Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Stay in the zone

One item of training equipment we require all of customers to wear is a heart rate monitor.

It is an extremely simple method for us to monitor training intensity and ensure that when we are not at our cusotmers side, they are working as hard (or as easy) as they should be. It has become a very effective tool for health and fitness participants at all levels.

One thing I have noticed from prescribing countless heart rate training zone recommendations to individuals is that often they feel that the prescribed heart rate is to low.

In fact - I have heard these exact words so many times I have lost count: "these numbers cannot be correct - they are way to low! I cannot run that slowly"

Example: A customer of mine is training for a marathon and after getting Anaerobic Threshold (Lactate threshold) determined, we were able to set her training zones according to this threshold heart rate, which was at 149b/min.

This is a very reliable way of setting up heart rate zones and allows us to assign specific heart rate values to each and every training session.

For example, the Sunday long run had a prescribed heart rate of between 122 and 140b/min. The goal was to have an average heart rate of between these 122 and 140b/min because that would mean the majority of the running time was spent within the correct training zone (Z2 and Z3).

The purpose of this training session was to
  1. Enhance Aerobic metabolism via Lipolytic and Glycolytic pathways
  2. Develop mitochondrial and capillary density
  3. Improve economy of movement
The actual session date showed an average heart rate, at the end of the run, of 151b/min with a maximum heart rate of 167b/min.

According to the heart rate numbers determined through her Anaerobic Threshold test, this average heart rate would have placed her in a zone just above her Anaerobic Threshhold, meaning that a greatest percentage of the time she spent running was in fact anaerobic and not aerobic.

Feedback was that the intensity of the run felt good, and conversation was held throughout the run. But this is not the point of training with a heart rate monitor.

The intensity at which work was being done was in fact not enhancing the aerobic pathways one little bit, in fact, it was doing the following:
  1. Increasing muscle strength and strength endurance
  2. Enhancing race pace tolerance
  3. Increasing speed at threshold.
Clearly a Threshold training session and not a Long Slow Distance run.

The point I am making is that each intensity illicits certain adaptations within the body, and if the same intensity (stress) is applied to the system every time training occurs, then we cannot expect to see a well balanced physiology and ultimately, a desirable outcome on race day performance will suffer.

My advice - listen to those in the know - such as your coach and your trainer. They are the ones with the knowledge and expertise to help you realize your goals.

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