here. You'll see him in random videos from time to time here in the sun room. This is kind of his room. He's taking over. But if you like running or you like Bo Cat, you should hit the subscribe button, which is probably right above his head or somewhere around there. To stick around for more videos every single week.
Now, as I mentioned in the intro, I have been kind of not quite anti technology, but definitely that direction because I think it's really important to learn your rate of perceived exertion because there are so many variables when you're racing, when you're training that the greatest indicator that you can rely on is really knowing internally, how do I feel? Is this the right pace?
Now I know that getting to that place is more difficult to some for some people than others. And there are various tools that you can use to get there.
One of them that's being really popular is the GPS watch. Like this guy. I turned on my Garmin. I didn't get one of these for a very, very long time. This is a new addition to my training for this year because I've been dealing with an injury and I really need to slow down. So that's kind of where the heart rate training has come in for me.
RPE -Rate of Perceived Exertion is a huge component of how I train, especially when I go to the track because I want to know that I know what my pace is, feel like, how to push, how to pull and really hit certain intervals so that I know when I go out to race. I'm not looking at the pace on watch. I'm not looking at the things I can rely internally.
But it has been a really crucial step in reducing my speed for my long runs. And so my long runs have actually slowed down anywhere from 30 to 45 seconds per mile to really get my heart rate down. I was able to do my long runs at that faster pace for a long time, but because of the injury, I wanted to really check like, am I doing this as easy as I need to be doing it? And the answer was no.
So I needed to go even easier, which was difficult for me because I wanted to feel a little something because of that rate of perceived exertion. And this is the first place where I think it's important to take heart rate training and put it into your training schedule.
And that is with the long run, knowing that over this long period of time, I really am taking it easy because as my coach said when we first started doing this, it's only like 99% of runners that do long runs too fast. It is such, such a common situation that it's crucial to do it. Now, you do not necessarily have to do the setup I did.
I wanted real-time feedback with my heart rate, so I got both this heart rate monitor. This is the Wahoo Tickr X. This is going to be a little bit more reliable than just using your watch. So that's what I wanted to do. You can get one of these by itself, not have the heart rate monitoring live while you're doing the run and get the data afterwards.
If you're on more of a budget. I try to remember how much that was. I can't remember off the top of my head. I want to say like 70 or 80 bucks, but to get it live, then you have to have one of these smartwatches, which is a considerable amount more like you can buy a used one. I tried to go that route and then I kept getting dud watches that were like, the batteries are broken, and I just broke down and bought a new one, which is like low to hundreds unfortunately.
But it enabled me to really see that heart rate and then connect that to a new rate of perceived exertion. I'm way more in tune with these small gradations in heart rate at that easy end of the range now that I wasn't quite as in tune with before. I knew where I was in terms of this is easy, or I can sustain this for a six, seven, eight, nine mile run or whatever.
But those gradations actually refer in psychology, refer to them as JNDs just noticeable differences. Those became much clearer with the heart rate training. So I think when it comes to figuring out what your real long run pace is and it's probably slower than you think it should be, that's the first place that you should integrate heart rate training.
Now, from there, it gets a little tougher because I know myself and I know that I'm going to go to the track and I'm going to hit not right now, but when I go to the track, I'm going to hit certain paces in intervals based on experience, knowing this is what this feels like, like this is sustainable for this. And it changes a little bit as you get conditioned better. But if you're coming from a background of I haven't been doing this long, it's perfect.
Like figure out what your zones are. You first can figure out what that max heart rate is. I talked about that in another video. We'll link to that. How to figure out your heart rate training zones. We'll link to that video at the end of this one. But you figure out those zones and then when your coach or you or whatever, when you pick up a schedule, you go, "okay, I have five miles of tempo today." That's zone three.
What does that mean for me? What? How hard should I actually be going? I talk about how your lungs are just starting to turn on. Meaning? It's as hard as you can go without starting to, like, audibly breathe. So you definitely have a deeper breath. It's a harder work, but it's still aerobic.
When you cross over that threshold, you get into zone four, and that's how I feel it. But the heart rate zones will correlate with that and give you a better sense of like, this is what I should be feeling. If like the way I'm communicating that doesn't quite come across. The heart rate is a great way to check that.
And what happens when we go from zone three to zone four, which if you're a 5k, 10k person like I am, zone four was where we race. Zone four, you're going to be working a lot harder. Your lungs are definitely going audibly hard. If you are going at a hard enough pace, it's not ragged. That's probably zone five. You're going too hard. That's like sprinting.
But then you're changing from aerobic to anaerobic use or energy production. Sorry. And that is why your lungs are going, because they're basically at the capacity aerobically. They think they can go. Your body is demanding more energy. Thus it wants more oxygen to try to convert into energy for your muscles to move. It can't quite keep up.
So it's basically blasting away. The fans are full on. That is your lungs. And then we need to go anaerobic as well. So correlating those feelings with the heart rates is going to be an integral part to really learning those rate of perceived exertions.
But on the back end, and here's what I think is tricky, but important is that you get rid of the heart rate monitor when you're racing and or at least like in my setup, I wouldn't wear the watch, so I wouldn't be able to see it like live real-time, but maybe I'd wear the Tickr so I'd have the data afterwards.
And that is because racing is different. It's a different animal. Now, we train the way we want to race. So for training zone four we know this is our pace. Like we want to be able to feel that pace.
So we sit in that, but there's some amount of like jockeying that goes on. There's some amount of like, I need to push here and maybe your heart rate is going to go up. Being aware of those things is good, but also knowing that like there's some amount of heart that goes into it.
And I don't mean the physical heart, but like the spirit of competition that goes into racing. So, when you come to racing, I find that sometimes heart rate can be a limiter. You want to be careful because obviously you don't want to go out hard and burn yourself out. That's what learning the pacing is about.
But then when you're ready to like go 100% and just dig deep, sometimes you don't need to see that heart rate because it's going to go, oh, like you're going too hard. But at the finish you just go for it. So that's where it's kind of you do one, then you do the other. It's an art and a science combined.
So if you want to see that video on how to calculate your heart rates, that will be coming up on the screen here shortly. If you have any other questions for me in general or about how I use my tools for heart rate training, leave them down in the comments below and I'll see you next time on the next episode of Runner's High.