Heart Rate Training Tips and Angela Naeth is a Rock Star

My miles are starting to pile up. Monday I got back on the bike after missing four workouts because of a cold and while I am not feeling 100%, it is as close as I can expect to be right now. I did get 20 miles in on Monday and I rode some hard intervals as part of the workout. Then yesterday I trained by heart rate instead of power or speed and it was interesting. I will detail the hows and why in just a minute. But first, some amazing news…

I know I am geeking out about this, and most of you are rolling your eyes about this by now, but I don’t care. I love to connect with the top performers in running, triathlon, and cycling. You guys already know that Angela Naeth took my pre-race advice for Ironman Panama 70.3 and ended up winning the thing. If you need a refresher, read my post about the awesomeness that is Angela Naeth on my previous post. But then on Valentine’s night I got another tweet from Ms. Naeth and check out what she said…

http://26.2ismycooldown.com/Did you read that? I think it is time for me to start a coaching service. Mark Allen is cool and he may have a couple of credentials that I don’t have, but what is the difference between he and I? He may be a former Ironman World Champion, but one of his start pupils just said that my pre-race advice propelled her to the win at Ironman Panama 70.3. I think I will use this tweet as my banner ad for the new company. It should sell a couple of copies of the new e-book I will produce as the “training manual” for my new clients. I think it will have two chapters: Ride Lots and HTFU. That should about cover it.

Heart Rate Training

It is time to get back to our cycling, triathlon, and running training tips.

http://26.2ismycooldown.com/category/training-tips/I mentioned the other day that I am currently reading IronWar: Dave Scott, Mark Allen, & the Greatest Race Ever Run by Matt Fitzgerald, one of my favorite writers. Matt wrote one of my other favorite books related to endurance sports — Racing Weight. The book literally changed the way I look at nutrition and my body. I now look at food as fuel instead of just something I put into my mouth. And wouldn’t you want to put the highest octane fuel into your engine?

In the book IronWar, Matt  talks about the training methods used by Mark Allen (my coaching arch enemy and main competition now) and Dave Scott. As part of his preparation for the 1989 Kona Ironman Mark changed his training from going all out during every workout to training by heart rate. He was turned onto training using heart rate by Phil Maffetone, who many consider the pioneer in heart rate based training. While the research has continued and there are heart rate zones and other factors to consider in 2012 that were more basic in the late 80’s, the basic principles remain the same.

I have a PowerTap hub on my training wheels on my bike, so I typically train using a combination of power and heart rate. When I run I monitor my heart rate and speed, but knowing what my heart rate zones are has not been my strong suite. I can tell you what my power zones are on the bike, but while I am cruising while running I typically like to keep my heart rate between 155-159. But reading IronWar has changed my perspective a touch.

Mark Allen and Phil Maffetone advocate that to build endurance — which is what we are all here for — you cannot workout for the first month of the season at an elevated heart rate. To determine what your target heart rate should be, you use the simple formula of 180 minus your age. There are some corrections that will take you up or down by anywhere from 5 to 10 bpm, but you get the idea. I calculated my number and it is 145 bpm.

Now if I am cycling and cruising along at 145 bpm, I literally think I am crawling. Mark Allen has publicly stated that he had the same sensation. But if you keep that heart rate, your body will adapt and your speed will come around. If you allow your body time to adapt and recover, your fitness levels will improve significantly. If you use the method for a month, you will see significant improvements in your fitness and speed. After that month, it will be time to inject speed workouts, tempo workouts, and any other craziness that you can think up.

So Tuesday I decided I would limit my workout to 155 bpm and I felt like I was hardly breathing. I was on the bike and I swear it wanted to run out from under me. I do have a Cervelo R5, which is sweetness on two wheels, so I can understand why the horses want to run. But I did keep my heart rate in check and consequently had one of the slowest rides of the year so far. I only averaged about 17.1 mph, but I kept the heart rate right around 155 bpm. I can’t promise that I am going to keep my heart rate so low for the next month, but I will try it for the next couple of weeks.

I think in today’s language we would call it your base-building phase. I feel I am past that phase, but giving this strategy a go is a good idea. Not only can it improve your fitness levels, but it is at this lower heart rate that your body can burn fat for energy. Who among us doesn’t need a little fat burn? Increase that heart rate and your body has to use carbs for energy, so your fat stores stay intact. If you want to read more about this method — read this article on Heart Rate Training by Mark Allen or use the amazing Endurance Athletes Reading List at my Amazon Store to order a copy of Phil Maffetone’s book for yourself.

About the Author

I have been participating in running and triathlons for 10 years and love the feeling that training provides. You may not agree with me, but you know you just can't look away...