Getting Curious About Heart Rate Training

Holy cow! I really thought I was going to blog every day this week. I was off to a good start but I seem to have missed a few days in between!


While I’ve been gone…

I’ve been thinking a little bit about heart rate training. I followed along with Jennifer at Running on Lentils during her latest half marathon training cycle and she has been absolutely killing it.

Jenn recently wrote:

My easy run pace has dropped by about one minute. On February 14, my average pace for an 8-mile long run was 13:07. My average heart rate was 153 and max heart rate was 172. On April 19, my average pace for my 13.1-mile long run was 12:06. My average heart rate was 114 and max heart rate was 165. That shows I was running faster while putting in less effort than the February 14 run.”

Between June of last year and February of this year I was running over 100 miles per month and my fitness was at an all time high. In March I tapered back my mileage to recover from my racing season, and in April I ran less than 40 miles for the entire month due to a bursitis flare up in both of my hips.

Throughout May I’ll be working on building up my mileage again and at the end of June I’ll start training for Chicago.

Since my fitness has taken a dip recently, I think now is a great time to start monitoring my heart rate during training runs. Hopefully I’ll be able to watch as my fitness improves during the next couple of months – and throughout marathon training!

After a short brisk walk. The white band is my Mio LINK heart rate band. Got it on Amazon for $65.

After a short brisk walk. The white band is my Mio LINK heart rate band. Got it on Amazon for $65.

I’m not committing to “heart rate training” or always running within specific target zones. I don’t know enough about heart rate training to know if it’s necessary or even better than the training I do now. I’m talking with my coach about it and doing a lot of research online.

For instance Sage Canaday, 2X Olympic Trials marathon qualifier, ultramarathon champion, and highly sought after running coach, says unless you’re running somewhere with lots of elevation changes, training by pace is pretty much all you need. He explains the pros and cons of heart rate training (specifically the cons of the popular Moffetone system) in this video that I’ve found really helpful:

Sage’s main point is that when training you can’t just focus on the heart and lungs. You also have to properly train the skeletomuscular system and look at pace, effort and velocity to really improve your overall running economy.

That being said, I do think it will be interesting to monitor my heart rate numbers throughout the next few months to see the changes! My job has trained me to be extremely data-driven and I LIKE NUMBERS AND TRENDS :).

In the end, being that I’m more of a back-of-the-pack runner, none of this probably matters all too much. BUT being that I’m a back-of-the-pack runner who wants to move up, I’m always looking at new ways to improve my training.

Do you monitor your heart rate on runs? 

Have you ever trained by heart rate instead of pace? Thoughts? Pros/Cons?

What’s on your weekend agenda? My mom is coming into town AND I’m going to catch up on blog reading!!!!! I feel so out of the loop! 



  1. May 8, 2015 / 6:52 am

    A BUNCH of my running friends started using MOF last year and have seen improvements. I’ve considered trying it but I’m afraid it’ll take some of the fun out of just running without having to think about it. But it does look like it works!

    • May 10, 2015 / 10:26 pm

      My first run with the heart rate monitor I kept looking to see what my HR was every five seconds, but ever since then I’ve just looked to see what my avg. heart rate and max heart rate was after I finish the run. So far I haven’t seen anything too interesting, but I’m hoping 3 months from now the data will show something worth knowing!

  2. May 8, 2015 / 6:53 am

    I think it would be interesting to try–maybe run with it for a week and set it aside for a month, then compare data. The biggest obstacle for me would be the strap–I don’t like extra “stuff” on my runs! However, consistently using Strava has me really into the “data”. I see the Fitbit–I have been curious about those too.
    Have fun with your Mom this weekend!

    • May 10, 2015 / 10:28 pm

      The white thing is actually my heart rate monitor! It’s called the MIO and you use it instead of a heart rate strap!

      My first run with the MIO and Garmin attached to my wrist was interesting … having both felt bulky, but I’ve already gotten used to the weight of wearing both and don’t even notice the MIO anymore.

