Well, I do, it’s true. I ♥️ Running.

But this is actually about Heart Rate Training (HRT, not to be confused with the other one), which is where you slap on a Heart Rate Monitor (HRM, not be be confused with the Queen) and proceed to trip over logs while watching a wildly varying number on your watch that you’ve convinced yourself tells you if you’re about to explode.

I did not explode. Might as well get that bit out of the way.

Let’s get this straight, Heart Rate Monitors are for tech-obsessed geeks who love plotting graphs showing their RBT* against their MKC** over a period of time. They are also for people with more money than sense. They are not for people like me, hearty runners who think nothing of an ice-bath first thing in the morning followed by a spot of competitive moustache growing and then maybe some llama wrestling*** for good measure.

Did I tell you about me collection of graphs, or my extensive Excel running spreadsheets? They’re in loads of colours…

It is a matter of record that I have little sense. Read back through some of the things I’ve done in the last two years, I dare you. See what I mean?

So, I have been hankering for a HRM for a while now (and I don’t mean the Queen).

I finally got myself one, and won’t go into the months of shall-he-shan’t-he that finally ended with oh-yes-he-did.

It’s orange. 🙂

Anyhow, part of the excitement of all this is that I got to work out my Heart Rate Zones. For me, zone one is the Twilight Zone,  zone two is the End Zone and zone three (as you’d expect) is the De-Militarised Zone. All good so far.

Actually no, that’s silly.

Firstly, you need to work out your maximum heart rate, or HRMax, as it’s known. It sounds like a Human Resources Super Hero, I know. You do not work this out by running so fast until your heart gives out, thus showing how fast it could go. This is not a good approach – I was lied to. Instead, you use a mathematical equation the like of which you won’t find repeated over two websites. They all go about it a slightly different way. As I like something with a bit of complication, I went with the Kevorkian Equation, which goes:

210 – half your age – 1% of your weight in lb +4 = HRMax (if you’re a chap).

Now I know that sounds like I made it up, but honestly I didn’t. Well, maybe just the name. I came out with 192 since you ask.

The second bit is to figure out what your resting heart rate, or HRRest, for the purist. This one is more fun. You find somewhere cosy, put on your HRM and relax for 20 minutes. The lowest reading is HRRest. I may have fallen asleep, but only for a minute, and clock up an almighty low of 66.

OK, still with me? The difference between the two is HRReserve, or your Reserve Heart Rate – it’s the bit you can play with, I suppose. You then figure out five zones between HRRest and HRMax which are HRRest + %age of HRReserve. So, for example, Zone 1 is 50-60% of HRReserve added to HRRest. Zone 2 is 60-70% HRReserve added to HRRest and so on.

Zone 2 is where the action is currently for me, as I’m carrying a pound or six more than I ought to be. I blame that entirely on my unduly high MKC co-efficient as it goes. Zone 2 is good for your heart but also is mainly fuelled by tapping in to your reserves of fat.  My Zone 2 is 142-154 BPM**** and sounded like a good place to start for a wee jaunt.

I tried it out, and found that by plodding at that range (and a little below too, which I suspect is fine), I was clocking an 11:30 mile rather than my usual 10:00 mile. Interesting. I also wasn’t feeling any real tiredness, such as I usually would going up a steep hill, though this may have been because I was going so slowly it would have been difficult to tell I was making any vertical progress at all.

I think I went over once or twice, but only for a moment till I noticed and slowed down even further. Even the bit where I was mildly ambushed by two deer in the woods only spiked it up to 156 BPM. Compared to yesterday’s free-and-easy run up to 171 BPM I felt like I’d just unlocked some very large secret.

The plan is to do more of this Zone Training thing, and see what happens.

Rock ‘n’ Roll!

*Relative Buttock Trimness

**Mr Kipling Consumption

***The be-robed monk type. They love a good wrestle, whereas the four-legged variety would think you were after a snog. That would be wrong.

