By Sean Fontana
The evolution of sporting technology has been extremely beneficial for athletes over the last one to two decades with advances in wearable technology to enhanced nutrition. Giving us a sporting and athletic edge over the previous generations of athletes that came before us. No doubt in the next decade we will see more advancements in training technologies with the ever growing research into sport and exercise science. It’s an extremely fascinating topic of discussion. One of the technological fitness devices I’m going to talk about today is the why I use heart rate training and the science behind it.
Firstly I will say that this type of training will benefit every individual differently some big benefits and some not so big benefits but you will never know until you try new things and learn what works for you or doesn’t as an athlete in pursuit of greatness. The first time I started getting interested in heart rate was when I was training with Team GB athlete Andy Vernon. He wore his heart rate monitor religiously on tempo runs and would stay in his tempo zone during the workout, never above. I spoke about tempo/threshold running in my previous blog The Art of Tempo Running and how you should run to heart rate and not pace for optimal training effect. You can see other great athletes like the Ingrbritsen brothers train with a heart rate monitor on too during threshold workouts and then lactic meters during training sessions too. Using technological advancements to get a greater understanding of how the body responds to certain training stimuli.
Anyway back to heart rate. I found it interesting when training with Andy or his training group, Melbourne Track Club at the time, they’re all wearing a chest strap. I was the only one who didn’t and it wasn’t until I spoke to Andy about why he trained with the heart rate monitor it all started to make senses to me. Firstly, I would take my pulse in the morning and record it in my training diary and would start to see a trend in my heart rate being anywhere between 38-42bpm when healthy and rested. However, if I was starting to train too hard or wasn’t giving my body enough rest or recovery I would see the numbers creep up to 45-50bpm and this would be the first warning sign of overtraining or that an illness/virus may be on the horizon. There could also be other factors like stress from work, poor sleep, caffeine and/or being dehydrated. Again, these are all stressors on the body that sometimes we don’t know deep down have a physiological impact on us and we still go out and train really hard that day and sometimes wonder why we felt we couldn’t hit the paces or times we were looking for. The answer may be hidden in that morning heart rate. I use a oxiometer device to quickly check resting heart in the morning.
When easy running I will stay in the blue zone and sometimes in the low end of green zone if I’m on a slight incline or hill when out easy running. On your Garmin these are the blue and green zones but I will do my best to have around 80-90% of my easy run in the blue zone, stated easy, roughly 130-138bpm after that I’ll see the heart rate go into the green zone, the aerobic zone. I will also look at my max heart rate and my average heart rate and if these are low then I know I have recovered properly from my hard training session the previous day. The pace will vary from day to day on easy runs depending on how tired you are from your previous training sessions but remember if you’re going out to recover for the next training session you shouldn’t be worried about your easy run pace. You should be worrying about running at the right intensity to allow your muscles to recover and physiology to absorb your hard work and the heart rate monitor will give you that live feedback. The heart rate monitor I use is the Garmin-Run, which works really well and I feel is very accurate with it’s heart rate feedback.
Tempo/threshold running should be done at heart rate, like I said in my previous blog, you will need to have a physiological test to see those numbers to have those accurate readings. You will be able to get those V02max and sub V02max tests done at most universities that have a sport science department. They usually cost around £100 and are very useful if you’re taking your training seriously. There is a specific heart rate zone at which your body buffers and accumulates lactic acid at the same time and that my friends is where your tempo/threshold is. It’s not based on pace, it’s based on science. Again, that pace will vary from week to week depending on the training load, however, if you stick at the correct heart rate you are placing the same stress on the body to get the desired physiological response from the training.
This type of training has lead me to running 29minutes 16seconds for 10km, 14minutes 06seconds for 5k and 66minutes 11seconds for the half marathon, which can be seen here. I hope when you try this type of training it brings you consistency, longevity and personal bests.
Thank you for taking the time out of your day and spend time with me and my thoughts as you read this blog post.
You can also view my at home fitness videos to help you stay in shape during lockdown here on my YouTube Channel.