Monitor your heart for better runs

Monitor your heart for better runs

by Robert Rounsavall 

Ask any of my friends — I've got an addictive personality. I'm all in with everything I do.

It's why I love the thought of running 100 miles. It's why I took a bus to Key West last year and attempted to run the 220 miles back to my house close to Fort Lauderdale when I realized I had a three-day weekend. It didn't end well, but that's another story.

When I started running faster, it was no surprise that I wanted to blast through every workout as fast as I could. It was great . . . for a minute. Running hard every workout right before a 50-miler led me to have a seriously bad, humbling race. I was out of energy early on, spent a good chunk of the race walking instead of running, and finished 3 HOURS after my initial goal time!

In my search to fix things, here’s what I discovered about heart-rate training:

• It keeps your easy runs easy.

I'd often go out for an easy 5- to 10-mile run and end up running the last part of it really fast because I needed to get home for work or family commitments. (Or, sometimes from lack of patience.) Then I'd wonder why my weekend long, hard run went horribly. I finally realized my easy runs during the week were not easy at all, so I had no energy left for my quality workouts. Heart monitoring forces me to slow down.

• It prevents you from overtraining.

It's very hard to physically burn out if you run at a low heart rate. You’ll see improvements over time and by running more miles at a lower heart rate.

• It builds a monster aerobic base.

This allows you to run easily seemingly forever. Several excellent running coaches recommend a period of base building or easy running at a low heart rate early in the racing season to a build and strengthen your aerobic system. After my 50-mile race experience, I spent a few months running at a low heart rate. Over time, your pace quickens at the same heart rate.

It’s easy to determine your low heart rate. Subtract your age from 180, and the number should be close to your maximum aerobic function heart rate, or MAF. Strive to run both your long and easy runs just below your MAF heart rate. Most running watches are compatible with a heart rate monitor. Some of them come with chest strap sensor, and many of them now have heart rate monitors built right in to the watch.

Remember, those guidelines are for the majority of people. If you’re coming off an injury or other health issue, check with your doctor before starting a training program.

I've had great results with heart-rate training through base building and by using it to hold myself back from running too hard.

For more details, Google "180 formula heart rate."

See you out on the roads and trails!