Working Your Heart by Mark Allen
|Training with a heart rate monitor will help your overall training.|
|Using a heart rate monitor when you are training is the best way to train for any event. When using a heart rate monitor you can actually see and understand what type of work your body is doing. If you do not use a heart rate monitor then you really don’t know if you are working hard or not. When using a heart rate monitor you will be able to go easy on rest days and go hard on days you are supposed to go hard. I have seen drastic improvements in my training since I have started using a hear rate monitor. Be sure to checkout Kona Multisport home of swimbikerun.com for heart rate monitors and all your other triathlon equipment and triathlon gear!
How hard to I have to workout? How far do I have to go? I workout 2 hours every other day of the week and I still can’t lose those last 10 pounds. Why do I keep getting injured when I try to run? These are all questions and comments people make about their training that seems to have no simple solution.
I came from a swimming background, which in the 70’s and 80’s when I competed was a sport that lived by the “No Pain, No Gain” motto. My coach would give us workouts that were designed to push us to our limit every single day. I would go home dead, sleep as much as I could, then come back the next day for another round of punishing interval sets. It was all I knew.
So, when I entered the sport of triathlon in the early 1980’s, my mentality was to go as hard as I could at some point in every single workout I did. And to gauge how fast that might have to be, I looked at how fast the best triathletes were running at the end of the short distance races. Guys like Dave Scott, Scott Tinley and Scott Molina were able to hold close to 5 minute miles for their 10ks after swimming and biking!
So that’s what I did. Every run, even the slow ones, for at least one mile, I would try to get close to 5 minute pace. And it worked…sort of. I had some good races the first year or two, but I also suffered from minor injuries and was always feeling one run away from being too burned out to want to continue with my training.
Then came the heart rate monitor. A man named Phil Maffetone, who had done a lot of research with the monitors, contacted me. He had me try one out according to a very specific protocol. Phil said that I was doing too much anaerobic training, too much speed work, too many high end/high heart rate sessions. I was forcing my body into a chemistry that only burns carbohydrates for fuel by elevating my heart rate so high each time I went out and ran.
To keep my heart rate below 155 beats/minute, I had to slow my pace down to an 8:15 mile. That’s three minutes/mile SLOWER than I had been trying to hit in every single workout I did! My body just couldn’t utilize fat for fuel.
That means that I was now able to burn fat for fuel efficiently enough to hold a pace that a year before was redlining my effort at a maximum heart rate of about 190. I had become an aerobic machine! On top of the speed benefit at lower heart rates, I was no longer feeling like I was ready for an injury the next run I went on, and I was feeling fresh after my workouts instead of being totally wasted from them.
You now have your maximum aerobic heart rate, which again is the maximum heart rate that you can workout at and still burn mostly fat for fuel. Now go out and do ALL of your cardiovascular training at or below this heart rate and see how your pace improves. After just a few weeks you should start to see a dramatic improvement in the speed you can go at these lower heart rates.
Over time, however, you will get the maximum benefit possible from doing just aerobic training. At that point, after several months of seeing your pace get faster at your maximum aerobic heart rate, you will begin to slow down. This is the sign that if you want to continue to improve on your speed, it is time to go back to the high end interval anaerobic training one or two days/week. So, you will have to go back to the “NO Pain, NO Gain” credo once again.
At the point of the year you are in right now, probably most of you are ready for this phase of speed work. Keep your interval sessions to around 15-30 minutes of hard high heart rate effort total. This means that if you are going to the track to do intervals do about 5k worth of speed during the entire workout. Less than that and the physiological effect is not as great. More than that and you just can’t maintain a high enough effort during the workout to maximize our benefit. You want to push your intervals, making each one a higher level of intensity and effort than the previous one. If you reach a point where you cannot maintain your form any longer, back off the effort or even call it a day. That is all your body has to give.
This is what I did to keep improving for nearly 15 years as a triathlete. It is also the training that Lance Armstrong’s coach put him on to recover from his cancer treatment when they saw that he could not handle the high end training anymore. And, although it was contrary to what most cyclists do to prepare for the grueling Tour de France, it was what enabled him to capture the title there for the first time in 1999.