Category Archives: heat

Improve your endurance by knowing what affects your heart rate

This excerpt is from the author of Heart Rate Training. It’s published with permission of Human Kinetics

One of the most valuable long-term pieces of information you can gather is resting heart rate. When you wake up each morning, take a minute to get an accurate resting heart rate and keep a log. You’ll find this an invaluable tool, providing feedback on injury, illness, overtraining, stress, incomplete recovery, and so on. It is also a very simple gauge of improvements in fitness. We know athletes who have gathered resting heart rate data for years and in a day or two can identify a 1 or 2 bpm elevation that precedes an illness or a bonk session. Some newer heart rate monitors have the capacity for 24-hour monitoring.

Several factors affect heart rate at rest and during exercise. In general, the main factors affecting heart rate at rest are fitness and state of recovery. Gender also is suggested to play a role, albeit inconsistently (more about this later). In general, fitter people tend to have lower resting heart rates. Some great athletes of the past have recorded remarkably low resting heart rates. For example, Miguel Indurain, five-time winner of the Tour de France, reported a resting heart rate of only 28 bpm. The reason for this is that, with appropriate training, the heart muscle increases in both size and strength. The stronger heart moves more blood with each beat (this is called stroke volume) and therefore can do the same amount of work with fewer beats. As you get fitter, your resting heart rate should get lower.

The second main factor affecting resting heart rate is state of recovery. After exercise, particularly after a long run or bike ride, several things happen in the body. Fuel sources are depleted, temperature increases, and muscles are damaged. All of these factors must be addressed and corrected. The body has to work harder, and this increased work results in a higher heart rate. Even though you might feel okay at rest, your body is working harder to repair itself, and you’ll notice an elevated heart rate. Monitoring your resting heart rate and your exercise heart rate will allow you to make appropriate adjustments such as eating more or taking a day off when your rate is elevated.

These same factors of recovery and injury also affect heart rate during exercise. The factors that elevate resting heart rate also elevate exercise heart rate. If you’re not fully recovered from a previous workout, you might notice, for example, at your usual steady-state pace, an exercise heart rate that is 5 to 10 bpm higher than normal. This is usually accompanied by a rapidly increasing heart rate throughout the exercise session.

An extremely important factor affecting exercise heart rate is temperature. Warmer temperatures cause the heart to beat faster and place considerable strain on the body. Simply put, when it is hot, the body must move more blood to the skin to cool it while also maintaining blood flow to the muscles. The only way to do both of these things is to increase overall blood flow, which means that the heart must beat faster. Depending on how fit you are and how hot it is, this might mean a heart rate that is 20 to 40 bpm higher than normal. Fluid intake is very important under these conditions. Sweating changes blood volume, which eventually can cause cardiac problems. The simplest and most effective intervention to address high temperature and heart rate is regular fluid intake. This helps to preserve the blood volume and prevent the heart from beating faster and faster.

Another important factor affecting exercise heart rate is age. In general, MHR will decline by about 1 beat per year starting at around 20 years old. Interestingly, resting heart rate is not affected. This is why the basic prediction equation of 220 – age has an age correction factor. As a side note, this decrease in MHR often is used to explain decreases in .VO2max and endurance performance with increasing age, because the number of times the heart beats in a minute affects how much blood is moved and available to the muscles. We have coached and tested thousands of athletes, and the general trend is that athletes of the same age who produce higher heart rates often have higher fitness scores. However, your MHR is what it is, and you cannot change it. Don’t obsess over it.

A final factor is gender. Recent studies have suggested a variation in MHR between males and females. However, the data are inconclusive with the calculations resulting in lower MHRs for males versus females of the same age, while anecdotal reports suggest that the MHRs are actually higher in males. In general, females have smaller hearts and smaller muscles overall than males. Both of these factors would support the conclusion of a higher MHR in females, certainly at the same workload. We have to conclude that the jury is still out on the gender effect.