  3. May 8, 2015 / 8:09 am

    I wear my heart rate monitor whenever I run or workout. I know that when my heart rate gets too high, I need to dial back my speed a little bit. My heart rate tends to get really high really fast which is frustrating!

  4. May 8, 2015 / 8:37 am

    I do enjoy monitoring my heart rate. For a while my HRM wasn’t working and I had to replace the battery which was a pain, but now its working again. Last year I remember using my HRM to make sure I was really taking my easy runs easy!

  5. May 8, 2015 / 9:48 am

    How can you go wrong with a Sage Canaday drop in your post lol. I have never trained with a heart monitor, I try to gauge everything by effort on my runs. Coming in the next few weeks my pace will stay the same but my effort will go way up simply from the heat. Don’t need a HRM to tell that lol

    • May 10, 2015 / 10:29 pm

      Hahah so true! I was riding the struggle bus during part of today’s run due to the heat! Oof!

  6. May 8, 2015 / 11:47 am

    I’ve been reading a lot about it since I’m coming back from burnout/injury. Like everything else, I think moderation is key.

    My plan is to pay attention to my heart rate on the runs that are supposed to be easy – my warmup/cool down, long runs, and easy/recovery runs. On the other runs, I’m not going to worry so much about heart rate and focus more on my form and pace. I’m hoping that the two will work together and make me faster and stronger. I guess we’ll see.

    • May 10, 2015 / 10:30 pm

      I think it will be really interesting to see how our heart rates change over the next few months!

  7. May 8, 2015 / 1:33 pm

    Great post – I was at dinner last night where the topic of HRM training came about. I wasn’t HR training last year, but I did wear a HR (more to get the calorie burn) so I know I usually hovered 160s for half marathons and 180s for 5Ks. I should strap mine on see if there are changes. Would be curious to read more about HR training itself (but probably wouldn’t attempt it coachless )

    • May 10, 2015 / 10:31 pm

      Ohhh yes it would be really interesting to hear if you’ve had any changes in your heart rate since last year – you’ve been a racing machine and have set PRs left and right. I bet your heart rate has changed!

  8. May 9, 2015 / 3:58 pm

    I used heart rate training for my last marathon. I noticed huge improvements with it. I think part of it was that it helped me have another metric by which to measure effort, so there were lots of times when I ended up pushing myself more than I would have if I hadn’t been trying to stay in a certain heart rate zone.

    I agree with Canaday, though, that it isn’t the only thing that matters, but I think for amateur-level runners it can make a big difference.

  9. May 9, 2015 / 7:06 pm

    I’ve never monitored my heart rate during my runs. I’m not sure I will though. I’m all for improving but I already spend a lot of time analyzing training, to focus on heart rate ranges etc might be a bit much for me for right now.

  10. May 9, 2015 / 10:58 pm

    I have never thought of monitoring my heart rate, but one of the main ways that I can run for longer is by slowing down my breathing. I don’t always do proper breathing on my runs because I usually can breathe out of my nose, but when I do breathe in through my nose and out through my mouth that helps to slow down my breathing and I can run farther than before.

    • May 10, 2015 / 10:32 pm

      I focus on my breathing a lot too when I’m doing speedwork – it’s the only way I can get through a tough workout. On my long/easy runs I’m not so great about focusing on proper breathing though 🙁

  11. May 10, 2015 / 7:06 pm

    I’ve never monitored my heart rate, but I can see how it would be beneficial. I’m just not about tracking anything when I run haha I’m too lazy!

  12. May 13, 2015 / 1:28 pm

    I wear a heart rate monitor for every thing i do. i am a complete geek and love to look at the charts and track my “effort”. I love to compare heart rate on the same speed runs in different months, on trials, verses biking… i am such a nerd!!
    Here’s a tid bit, for a few my speediest runs lately, my heart rate is always lower. Usually because I am not doing real speed work, it just happens on a cool day when every thing is clicking well, so it ends up being an “easier” overall run. When I ran my last half, even though I was slower, my heart was pounding at a few points, heat and hills…sorry I will stop the rambling nerdiness now lol