Importance of heart rate training when running

May 23, 2023

Get your Base Training right for the Best Race Results

Anything that can elevate your resting heart rate will have a knock on effect on your heart rate during exercise. Reactions to stress or anxiety cause your heart rate to increase while at rest so then your heart rate will be proportionally increased further during exercise as a result. Hot weather and humidity will affect your heart rate, as can dehydration and even a change in the elevation within your running route.

With these factors taken into consideration, you may find it beneficial to use an additional metric when measuring your heart rate while running, such as perceived exertion when doing heart rate training. Use your heart rate monitor to target the right heart rate zone, but do assess how you’re breathing and perceived exertion feel during the run too. It is so important to learn how to listen to your body as well as watch your heart rate monitor. It will stand you in great sted later in racing and events. Your easy runs target heart rate and should correspond with only slightly elevated breathing and the ability to carry on a conversation with a running partner during training.

Whether you are a new runner who hopes to make running a habit or a more experienced runner looking to improve, heart rate monitors can help you achieve your goals. Heart rate monitors can teach you how to manage your effort and run at an easy, comfortable pace. Whether you just want to run comfortably for 30 minutes or want to run faster in a race, running within the right intensity, as part of your full training programme, will help you achieve those goals and stay injury-free.

What’s your maximum heart rate (MHR)? Age, your current fitness, resting heart rate, and other individual factors affect your max heart rate. However, most equations only factor in age, because of how varied the other factors are. There are many formulas out there for maximum heart rate, but research has found that the most accurate equation is 208 – (0.7xage) = MHR. So if you are 27 years old, your MHR is 189 beats per minute (BPM).

Once you know your maximum heart rate, you can determine your target heart rate for different types of workouts.

  • Easy runs: 65-75% of MHR (123-142 for our 189 BPM runner)
  • Tempo runs: 87-92% (164-173 for 189 BPM runner)
  • Intervals: 95-100% (179-189 for 189 BPM runner)

You will get the most benefit from a heart rate monitor when you use it on an easy run. Easy runs are runs done at an intensity low enough that you can talk if you need to. These low intensity runs offer numerous benefits, including decreased risk of injury, less soreness, increased aerobic fitness, and more enjoyment. The key for any runner with a goal working towards long term race gains is for increased aerobic fitness, this is the base training that will build you abiltiy to progress your speed year on year and nt repeat the same training and race times year on year.

Yet despite being called an easy run, maintaining a low intensity can be anything but easy for runners. Many new runners will start out at a moderate-to-hard effort because that’s the effort that is most often associated with running. But not every run should be hard! Runs done at an easy, comfortable effort are what will build your fitness the most with the least risk of injury.

New runners will benefit from heart rate training, as a starting point to building their fitness. Heart rate monitoring will help new runners be more precise and accurate with their training, staying within the proper zone for each workout, especially easy runs. And since new runners should wait until they build an aerobic base before doing speed work, they can use heart rate monitors to control intensity on all of their runs and learn how to run at the appropriate perceived effort.

The idea behind heart rate-based training is that you train your aerobic system without overstressing your skeletal and muscular systems, explains personal trainer Erin Carr. ‘[It] is a different way to be successful at running,’ she says. ‘It doesn’t have to be ‘no pain, no gain,’ or going as hard as you possibly can, and it allows for continued improvements over time.’

Heart-rate training prevents you from running too hard on your easy or recovery runs, reducing the risk of fatigue and overtraining, so it helps you to recover. Too many runners run too hard too often each week and drain the battery, leading it fatigue and increasing the injury risks, so by recovering properly during your easy runs, your legs will also be fresher for your next hard session or race.

Equally, you will be able to accurately track your effort in interval sessions, when you want to be working at a higher intensity. Heart-rate training is particularly useful for tempo runs when getting your exertion level right is important for benefitting from the workout.

Training to heart rate will help you moderate the influence of external factors such as heat and humidity, which require your heart to work harder. But remember that the change doesn’t happen overnight. Once you’ve dedicated the time and slower miles, the results can be impressive.

Get Your Base Training Right to Take Your Running to the Next Level