Thursday, July 26, 2012

Heart Rate Training

I am adopting a completely different strategy than I had planned : Blog less, Blog faster. We will see if I can stay on the wagon for awhile...

Running by heart rate

In the last few months I have been diligently working to repair and rebuild my lower legs from injuries sustained during my April marathon, and trying to return too hard too quickly. I had my first double digit run in over 8 weeks last weekend. It felt great- in a foreign way. I would like all of my long runs to be at least an hour and a half in duration, regardless of what I am training for.

Most of my running has been in the "recovery jog" to "easy" heart rate zones, the idea being to increase blood flow to my legs, maintain and improve aerobic fitness, and give plenty of rest to the sore areas. A few strides have been thrown in for fast-twitch fitness, but only if my leg feels “good to go”, and there have been one or two runs that had 10-15 minutes of tempo.

To train by heart rate, I follow a simple formula found on Pfitzinger’s website. Using my max heart rate of 172 (you can determine your max with a simple heart rate max test), and my resting heart rate of 41 (Yes, I realize these numbers put me in the “freak lady” category, but it’s a genetic thing), I found my heart rate reserve: 131 (172-41=131) and calculated all of my training zones for heart rate. If you want to do this, multiply your heart rate reserve by the proper percentage and then add your resting heart rate.

For anyone who does not own Advanced Marathoning, the standard heart rate intensities Pete Pfitzinger suggests are:
Workout type % Heart rate reserve
VO2max 91-94
Lactate Threshold 77-89
Marathon Pace 73-84
Long/medium long 65-78
General aerobic 62-75
Recovery <70
For the past 8 weeks or so, I have paid little attention to pace, but tried to keep my monitor showing between 110 (low end) and 139 (high end) for an easy run. It’s  required serious patience, but I’ve seen my average pace improve by about 30 seconds a mile, running almost exclusively easy and keeping at the same 137 heart rate avg. There are days when it is slower or faster depending largely on how much sleep I have had, or how hot it is.

My mileage has been darn low for me, but I am rebuilding that with the goal to get back to 40+ MPW for several weeks before starting some solid 5k speed work. I’ve been tempted to start Vo2 workouts sooner, but increasing mileage and adding in new speed work is a dangerous combination. I can wait.

I know my first race back might be ugly and tarnish a record I have been proud of, but I am itching to get a real feel for short races. I have only ran two 5ks since getting serious about running a few years ago, and really have only ran 4 or so 5ks- ever. I think I am ready to give it a good stab and see what I can do. Every race is a learning experience. The nice thing about the 5k is that it shouldn’t take a month to recover from, so I can have fun re-trying :)



OK if you are still with me here, or maybe you are just joining in, church is something that I enjoy. It has not been a place of ritual, but rather a family of about 50 people (give or take) who have common beliefs, want to grow in their understanding of God's word, and in their living it out.

This last Sunday, a man I deeply respect resigned as our pastor.
He has been our pastor for 10 years, 7 of them unpaid. He baptized me two years ago and my son last year.

I could go through every person I know (living) and find no one who better fits the requirements to lead a church. He always taught from the Bible.  He is not a perfect man, but he will admit this and has many times used his own failings to demonstrate to those of us willing to sit and listen each week, what God had to teach him. I have seen him grow in humility, love for others, willingness to sacrifice his own wants/needs, and in many other ways as our leader. His wife is a fine example of the Proverbs 31 woman, and his children (now grown) have always been quick to respond to his advice. I have never seen him raise his voice.

His departure came as a big surprise and happened very quickly. He told us he had prayed about it and that his reason for leaving was "It would not be possible to effectively pastor this church any more." and that he "Also has a family to pastor."

Since I am not in our church's leadership I really do not know what might have happened to send him packing his bags, but I am SAD. Sad that my kids will not have his spiritual/Godly influence nearby. Sad that we might part ways with the remaining people of our church during all this confusion. I am ANGRY that things got to a point that he felt he needed to resign, and that nothing was done about it before it got to that point. And I am SICK that a very good man is leaving - obviously feeling his hands are tied and that he would be better used elsewhere.

But I trust.
I trust that God will have something much better planned for him and his excellent family somewhere else. Somewhere, another church will gain an excellent leader. And I trust that in the end, in heaven, where everything is without sin and all of us are under the One, Perfect, Holy leader, there will be unity. And ALL of this will ALL make sense.

Proverbs 3:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.


  1. We have a couple things in common. I, too, have recently began training by heart rate. I did a lactate threshold field test and created my training zones. Yes, sometimes it is difficult to hold back the pace, however, I have also noticed that when I do tempo runs I am about 30 to 45 secs faster.

    The second thing we have in common our faith. I look forward to church. I am sorry to hear about your loss. However, as you already know, God has a plan.

  2. I've never trained by heart rate or even used a HR monitor. I do sometimes measure my resting pulse when I wake up to get an idea of fitness and training levels. Sad about your pastor but there is obviously a bigger plan at work here. Have a great weekend!

  3. Thank you for sharing about your faith. While we serve a perfect God, His people are not perfect. I've also been hurt by "the church" in the past, and I try to remind myself of this.

  4. The heart rate training seems to make lots of sense and yes you are superhuman with that RHR! Looking forward to following how it works and continues to improve your pace. I am still a new runner and hung up on pace but some days are certainly easier than others and heart rate has got to be one of those variables that drives that.

    I am sorry to hear about your pastor. We lost our 10 year pastor in January so I feel your pain. Your attitude and outlook are admirable and I agree that one day all of this will all make sense. I've had to remind myself that His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts and His plan is perfect and His power is made perfect in weakness. Wow, that was a run-on sentence. Anyway...hang in there!

