Heart Rate Training Running | Tips to Master Your PR

Heart rate training running was something I never considered when I was in high school. In addition, I had no idea what I was doing as a teenager and was still learning as a collegian.

heart rate training running

Heart rate training was never on my mind. Also, no one ever told me the importance of implementing this form of training.

I arrived to Malone University in the spring of 1996 and was coached by Jack Hazen. Jack is considered one of the world’s top distance running coaches.

I have used heart rate monitors since 1992. Currently, I use the Garmin 245 and highly recommend it. It helps me to sustain the proper paces at the correct heart rates. In addition, focus more on effort rather than worrying about splits.

What Heart Rate Should I Train for Running?

Easy running is around 60 to 65% of your max heart rate. I would also aim at running for longer periods of time at your anaerobic threshold. We run between 85 to 89% of our max heart rate at this effort.

Longer tempo runs will help to improve your body’s lactate tolerance. In addition, make your goal race pace feel easier.

I was too concerned with breaking my own high school track and field records when I was younger.

The focus was on the event, not where it should have been, the process.

Remember, you cannot run hard all the time.

I missed the state meet running a mile in 4:26 in a highly competitive mile. It was the 1996 Ohio regional championship where I finished 6th, the top 4 went to state.

In addition, a few weeks earlier I ran a 4:25 solo and second place in that race was 5:13, respectfully.

It was complete non-sense. There was no focus on the long-term and I did not believe in delayed gratification.

What I should have done was conserved when I needed to and attacked at the right time.

I missed the Ohio state track and field meet by 2 seconds. In addition, made the mistake of going out in 60 seconds for the first 400m in the 1600m race.

Is it Better to Run by Heart Rate or Pace?

I think it is better to run by heart rate rather than pace. Of course, if it is hot out or if you are running over hilly terrain then your heart rate will be effected. So, you will then want to focus on “feel” rather than the heart rate itself. In addition, you will need to focus on maintaining your effort.

For example, your heart rate will drop while running downhill. So, there is no need to speed up because of this. Focus on maintaining your effort. Be patient with your build up. Everyone sees the fast times and fail to see the hard work put into the training that produced that result.

‘The event’ is glorified.

It is the process that isn’t seen.

It makes me think of a quote by the great Mohammad Ali,

The fight is won or lost far away from the witnesses, behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road; long before I dance under those lights.

I received an email from a gentleman I coach who said this beautifully,

Yes, maybe people would envy some of the things I’ve accomplished.  I believe, as I think you had mentioned before, that people tend to focus on the end result, not the process. 

Recently, I’ve had friends congratulate me.  One friend said it was ‘amazing’ what I did. I was not trying to diminish the accomplishment, but I said that there was nothing amazing about it.  In my mind, it happened due to a lot of hard work and persistence.  Still, I was very grateful for the compliment.

It happened due to a lot of hard work and persistence.

What Heart Rate is Unsafe while Running?

The good news is that higher amounts of lactic acid will force us to slow down. So, we can really on hold maximal efforts for a few seconds to minutes. Heart rates above 200 beats per minute are highly difficult to maintain. Of course, this becomes unsafe when you are not as anaerobically fit. The heart will have to work extremely hard.

You can go out for a run and thinking you are running easy. What does your heart rate say? You are running too hard.

It takes patience to hold back. If you are running in a group and you have an easy run planned for the day. What should you do?  Back off or try to keep up?

It takes more discipline to hold back then to run faster than you should and go with the group.

Jack Hazen, introduced me to heart rate training. He has coached at Malone University for the past 52 years. In addition to that, Jack was the head mens and women’s distance coach for the 2012 London Olympic Games.

Is Heart Rate Training Worth It?

I believe it is. You have a better understanding of the pace you should be running at. In addition, you can see the changes in your paces the fitter you get.

The top endurance coaches implement heart rate training into their athlete’s training routine.

Heart  rate training running has been how I have trained now since I started in 1995.

I have used heart rate monitors on my long runs and tempo runs for the past 27 years.

Are you asking yourself these questions?

I have never used a heart rate monitor before?

How do I know what heart rate to hold while I am running?

Here were the guidelines Jack gave us when I was competing at Malone University.

1. Easy Pace – 60 to 65% of max heart rate

2. Moderate Pace – 85 to 89% of max heart rate

3. Hard Pace – 95 to 100% of max heart rate

Anaerobic threshold training is one of the best training zones you can sit at. The reason being is you will be teaching the body to clear lactic acid faster than it is building up. In addition, you will sustain race pace longer and learn to run more efficiently.

