The Experiment Continues…PART ONE: Heart Rates


The experiment continues.

Over the last couple of weeks, my plan has consisted of swimming, biking, running and strength training sessions.  I’ve logged the workouts in an app that I LOVE, called Training Peaks, recording within the application all of the data that comes along with 21st century technology (heart rate monitors, triathlon GPS watches, and my IPrecious).  I’ve completed a number of training sessions in all four disciplines, so that I have a fairly decent-sized sample size in order to crunch some numbers that will actually mean something to my training and improvement.  My next few blog posts will briefly talk about the data.  I’ll start off with one set of data points that I find increasingly interesting and even…dare I say…helpful.

Heart Rates

I’ve figured out what my threshold and max heart rates are.  I cannot stand wearing a heart rate monitor, since it feels like a wrestler with the skinniest arms in the world has just snuck behind me and is constantly attempting to back suplex me in order to win the WWE Intercontinental Title.

woooo

(That’s the Nature Boy, Ric Flair….the most awesomest wrestler of all time, ever…period.)

I began wearing a heart rate monitor daily during my running and cycling sessions.  I did this so that I could create a data sample and see what the numbers tell me.  According to some calculations, an athlete’s max heart rate is supposed to be 220 minus the person’s age.  I’m 45 years young, so that makes my maximum heart rate 175.  Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve had some challenging training sessions where I’ve amped up intensity in order to a) crank up my metoblism for the rest of the day, thereby burning more calories as I sit at work and click away on a keyboard, and b) train myself to handle harder efforts for longer periods of time, thereby improving my finishing kick for a marathon and also improving my ability to bring myself back under control early during a marathon or ultra after I catch myself going out too fast.

So now that I found out that my maximum heart rate was 175, I now needed to figure out what my heart rate should be during training.  What range should my heart be pounding away at during different types of runs (tempo runs, speed work, my weekly long run, recovery runs, etc). Those ranges are normally estimated by first figuring out what your Anaerobic Threshold is (“AT”).  Here’s what Competitor Magazine had to say about AT:

“…Like maximum heart rates, AT is also specific to each individual, but is trainable. Your AT is the point at which enough anaerobic metabolism occurs for more lactic acid to be produced than can be rapidly cleared from the body. This occurs from 65-95% of your maximum heart rate, depending on your fitness level.  You can recognize this level as that point where breathing becomes labored but maintainable. If you continue to increase your pace, you soon will reach failure and will have to slow down to continue…”

So based on the numbers, my AT would be 65-95% of my Maximum Heart Rate (175), depending on my fitness level.  I guess I fall somewhere between The Rock and Meatloaf when it comes to fitness level, so I estimated my AT to be 80% of my maximum.  So this brings my AT to the magic number of 140.

Great.  I have two numbers.  So what?  How can I use the data to improve?  OK, great question.  Once again, I’m going to refer to Competitor Magazine for some ideas.  They first suggest breaking your training down into 3 specific zones within which you’ll train:

“Zone 1: Aerobic sessions, 30-50 beats below your AT
Zone 2: Threshold training, 5-15 beats below your AT
Zone 3:
Anaerobic (interval) training, 5-10 above your AT”

How much training an athlete should do within each of these zones depends on the sport in which he / she is competing, an the corresponding distance to be covered.

Some people make a decision to run 100% of the time, paying attention to their zones.  Based on what I have heard and read, heart rate training is an awesome methodology if you are training over a long period of time.  It also takes some serious patience, since the concept (at least at the outset) is really running slower now to go faster in the long run.  You basically train your heart and your body to produce more energy / speed / power while requiring less from your heart to do so.  Your body becomes much more efficient.

At this point, I’m just really touching the surface of heart rate monitors and their use during training.

How Am I Using This Data?

I’ve decided to focus on my heart rate twice a week.  Once during a run (Monday mornings), and once during a cycling training session (Monday morning).  Basically, Monday is Happy Heart Day for me.

My workout schedule calls for an early morning run starting at 4am, where I look to cover 10 miles.  This run focuses on Zone 2, where I want to keep my heart rate 5-15 beats lower than my AT.  Then I transition to the gym, where I get about 30-40 minutes to chill out, grab some water and rest before hopping on a bike and cranking up the intensity a bit.  A Monday morning cycling session is 45 minutes in duration, and my goal is to train within 5-10 beats above my AT.

The rest of the week, I complete my training without thinking too much about my heart rate.  Why? Because I want to see if there is a difference in the way I perform.  Everything I’ve read makes me conclude that there should be a difference in the quality of my performance on Monday – but my sample data needs to grow in order for me to become more confident in my assessment.

Results Thus Far

I actually do have some news that I can report at this early stage: since I’ve completed a majority of my training (way too much, actually) at heart rate that his more rapid than my goals should be, I received an automated email from Training Peaks that stated that my new maximum heart rate is now 190.  So this means that my AT has increased to 152.  So my Monday morning run will be completed from now on at a pace that keeps my heart at around 142-145 beats per minute.  If I see the rate going higher than 145, I have to slow up and bring it under control.  When I transition to the bike on Monday morning,  my goal will be to hang around 155 beats per minute for the session.

 

 

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