  5. I have watched your training and yes, you are getting faster at the same HR. So excited about some 5Ks for you, they WILL be fast once you introduce speed (I do know the feeling of having to run so slow for HR training!).
    Sorry about the church issue. Unfortunately, good people leaving good positions happens more and more often as politics get in the way. I know how important the church community is for you, so I understand this is hard. I wonder if you and your family can still keep contact with him and maybe become part of his extended family.
    Thinking about you Raina!

  6. I haven't actually used a heart rate monitor ever, but I've heard good things.

    And I'm sorry that such a good pastor had to leave. Right now, since I moved to a new city, I'm trying to find a pastor/church that I like. But it's so hard.

  7. We have gone through pastor changes before and it can be hard, but usually a new pastor comes who is just as great as the last pastor. Different at first, but still good. Remember that God has a plan, although it may not seem like it to us. And never forget God's ultimate plan. :)
    I have a heart rate monitor on my new Garmin 210, but I haven't tried to use it yet. I keep meaning to. You've motivated me to give it a try once I am running again.

  8. I'm following one of the "Advanced Marathoning" training plans for my current marathon training and I try to follow the heart rate zones they mention, which generally isn't too hard when I factor in the adjustment they make for heat/humidity. It is really hard to make myself run slow enough on my recovery run days. It sounds like you really have the easy run mastered. :)

  9. I hear you Raina on the post Eugene leg fatigue/over use issues. This weekend will be the first I will attempt a 90 minute (3:1.) If I applied your strategy I wouldn't even be doing that. I'm intrigued by you use of the HR monitor. (I love data!) I pulled mine out on Sunday and was disappointed to find the battery dead. I think I'll start doing some tracking especially because I'm interested to know how my HR running compares to biking.
    As for your church, I appreciate your grace and honesty. I pray for healing within your church family and for new leadership for them. I bet it's really great to be part of such a small group. My prayers are with your pastor and his family as well.

  10. I'm sorry to hear about your pastor's resignation. It's not just a change, it's a loss. I hope there are better things in store for him and for your church both. And, of course, for your family.

    I really need to try heart rate training. Usually I just run however, and I think my running would really benefit from a little more thought and knowledge behind it.

  11. I'm so sorry about your pastor's resignation; I know that's been very difficult for you. 7 unpaid years is simply incredible, really shows what a huge heart the man has. I hope you church is able to find an equally special pastor that will bring the sort of spiritual joy your group seeks.

    The shorter races sound like a great idea for you. I used to run 5ks many, many years ago and I was the fittest I ever was back then. Of course, it helped I was younger, too. Hahah.

  12. I'm sorry to hear about your pastor, Raina. It sounds like he's left some big shoes to fill.

    I, too, have been experimenting with HR training. It's fascinating, no? I am on the opposite end of the genetic freak spectrum and have high HR, as you saw in one of my last posts. My goal is to keep mine no higher than 145 on easy runs. I've noticed that my paces have gone from 9:40s or so (when I first started taking it a few weeks ago) to 9:16 this week. I've also definitely noticed that hydration plays a role too.

  13. HR Training was (and still can be) very frustrating for me. Many times I have to switch the view on my watch so I can not even see my pace. Very cool that you are seeing improvements and benefits of it. Just takes patients I guess:)

    41 resting!!! When I wake up my HR hangs around 65-70!

  14. Sounds like you're being really smart with your training and ramping up slowly. I've never done much with heart rate training, but it intrigues me.
    I'm so sorry your pastor is leaving so suddenly, that's rough. It's hard to replace someone you have a history with and respect so much! We have found an incredible church family here (love small churches too) but know that we won't be here for long... it's hard to think about finding something that fits us so well somewhere else!

  15. I'm sorry about the difficult changes going on at your church. That's hard.

    Thanks for the info on how you're training using your heart rate. I have a strap, but I've only had time to use it in a very general way so far.

  16. Way to stick with your hr training! I'm sure it will pay dividends come race time.

    Sorry about your pastor leaving. Hopefully the next phase in your church will be even better but change is always hard.

  17. Heart rate is such a smart way to control your come-back training! No need for pace charts or assuming a certain level of speed/fitness. I'm sure this base you are building now will serve you well for fall races!

  18. Wow, 41 that is crazy! My resting heart rate is 53. I don't remember what my max HR is, but it is in the vicinity of yours. I am going to be going back this fall to have another threshold test done in case I do decide to take the plunge and sign up for Boston in the hopes that I will be able to run. My coach uses HR training a little, but mostly goes off of my threshold results. Threshold tests are fun...not. :-)
    Sorry to hear about your pastor. Hopefully it will all work out for the best.

  19. Last year the longtime rector at my church resigned, too--well, actually he retired, which is a different thing--since he was an older man, it wasn't such a surprise. But it was a very emotional experience and since then our church has been without a rector. I understand how it feels to lose a spiritual leader. I hope you find the right person for your church! I think we finally have.

    THANK YOU for this post about heart rate training. It's an important part of my new coach's way of doing things, and I'm only just scratching the surface. I think mine is improving, but it's hard to tell with the recumbent bike still in the mix. I'm looking forward to doing my max test. I'm waiting for him to give me the word.

    1. Have fun with that max test! I did one and then about 2 months later did a race and my Max is much higher in my race than it was in the test. It looks like all it takes is a good uphill 5k :)

  20. I just posted a fairly long comment. Silly thing wiped it out. Crap!

    Peace and Godspeed to you and yours.

  21. I've become a believer in the benefits of a HR monitor myself-especially on easy days. There's something liberating about turning the GPS function off and the " read my body" function on!


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