I have been doing heart rate training for 4 months now and I am super-excited by the concept.
A few days ago I did my standard 7 km treadmill run in 4 minutes less than I was doing it 2 months ago – and managed to keep my heart rate in zone 1. Two months ago I would have battled to keep it down in Zone 2. I reckon I have now built my aerobic base, thanks to Dr Phil Maffetone. I’m by no means finished building it, but it’s time now to add some other workouts.
Enter Joe Friel, highly regarded coach and author. I am reading his book “Total Heart Rate Training”. He reckons if you are training for a marathon and beyond and you are a “finisher” as opposed to a more competitive runner, you should be spending most of your time training in zone 1 and 2, with a tiny percentage of time in zone 3 and 4.
Friel talks about the Training Triad in heart rate training, with Endurance, Force and Speed Skills being the 3 basic abilities that one needs to work on. The 3 advanced abilities are Muscular Endurance, Anaerobic Endurance and Power. All athletes need to develop their basic abilities. Elite and competitive athletes then need to develop their advanced abilities. As a “finisher” I need only work on the 3 basic abilities. (For now, that is. Who knows – I may become competitive in my age category one day!)
I need to do loads of running in Zone 1 and 2 for endurance, that’s easy enough as long as I make the time – and I will.
To work on Force, running hills is what I need. This will give me my small percentage of work in zone 3 and 4.
For Speed Skill, the pace is quick but very short – 20 second bursts of speed with 80 seconds recovery. This is one time that you don’t use the heart rate monitor – the intervals are too quick for proper measurement. It is very important to concentrate on technique in these short intervals. The better our running technique becomes, the longer we take to fatigue in long races. Makes sense.
Yesterday morning I added 2 x 1 km hills to my workout, and did them mostly in zone 3, a little in zone 4. An enjoyable workout as opposed to a vomit-inducing session of hill repeats done as fast as I can, which I loathe and therefore avoid.
In the past, I have plugged my recent race times into a running calculator, and then used the suggested training paces for various workouts. In between these workouts I have been trying to go at a pace that is way above zone 2. No easy running and no enjoyment either. This type of training will work if you have an excellent aerobic base and a perfect runners body but we are all different and have different abilities and some of us have never been taught to build the base first. Some of us only discover running late in life.
The joy of heart rate training is that we can use it to tailor a plan that is perfect for our own level of running – and it is soooo simple. I need never hurtle along, gasping for breath and wondering what the hell I am doing out there! And I can already feel an improvement in my running as my heart and other muscles become more efficient.
Thank you Dr Maffetone and Mr Friel!