****Beats Per Minute – see, you knew I’d sneak a real footnote in there at some point just to test.

  1. I had a heart rate monitor for awhile but have never ran with it. Now I just need to find it!

    • I definitely recommend it – I started playing a game on a flat bit to see if smiling more broadly would bring my heart rate down (it did!). I then applied that same approach on a hill, where it didn’t work so well, or perhaps I just needed to smile wide enough that the top of my head would have fallen off…

  2. rundontrun says:

    I dug out my HRM last week and had a go at quality slow running, inspired by an article in this month’s Runner’s World. I blogged about it here: https://rundontrun.wordpress.com/2013/11/08/running-slow-on-purpose/
    However, I think I got the maths wrong and might need to go back to the drawing board! Your explanation makes a lot more sense. Incidentally, I tried out the “run flat out approach” to working out my maximum HR and the used your formula. There was 0.8 of a BPM difference.

    • Good stuff – impressed at the 39 BPM resting rate, think I’ve got a way to with that.

      It’s interesting that the lower your resting heart rate, the further down your Zones are – I was at 142-154 compared to your 110-130 for Zone 2. You would think a more ‘tuned’ heart would work the other way?

      I can feel further research coming on, will have to go and find my lab coat.

      • rundontrun says:

        I’m suspicious of that BPM reading – maybe it was picking up the beats from some very slow music I was listening to on the radio as I woke up. Also I didn’t use the RPM to work out my zones, hence the probable need to pretty much walk to stay in the zone. I’m getting the calculator out before I try this again

      • Nothing wrong with checking, I reckon. I find that my Zone 2 is pretty much my slow run pace, but going uphill it turns into a comedy shuffle. Third time out with the HRM yesterday and I managed to maintain 142-154 BPM pretty consistently – my pace line, which is usually *relatively* steady was pretty much matched to the elevation on the run, but overall I came in not too much of a slow pace – there have been days when I would have been happy with that pace, and so I reckon that’s good.

        What’s confusing me now, from thinking about your heart rate (right or wrong) is that if your resting rate is lower than mine, it presumably means you’re healthier. However, I have to get a higher BPM to get into the same zone as you. For some reason that doesn’t sound right, and I would expect it to be the other way around, though at other times I can convince myself it’s perfectly correct. What I need is a good heart rate training book, I think, or maybe an expert to explain it to me… 🙂

  3. Nice one. I find HRT really good. I use my HRM with my Garmin almost all the time, balancing HR against pace. When I first got my HRM I was surprised by the high numbers. I tried the Kivorkian test, but found it gave me a lower reading than I could achieve when sprinting and playing football, so I did a HRMax test taken from runners world. I found my HRMax was about 10 BPM more than the equation. Being a skeptic I found a cardiologist friend who put me on a VO2 Max machine and did a HRMax test. Result? I saved about £350 on a test which told me that my HRMax was actually exactly the same as the one I obtained from the runners world test. 202 BPM, with a HRRest of 56. However, my cardiologist told me that my readings were broader than normal – ie my HRReserve was very wide and almost all people would fit into the Kivorkian range nicely. What does this mean? She said she didn’t know, other than I have the HRMax of someone half my age, and had I been blessed with a taller frame, more flexibility and a more efficient gait I could have been a good runner or cyclist. Yeah, I don’t speak to her anymore…
    ALSO, thanks for the abbreviations! I love a good TLA (Three Letter Acronym), but if I had said the above to my girlfriend she would have fallen asleep mid sentence…

    • Hmmm, I wonder if I know any cardiologists?

      Thanks for your take on heart rates, it’s good to get another person’s perspective. I was a bit unconvinced by the one-size-fits-all HRMax calculation, mainly as I think I’m a bit weird compared to most folk. I’ve only been going with this for three days, but it seems like a vast new world of fun to be had – I managed to stick to pretty much Zone 2 last night, though my pace was all over the place.

      Got a Parkrun tomorrow (fingers crossed), will be interesting to see what happens when I’m pushing on a fast run. 🙂

      • Zone 5! Well, for the last bit anyway. Be interested to see your HRM results!

      • I worry I might explode if I get to Zone 5 – what if I’ve got the numbers wrong and my HRMax is 10 below what I think and I actually explode without realising? However, on the slight possibility that I come back unexploded I’d post the link and we can all enjoy the results. 🙂

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