How to start low heart rate training

I highly recommend low heart rate training in the aerobic base building phase of your training cycle. Mostly because you can’t really build aerobic fitness and anaerobic fitness at the same time. You also can’t maintain peak fitness forever. After a big race, eventually you have to go back and build your base.

You can do this easily without reference to heart rate, by focusing on easy, conversational paced running — but the benefit of heart rate training is that it adds an objective measure. Most people’s easy pace is a lot slower than they think it is.

Step 1: Find your resting heart rate and your maximum heart rate

Generally, the 220-age calculation is highly inaccurate. My maximum heart rate is 205 and I’m 37. So I find the calculation of resting and max heart rate the best one. And I mean maximum recorded heart rate. You can always adjust it up if you record a higher rate.

For my easy runs in low heart rate training I aim for 70% or under.

0.7 x (Maximum Heart Rate — Resting Heart Rate) + Resting Heart Rate

For me that’s about 150. The best time to take your resting heart rate is first thing in the morning before you’ve even gotten up for the first time.

Step 2: Run to time and within your heart rate zone

Don’t worry about the actual distance. Run the same amount of time as you normally would, but keep your heart rate under that 70% mark. And that means you keep your heart rate under that level at all times — that’s not your average heart rate. As soon as it hits the top level, you walk until it comes back down again.

Step 3: Be patient. And expect to spend a bit of time there.

Generally base building periods are about 12 weeks, which is a long time without a whole lot of variety. And it’s the lack of variety that can really get to you after awhile.

To get around this, think about changing where you run on a regular basis — just to keep things interesting.

Step Four: Track your progress

As the week’s progress, you will see your easy pace get quicker and quicker while your heart rate remains the same. This won’t necessarily change from week to week, but every four weeks you should see a substantial difference.