Irish Mountain
Running Association

Heart rate Training

Lorcan FarrellMar 30 2021, 4:49amHi folks, this is my second time writing this post as I lost the first by accident after my login timed out, sigh! I'm looking to tap into the collective knowledge on here about heart-rate based training. I've checked the forum and I cant find much in the last few years so apologies if this has been covered before.

I'm back in the game after having covid and I'm using 2021 to take my running a bit more seriously in the hope of being allowed back to the hills and maybe if we're very lucky, some IMRA races at some point in the future. I'm looking to build milage and increase my aerobic endurance over the next few months before starting any faster speed type work. Sounds simple.

So off to google I went to see what the good people of the internet were doing. Everything, they're doing everything. I cant seem to find a consensus even on what aerobic training is or how to even figure out what that zone might be for me. Some people use percentages of HRmax, some use percentages of Heart Rate Reserve (HRR), some go a bit more simplistic like the MAF method and it's blanket 180-your age. It's very confusing.

The best attempt I have made is following the training principles in a book called Healthy Intelligent Training by Keith Livingstone which is based on the Arthur Lydiard system. It takes percentages of HRR to break up the zones. 60-75% HRR is Aerobic base building, 75-80% HRR is Sub-threshold, 80-85% HRR is threshold and anything over 85% HRR is Anaerobic/speed work.

So for me, my HRR is 135bpm which is my max heart rate minus my resting heart rate (190-55bpm). My heart rate for the zones above are therefore 135-156bpm for aerobic base building, 156-163bpm for sub-threshold, 163-170bpm for threshold and 170+bpm for anaerobic speed work. At the moment I'm running in the aerobic range of 136-156bpm. That's a big range. To be honest, I prefer the 156 end rather than the lower as my pace is quicker, it feels better and I seem to be making good gains for the moment

The issue is, other people have different takes on what "aerobic" means and that straying too high possibly diminishes the effect of aerobic endurance building. Take the MAF method for example. His formula is 180-age so for me is 143bpm and you never go over that ever. also if you follow his rules, I have to take 5bpm off that as my training hasn't been consistent for 2 years so that's 138bpm which would be the upper ceiling (and the lower end of the range I'm using). This for me, is painfully slow but training at 156bpm feels good with a nice pace that's dropping as time goes on BUT may be above aerobic pace! I know one can go to a lab to figure all that out but before I entertain that, maybe some good, proven rules of thumb to try out first may be best.

So what I'm asking you, the good people of IMRA is: What is your experience with building Aerobic Endurance using heart rate, what have you found that works? What think yee of the above examples? I hope all this makes sense. Any insights would be greatly appreciated.
Trish CampionMar 30 2021, 6:22amHi Lorcan I have been using HR training since start of 2019 and find recovery from it brilliant. My coach did the tests to get my zones, which is very accurate rather than going by percentage or minus the age method. So I would def recommend a test whenever you can to eliminate doubt. My range for Z2 is also 139 but up to 149. But I do 2 runs a week sub 139, this builds up aerobic also, though painfully slow if you stick with it, you do get faster from running slow if that makes sense. Same with running at 139, if you can run at the lower end rather than at the higher end of the zone, you build up a fitness aerobic level that will allow you run faster in a lower heart rate, so you are more efficient in a lower heart rate. I can be so frustrating running in the lower hr for months, but the body will get used to that, you will end up eventually running in lower heart rates going faster. Its not very technical, I apologise but it works so me for marathons, and I hope it does the same for me on the hills this year
Lorcan FarrellMar 30 2021, 5:57pmThank you for the response Trish, what you say is very similar to a large cohort of people who've found benefit from training in the lower zones. Maybe the thing to do is get and exact measurement like you say, then you can train to that known.
Trish CampionMar 30 2021, 8:28pmDefinitely worth getting tested to get your zones. Hope it goes well for you and makes it enjoyable.
Mary SteedMar 31 2021, 11:36amHi Lorcan, check out the Trail Running Ireland podcast this week. Rene Borg has an interesting discussion about this topic. Might be useful for you.
Ross ReillyMar 31 2021, 3:55pmHi Lorcan,

I have been experimenting along with my coach with heart rate for the last 5 years I have used many of these methods including MAF. What I have found is its not actually honing in on the specific number these methods say. We base my training a lot off the work of coach Jack Daniels and sports scientist Stephen Seiler there method for easy base building for your easy work it has to feel really easy like you could have a conversation if someone was beside you this really helped me because i used to run my easy runs to hard now I always check in with myself could I have a conversation at this pace. Don't be afraid to go slower it may feel slow but you will become more efficient over time and become faster. The method I use to find my easy running zone is % of hr max for me my max is 200 so I do most my easy runs between 65% and 74% of max and I find it really good that in that range it is nice and easy. Always remember to every day is different thats why its a range always try to stay on the lower side because your always thinking of longevity. I hope this helps I also left a link to Seilers work on easy training