Yesterday’s 90 minute barefoot treadmill run marked the end of week 12 of my 16 week training program for the Sarasota Half Marathon, which takes place on March 17.. The training’s gone well, so I’d like to offer an update. First, though, a little backstory of why I’m following a heart rate-based program.
The logic, as outlined in Benson and Connolly’s book Heart Rate Training, which I’ve mentioned previously, is, once you think about it, blindingly simple. HR training is the most user-specific training available to the ordinary (and elite, for that matter) athlete. It relies on your cardio-vascular system, which means that it reflects your overall state of stress 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. More to the point for training purposes, it offers immediate and consistent feedback about your stress level, intensity level, and your rate of adaptation to the training process. That means that, rather than relying on a pre-determined set of data for my training, it’s all been done on the basis on ongoing, daily, and very personal data. It’s all about me, and nobody else.
Before I started the program, I did a treadmill-based test to determine my maximum heart rate, which turned out to be 163 bpm. Every morning of the program I’ve determined my resting heart rate, which is between 43 and 46 bpm, depending on the day. (To do the latter, I use a nifty little program on my Android smartphone called Instant Heart Rate.) I track all of my workout, and the associated data re resting heart rate, weight, blood pressure, and length and quality of sleep with SportTracks. That gives me a comprehensive and easily-accessed reference library of how the training’s going. Of course, my trusty Garmin 210 is the backbone of the whole system, as it’s what shows me what my heart rate is.
Buikding endurance – and speed – following a heart rate-based program takes time. Not just weeks, but sometimes months. I’m fortunate in that I’ve built a strong aerobic base over the past year. I’ve also worked on speed in my previous training programs for various races and distances. But this HR-based program has made an enormous difference. It’s different from the others.
Here’s one graphic example of how that difference manifests itself. It’s not my data, but an image I downloaded via a Google search, and include here because illustrates very nicely a couple of points I want to make.
The top graph shows the runner’s heart rate for a certain distance, in which she kept to a pre-determined heart rate. The lower graph shows the same distance and time, but with the runner following a pre-determined pace. Going for pace resulted in peaks and valleys of heart rate, which resulted, as one would expect, in feelings of fatigue. That inevitably affected her endurance, and would, in the longer run, mean less endurance and a lower running economy. Running to heart rate, on the other hand, mean that she adjusted her pace to keep at the pre-determined heart rate, and so conserved her energy levels, her power, and her strength.
Endurance isn’t everything, of course. That’s why, as part of my training program, I’ve included interval and tempo runs as well as the endurance-focused sessions. Such an ongoing heart rate-based program increases the size of the body’s capillaries and develops mitochondria, so that strength, endurance, and speed are all enhanced.
It’s all been good.
What’s the bottom line? Following this heart rate-based training program has 1/ built up my endurance, 2/ lessened my fatigue levels, and 3/ made me quicker. As an instance of the latter, consider the following: my current PB for the 16K distance (1:35:18, a pace of 5:57) was set in June 2008, at the Toronto 10 Miler. Yesterday, I ran 15.8K in 1:30, for a pace of 5:41. Yesterday, I was cruising, not racing. I wasn’t pushing hard, and I had plenty in the tank at the end of the run. Is it any wonder I’ve become a fan of heart rate-based training?