I've been running since I was a teenager. It started out as me walking to the good ol' "Magic Cavern" arcade in Myrtle Beach, SC. It was an escape from the general torment that was slathered on me as a shy New Yorker who'd moved to SC. It was, also almost to the foot, exactly 1 mile from my house.
Summer day after summer day, I'd run there. Same in the fall. Let's just say I was "a nerd for all seasons."
Anyway, off I went to college, where I got involved with weight training, and eventually mixed in some martial arts work. But, I still ran. Not as far, but I ran. Then, I went back to distance running in 2005, this time on a much more serious basis. When I restarted, the idea of anyone running 10 miles was mind-boggling. In a couple of years, that distance became a routine weekend training run.
NOTE: All that above is meant as a foundation, not a brag. You'll see what I mean.
One thing I didn't do, that a lot of typical hardcore runners did, was wear a heart rate monitor. I just didn't bother. Finally, in 2012, I strapped up, and started to review my numbers.
I was ASTONISHED at the numbers. VERY high. Meanwhile, as I was running, my breath was NOT labored at all.
By way of background, Garmin separates heartrates into 5 "zones." I haven't seen any definitive layout of what they are, but from culling posts from other users, it seems to roughly default to this:
- Warmup Zone: 50-60% of Heart Rate Reserve, used for warmup and cooldown
- Recover Zone: 60-70% of Heart Rate Reserve, used for long, slow runs or cycling, or for recovery rides and runs
- Aerobic Zone: 70-80% of Heart Rate Reserve, used for overall cardiovascular fitness.
- Anaerobic Zone: 80-90% of Heart Rate Reserve, used for for training to increase your lactate threshold
- Redline Zone: 90-100% of Heart Rate Reserve, used only by the very fit for short periods, usually for interval training.
So, I am very often told by Garmin that I had a "training effect" of 5.0 (meaning, I overdid it). It will tell me that my heartrate was in the zone where I was basically pushing and pushing and pushing. Essentially, Garmin was telling me that I trying too hard.
The problem is, it rarely felt like it. Sure, if I was on a track, and was pounding out the last 100m of a run, I'm sure I'd haul booty, but it's not the same thing. So I devised a plan.
The plan was (and still is): As I'm running, I will say, out loud,
"The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain."
Yup. That. Out loud. If I'm able to say the sentence, and not heave out word-by-word, I know I'm not in maximum zone. But, if the sentence is labored, I know I'm working (I usually do know that).
I mostly do this sentence when I'm trotting along, ostensibly hoping for a aerobic workout, such as a long run where I should be keeping my speed slower. I've been chagrined sometimes if/when someone passes me as I say it out loud. But the trouble is, I don't know what else to do?
Here's how heart rate percentages are calculated:
220 - age = max heart rate.
So, that means some dude who played in an arcade his whole life --getting there via a "rascal" scooter, smoking packs of cigarettes to/from the arcade has the same max heart rate as me, assuming we're the same age. But, recall my foundational life of running (see? I wasn't bragging before!). Surely, that has to count for something?
I suspect it does, but I don't know whether (or how much) to adjust my HR numbers on my Garmin. I can't really afford a VO2 test, at least I don't think I can. And I don't know how much to change it if I were to guess, just based on breathing. I do realize that I can probably readjust these numbers within Garmin Connect, but I haven't done it. Maybe I'll have to take the next step in my training.
So, what do I do in the meantime?
The answer is, as always, "Keep training." Sure, my Garmin will squawk at me for having a "training effect" of 5.0 (overreaching), but on the other hand, I'm still self-evaluating while I run, all the while reciting the most famous line from "My Fair Lady."
I bet THAT gets your heart racing.
Update #1 of 2:
I heard from Jennifer who has the same issue, but she's paid for 2 VO2 tests.
@tai_fung I just read your HR post. I HAVE THE SAME PROBLEM! I've had VO2 test (2x!) and it just doesn't reflect reality…for me.
— Jennifer Formell (@je2nifer) January 15, 2014
And then I got a great suggestion from Adam, at Lesser is More with a great suggestion:
@tai_fung Lesson learned - use real data not the most generic of HR formulas. There are many other options to find max HR via formula or run
— Adam Lesser (@ajlesser) January 15, 2014
@tai_fung How about racing ( and I do mean racing) a 5k. Should get within 95-100% of max in last mile to use as a baseline for calculation
— Adam Lesser (@ajlesser) January 15, 2014
This strikes me as a good idea -- at a track. No interruptions, no stoplights, no detours. Hell, not even any hills. Just 12 circles (I'll do 3 miles even), and see what the numbers give me.
Thanks for the input, folks!
Update #2 of 2:
Here is a link to the new formula for getting a max HR. It's made a huge difference already for me.