First things first. You’ve obviously got a heart rate monitor! You realise that your heart rate can vary day by day for lots of reasons, such as illness or fatigue, and that this makes HR based training less accurate. Oh yes and you will also find differences between different sports that you perform.
But neither of us are elite athletes so it won’t matter that much in reality!
Right, let’s get started, so we need your MAX heart rate and your MIN heart rate (or resting heart rate). HRmax and HRmin.
HRmax is a tad over what you last did right at the end of your last 5k PB. Not 220-Age. Mine is 193/194/195 somewhere around there – when I was younger it was over 200.
HRmin is your lowest heart rate after resting for 20 minutes. Get it as low as you can. BTW This is a better measure of how fit you are rather than how high your heart can go. BTW2 My HRmin was higher when I wore my heart rate strap and watch all night (whilst asleep) than when I wore it resting for 20 minutes resting. Bizarre but true (for me) so maybe don’t waste your time trying that one (wearing it all night)!
OK. Read the following carefully and note that TRAINING Zones and Zones based on percentages of Max HR are different…
Let’s work out TRAINING zones using HRmax=200 and HRmin=50. Nicer round numbers.
Using this example the 90% level (ie use 0.90) is: 0.90 x (HRmax – HRmin) + HRmin ie 0.9 x (200-90)+90 = 185 bpm
Do the same calc for the 80%, 70% and 60% levels. Do 85% as well (I’ll come back to why later). Do it with your own figures for you…
Your zones are between these levels, so:
70%-80% = Aerobic Zone
80%-90% = Anaerobic Zone
90%-100% = Redline Zone. Performance starts to degrade and continues to exhaustion.
You‘ll probably find that you run your 5k races in the anaerobic zone going into the redline zone for not very long towards the end. You would not be able to run 5k in the redline zone (if you can you are really good!). In the aerobic zone you are not trying hard enough for the race! Although the aerobic zone has its uses in training.
For example. In my last 5k PB here were my average HRs over each KM (note the 6th KM is for over running by me or under-measuring the course by them). For the purposes of our HR discussion that does not matter:
KM1 156 bpm (81% of max heart rate)
KM2 170 bpm (88% of HRmax)
KM3 177 bpm (92% of HRmax)
KM4 181 bpm (94%)
KM5 186 bpm (96%)
KM6 191 bpm (99%) 50m extra.
That’s a fairly typical race profile for me. HR rises quickly for 0.5-1.0 km before plateauing and then slightly rising as fatigue sets in. I’m not unusual.
OK here’s where it gets vaguely interesting…
So, from the figures above, Race Average = 174 bpm (90%). This is slap bang in the middle of my anaerobic TRAINING zone. In terms of how it links to pace; then I was pretty even throughout the race perhaps gaining 5 seconds on the last km ‘sprint’.
You will probably also read of other types of HR zones. These are probably better than the basic one given above. But they often yield fairly similar results. Joe Friel and others will show better ones but often the tests you have to do for the inputs are not so straightforward as those above. As I say, neither of us are elite athletes! The zones are to a degree arbitrary BUT what we will soon come onto is your lactate threshold level and this is VERY REAL.
So let’s come back to my 174 bpm average for the 5km PB. Well my 10k PB yielded an average of 172 bpm. I don’t really do 10ks that much and so again could have gone a bit faster and so would have my heart. My 1 hour bike TT has an average BPM of 172. So as you can see there is a degree of ‘coincidence’ here!!
So this 172/174 bpm (the 85% training zone/level you calculated earlier) type area represents the area somewhere pretty close to my lactate threshold (LTHR). My lactate threshold (LTHR) is probably I reckon about 175-9 bpm but I can’t quite push myself enough psychologically to find that out in training. 172 is hard for me to maintain but I can do it for an hour or so. I can do heartrates of the low 180s for a few KMs. [Your lactic acid threshold level is where your legs start to get progressively heavier and progressively ‘stop’ working; it’s caused by H+ ions a.k.a. a build up of lactic acid from going to fast…ie your body couldn’t get rid of it quick enough).
So what we want to do with HR training (well one of the things anyway) is to train upwards your lactate threshold ‘level’ (LTHR) and all the associated bits of that bodily system that you don’t need to understand. You do this mostly by training at just under that level. So I would train from 163-168 and up, something like that. (For cycling though look also for 85% FTP on the net as an alternative power based training zone). This training makes my body’s systems change over time and the lactate threshold level moves further away in the right direction ie towards a higher heart rate and I can then train AND RACE harder. Well so the theory goes! Seems to work tho.
This does not necessarily mean that your max or min will change – they might. Just the threshold is what you are trying to change.
You would probably also find benefit in under-over sessions (ie under and over your LTHR) where your intervals go above and below the threshold.
You will also use your HR monitor to do other types of training (to train other bodily systems) . Your general aerobic fitness will come from long slogs of mileage in your aerobic zones. Other training will look at trying to increase your VO2max by fast sessions – you might do REDLINE Sprints. To be honest for 5k I wouldn’t bother too much about anything below your aerobic zone if you think you are half competent at 5ks and building up to a PB attempt or race. Certainly my run training has me ALWAYS aiming for at least 160 and then running intervals where my HR goes into the high 170s and sometimes 180s. Then again my training time available each week is limited and I do other sports as well.
Then again I’m not an expert. People who would argue with me will merely be reciting someone else’s science and not their own. Anyway it’s ‘right enough’ for us to get those 5k PBs down! Certainly over a 3 month period with limited time I would focus on LTHR and VO2max training.
Look at it another way if you do a 5k and your HRavg (average) is above the threshold then either you really were trying really, really hard – or your calcs were a bit out! (Probably the latter) So try harder still next time.
SO: HR based training obviously works. Some argue that there are better alternative approaches. Do I use HR based training? Well no, not really all the time. But I certainly use my HRM as a sanity check for what I’m doing on any one particular day.
- How Slow Can You Go? (treesflowersbirds.wordpress.com)
- 5k + Duathlon + Triathlon : Tracking your improvement (or not) with TRIMP CTL TSB ATL (the5krunner.wordpress.com)
- Why Knowing Your Maximum and Target Heart Rates is an Advantage (kaayafitnessenhancement.wordpress.com)
- Heart Rate Training and the Pneu Weightless Treadmill Training (via Road 2 Recovery/Road 2 Worlds) (the5krunner.wordpress.com)
- Training with a Heart Rate Monitor (foodservicewarehouse.com)
- Two Ways to Train Your Anaerobic Threshold (amazus.org)
- Minimum or Resting Heart Rate and Maximum for 5k Runner (the5krunner.com)
- Pulse Rate Chart (answers.com)