Adventures in Heart Rate Training

So I am crossing over to the side of training that I should have been following last year, but neglected to do so. (Primarily due to a malfunction with my Heart Rate Monitor during testing last year and the failure for a second test to be set up.)

That’s right, I’m going to talk about Heart Rate Training and the adventures of a newbie just crossing over into this type of training.

To start, two weeks ago, my coach had me do a series of Heart Rate (HR) tests to establish my zones for training. After my HR Test, my coach established my zones and I have now been given training directions based on HR verses pace . This has been quite the change for me – and quite the wake up call.

But first, some background on HR Training:

What is Heart Rate Training?

Mark Allen, pro triathlete and six-time Ironman Triathlon World Champion, does a great job of explaining HR Training and it’s benefits in this article.

(Because, I’m no expert, so really I’m not even going to try and explain HR training.)

Why Train with a Heart Rate Monitor?

Pace improvement with less effort –

Week 1: Zone 2 Effort on my long run = 9:32 pace, with my slowest pace dropping down to an 11 minute mile to keep the HR in check on some of the hills.

Week 2: Zone 2 Effort on my long run = 9:18 pace, with my slowest pace dropping into the 10:45 minute range to keep HR in check.

Week 3: Zone 2 Effort on my long run = 8:56 pace, with slowest pace at 10:05 on the hills. This run was run outside and actually I was finding my HR coming close to dropping into Z1 at times, so I could have run this at a faster pace and still hit my target HRs.

Week 4: Zone 2 Effort = 8:33 pace on a flat course. Exciting to see this pace drop down, but I know if hills were involved, it would be a different story…

Regardless… what this all means is that I’m working running smarter, not harder! Whoop! Got to love that!


Overall, the hardest part of HR training has been the fact that I’ve had to check my ego at the door for a while. Before these past few weeks, I cannot remember the last time I saw a 11 minute per mile pace. Last year, I started to set PRs in my 5Ks at 7:15 paces and some of my mile repeats for speed work closed in on 6:10s – so needless to say, the 3-4 minute drop in pace freaked me out a bit the first week! However, as my coach promised (and as noted in the Mark Allen article), the HR training would see a drop in pace for a bit and then your body will slowly adjust to bring your paces back but at the lower HR and training effort!

I’m wondering how much further my paces will drop. I know at some point we’ll hit a plateau, but so far this is actually fun (especially now that my ego can peak it’s head out to come back and play a bit!)

I feel like I just discovered a training secret, that really isn’t SO secret. Also, HR Training always seemed like one of those things that really serious athletes paid attention to, and since I don’t really consider myself a serious athlete (contrary to what some of my family and friends might think… and the fact that I’ve hired coaches for the past two seasons…)  I didn’t think I needed to consider HR training.

I HAVE SEEN THE LIGHT. I feel like this is something that any endurance athlete – runner, triathlete, cyclist, whatever – should learn about. Seriously, you’ll thank me. Especially when you’re able to run all the miles you want at less effort and hopefully with less injury (I guess we’ll monitor that as I progress through the season this year – I’m hoping to avoid the foot issues I’ve had prior, and the calf issues of last year).

And now, I’m actually finding the motivation to dig into this book:


I was given this a few years back by a fellow CNY triathlete, and now finally realize that I probably should have paid more attention. Whoops. Better late than never right? At least I have the benefit of having the resource at my fingertips for free (although you can currently buy a used copy for as cheap as $0.50 on

So that’s it. Buy a HR Monitor. Figure out your HR Zones. Check your ego at the door. Reap the benefits.

I’ll try to give you all updates as I continue in my adventures with HR Training. I’m excited to see how this improves my overall racing season!


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