The problem is it hurts. That being said, the ability to tolerate and maintain the pace you want to hold in a race is the goal isn’t it?

Why is My Heart Rate So High on Easy Runs?

It could be that you are simply not recovered yet from your previous hard workout. Are you running in the heat or over hills? If so, this can dramatically impact your heart rate during easy runs.

Heart rate training running will help you get there because it ensures you train at the proper intensities.

You know you are not running faster than you should.

In addition, you want to extend the amount of time you spend at the point where lactic acid starts to build in your blood stream.

Heart rate training makes that process easier.

It is much easier to wear a Garmin heart rate monitor and be able to look down and see where your heart rate is.

4. Aerobic Capacity – Aerobic capacity running is very intense. You are working at near sprint speed and heart rates exceeding your race heart rate levels.

It is also called Vo2 Max which is also known as the maximum oxygen uptake your body can produce.

The Hazen-Vigil Training Philosophy

Coach Hazen based our training around the philosophy of Dr. Joe Vigil.

Three weeks before the national championships we did an all-out two-mile followed by three, 1-mile repeats working at 94% of our maximum effort.

The best I did on this workout was 9.27, 4.32, 4.41, 4.38.

We had full recovery after the 2-mile as this is an extremely anaerobic workout. In addition, the idea is to run with high volumes of lactic acid in your body. You want the body to  super compensate.

Intensity Rises

Volume drops but intensity goes up. This was the tapering philosophy being our training regiment at Malone University.

Two weeks from the championships we would do an all-out 2-mile and two, 1-mile repeats.

Lastly, the week before we did an all-out mile and jogged the rest of the week.

Vigil is one of the world’s leading authorities on exercise physiology and elite running coach. He is one of the main reasons why I take heart rate training running so seriously.

The Benefits of Heart Rate Training

  1. Knowledge of where your heart rate is sitting during exercise
  2. Prevention from over training
  3. Great way to track your training i.e. knowledge of mile splits, overall pace, calories burned
  4. Knowledge of knowing when to speed up or slow down
  5. The heart does not have to work as hard
  6. You are easily able to maintain heart rates that previously were much harder to maintain.

The Cons

  1. Heart rates vary during the day. Your morning heart rate is usually 5-6 beats lower than in the afternoon.
  2. Heart rates increase as temperatures rise.
  3. Dehydration causes a rise in heart rate so that can cause inaccurate readings

Our heart rate varies from day to day, although they have not found a reason for this.

There are some days where you simply are not going to run as fast as other days.

Listen To Your Heart

Check your resting heart rate in the morning.

The world’s top distance running coaches taught me this.

If you resting heart rate in the morning is 6 to 8 beats higher than usual then you need may need to take the day off or jog. In addition, if you had a hard training session planned on that particular day, back off and do it the following day.

You want to always run at a heart rate of at least 130-150 beats per minute if running easy. Jack would tell us while I was still in college that running at a heart rate of 120 or below just burns blood sugar (glucose).

You are not burning fat.

Remember, the key is to utilize fat as your primary fuel source in training and especially at speeds mimicking the pace you want to race at.

If you simply want to burn fat you need to run at least at a heart rate of 130 beats per minute. This comes out to around 65-80% of your max heart rate when doing long runs.

Long runs on the lower end of your heart rate will help you burn fat. Remember, the trick is to burn fat at speeds relative to the pace you want to race at.

Two Heart Rate Monitors I Recommend

Gamin Vivoactive GPS

This heart rate monitor is one of the best heart rate monitors you can buy today..

It tracks everything from distance run, pace per mile, average pace per mile, altitude etc. Highly recommend it and it is still my favorite of all the heart rate monitor models.

Garmin 620

It has all the same features the Garmin 405 has but has a swipe feature similar to most smart phones.

You can swipe from screen to screen showing data from your workout.

It also has a virtual partner function that the Garmin 405 doesn’t have that allows you to pair up and plug in a time you want to try to run and have the watch programmed to try to match you.

If you are serious about your running and want to have all the extra gadgets that track other areas of your training then the Garmin 620 is the way to go.

That being said, when it comes to heart rate training. All you need is the basic heart rate models like the Garmin 110.

Heart rate training running is how the best runners in the world train.

I hope this post on heart rate training running has been helpful to you. Make sure to subscribe to the RunDreamAchieve YouTube channel. I create new content there each week to help runners like you get to the next level in their training and racing.

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