Intervals Workouts for Triathlon

If you’ve had a significant amount of base training and want to run faster, this article is for you. This excellent excerpt reprinted with permission from Human Kinetics of Triathlon Workout Planner by John Mora

Triathlon Workout Planner“Intervals (also known as repeats) are short bursts of speed repeated over a measured distance with recovery periods between each interval. As I discussed in the previous chapter, intervals are a key component of training for swimming and running. In this chapter, we’ll further explore 80/20 running workouts and also learn how to apply interval training to cycling.

Elite runner and author Jeff Galloway once wrote, “Intervals are based on a simple principle: The only way to run faster is to run faster” (Galloway 1984). Although that premise is true, there are some specific guidelines to interval training that can help you prevent injury and get the most out of your hard work.

* Base training first. Never begin any kind of speed work without a year’s solid base of consistent distance running. Intervals are demanding and can be very rough on your body, so it’s important that you’ve developed the muscle strength and joint integrity to support the effort.

* Set a baseline with a time trial. It’s a good idea to start off your interval training with a performance benchmark that tells you where you are now so that you can measure your speed improvements down the road. To set a baseline with a time trial, warm up at a slow pace for 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) on a running track that’s at least a quarter-mile (0.4 kilometer) long so that you don’t have the constant turning. Perform a 1-mile (1.6-kilometer) time trial at a hard pace you can sustain throughout the entire distance. Time yourself with a stopwatch (or have somebody time you). Cool down for another 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) of easy jogging. Make sure you record your trial time (not including warm-up or recovery distance) in your training log. Once every other month, repeat your 1-mile time trials, and you should see some steady, measurable improvements.

* Train for your distance. The interval workout for an Ironman-distance triathlon is much different than that for a sprint distance. For example, if you’re training for an Ironman-distance triathlon, you should be running half-mile (0.8-kilometer) intervals, 1-mile (1.6-kilometer) intervals, or a combination of both. This regimen builds your stamina and improves form for longer distances. For Olympic- or sprint-distance races, your workout should consist of a combination of half-mile (0.8-kilometer) and quarter-mile (0.4-kilometer) repeats.

* Sandwich intervals with easy workouts. Speed work is very demanding, so you need to be relatively fresh going into one and give yourself a day or two of easy work afterward.

* Base your speed on your best running race times. Most intervals come in three distances: quarter-, half-, or 1-mile (0.4-, 0.8-, or 1.6-kilometer) intervals. How fast should you run them? You should feel as though you’re running close to your redline of effort, but err on the side of caution. If you feel as if you’re blowing a gasket, ease off. For a quarter-mile interval, run 5 to 7 seconds faster than your 5K to 10K race pace. For a half-mile interval, you should run at 5K pace to 5 seconds faster. For a mile interval, you should run at 5K to 10K pace.

* Increase gradually. The first time on a track (once you’ve done a proper warm-up and a performance benchmark time trial as previously described) you’ll want to start with only one or two repeats. It may even seem like an easy or short workout at first, but err on the side of caution. Gradually increase the number of intervals according to your race distance and goal.

* Watch your form. The tendency for some triathletes is to lose proper running form after a long and arduous bike leg. Track workouts are an ideal time to focus on your form and make an effort to keep your body under control during sustained, high-intensity efforts. Similar to proper technique in the pool, good running form helps you become more efficient and avoid injury with good biomechanics. If you feel yourself running awkwardly or find your feet striking the track improperly during the latter half of an interval workout, consciously bring your body back to running smoothly and effortlessly.

* Aim for consistent interval times. Done properly, interval workouts help your body to adapt to the prolonged hard effort of the running leg of a triathlon. By “properly” I mean a consistent pace on all the intervals. If there is more than a 5-second difference between interval times, you’re probably going out too fast for the first few. You need to hone your internal pace clock, which is in itself a valuable skill to have during any running event.

Although athletes most often associate intervals with running on a track, you can employ this type of speedwork just as easily on the bicycle, with great success. Professional cyclists have known for decades that a track isn’t always necessary for interval work.”