Friday, May 13, 2016

Heart Rate Training: Let's Try This Again

I know I just did an update on my heart rate training but I've learned a lot in the short time period since that post and I think I've ironed out some kinks.

Did you know that your earbuds can interfere with your heart rate monitor? Yeah, me either. I run with one earbud in my ear and stuff the other down my sports bra which puts it fairly close to my HR monitor. No wonder I would get odd readings or drop outs sometimes. Now I'm keeping the unused bud higher and farther away from my HRM and have had less issues.

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Another change I've made is the actual strap itself. My Garmin strap was actually pretty stretched out, I had it as tight as it would go and it was still hanging down my back. I'm pretty sure it was only being held up by my bra. My strap also had some small cracks on the part that sits against my rib cage. I read that a lot of users found more accurate readings when they put their Garmin transmitter on a Polar WearLink strap. I actually had one of these laying around from back when I was calorie counting a lot. I also noticed that one of the snap pieces on my transmitter had some rusty gunk, so I cleaned that up with a q-tip before trying it out on the Polar strap. I also have started taking the transmitter off the strap after each run so the between parts can dry.

I don't know which of these things really made a difference, maybe a combination? But I definitely feel like my readings are more accurate and I haven't had any more drop outs or spikes.

I also did another assessment of my HR zones. You're supposed to do this every 4-6 weeks but I was long overdue. I wanted to do the test better this time. The previous test I had done was to do 3 sprints, as fast as you can sustain for the time period (I actually can't locate where I found this test right now or I would be more specific and link to it), with a short rest between. You're highest heart rate from those sprints is your max. I couldn't sustain the last sprint, my legs couldn't keep the pace for that long. That had put me at 186. I hit 186 all the time, I hit 186 on "easy" runs having a full conversation. So another assessment was in order. The test I used this time was from Coach Jenny Hadfield, she says to do it on the treadmill, warm-up and then gradually up the pace every two minutes. At the end of the two minutes, you say the pledge of allegiance out loud. When it gets hard to say and you are really noticing your breathing getting heavier, that is supposed to be your "red line" or your "threshold" heart rate and is generally about 10% lower than your max heart rate. The problem I had with this test made my 186 max from the other test make sense. I couldn't get to a point where the pledge was hard to say because my legs wouldn't go faster. I think I got to around a 7:00 minute pace (I'm not a fast runner) and felt like I was going to fly off the treadmill but could still say the pledge with little to no difficulty.

After some more research and consideration, and even trying the test again, I decided that the top HR reading/fastest pace I made it to was probably the bottom of my orange zone instead of my red. That's how it felt as well if we go by feel. Care to guess what my HR was? 187. Now, I'm in better shape than when I did the first test so I can't make a direct comparison, but I do find it funny. Anyway, I did some calculations, 187=90% of x, that sort of thing. I ended up with my max being about 223. Wait, what? You say. Yes, I thought it was ridiculous too. Then I did some more research, more calculations, and talked to a couple of individuals who are more experienced in this area than myself and determined that my max is likely in that ballpark. I may never hit a number that high but right now I'm using that as my max and set my zones according to Coach Jenny's percentages and so far, it feels right.

New zones and feel line up really well!

One thing that all of my heart rate training so far has definitely done for me is make me more aware of where I am in my zones. I've become more "tuned in" to my running and how I feel as far as effort level. This feel lines up so much better with my new zones, when I'm at the top of zone 2 I can feel it and know to back off without even looking at my watch (but I do, and I'm right). During my easy run this morning, I was trying to stay in my yellow zone by feel, zone 2 by heart rate and I totally nailed it.

This high max means that my cardiovascular system has the ability to take me faster than my legs can move me right now. So I guess I need to get serious about that speed work I'm always avoiding and build those fast-twitch muscle fibers.

Anyone else working on heart rate training? How is it going? What's your max?

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