As many of you know my view is that most people over train. Sooner or later this leads to burnout and injury – at whatever level. If you are preparing now for spring or summer races then why not try something different – train to your heart rate.
So why should I do this? Well remember that pace is an output. Gong up a hill you are working hard but run slower – the opposite going down a hill – the only reliable measure is heart rate. The fact that this also has direct correlation to how fit you are should make the case. Yet many resist training to heart rate – why?
The answer is probably because you don’t have to train as hard. Athletes love training in the Threshold Zone. You get sweaty – you breath hard, you keep up with – or try to keep up with – your mates – you feel good after as you feel like you have worked hard. But you don’t have to work that hard.
To take a driving analogy. You can drive at say 40 mph in second, third …. up to sixth gear. You still go 40 but the higher the gear the harder the engine works. Therefore, the more fuel you use, the more wear and tear on components and so the more breakdowns. The body is the same – 4th and 5th gears are aerobic – 2nd and 3rd are threshold and we always naturally slip into 2nd and 3rd – high revving, sweat making, carb eating, sessions with lots of wear on joint and muscles – and aches and pains and injury – but you feel like you have had a real workout!
As endurance athletes we want to be in the fast lane in 6th gear – efficient, relaxed, fast.
To do this you have to train the body to be efficient – e.g. develop a low gear. You do this by running a lot in 5th or 6th gear – i.e. aerobically. Building a solid aerobic base doesn’t mean that you don’t have other gears – but you now also have lower ones which gives massive efficiency and helps prevent injury as you are stressing the body less. The other huge advantage is that you reduce the dependency for carbs as fuel and develop fat burning for energy – efficient and many of us have significant energy stores available!
Don’t take my word – the guru is Dr Phil Maffetone. I have put the link to his site below. He has spent 40 years looking at training methods and his site is full of excellent information about training to heart rates.
In summary, Maffetone’s rule is that your aerobic heart rate is 180-age. You can add 5 or 10 beats if you have trained consistently for the past couple of years with NO injuries.
So if you are 40 then its 140-145 bpm. It’s an easy pace – you may even be walking going up hills – but it works. Why would you want to work harder than you have to?
As an interesting example Dr Maf had groups training just at 180-age heart rate for 6 months – no efforts – and then they did a 5k test. Those with an 8 min mile training pace (at 180-age HR) translated this to just over a 20 min 5k – so moving from 5 mins per km to 4 mins per km. They had built the engine which could then be used to good effect.
You easily see how your fitness improves by
Worth a read – happy to discuss further if anyone wants.