Friday, March 16, 2012

Tips on heart rate training from @KokuaMultisport

If you are one of those triathletes that have no interest in wearing heart rate monitors while training and racing, you aren’t alone. Some triathletes don’t even own a heart rate strap or the device to read it, so using one is out of the question even if they wanted to.

Should you be using one?

I admit it, I come from the perceived rate of exertion (PRE) school of thought. Since “racing” for 8 years, I’ve come to realize when my breathing changes and when I’m maxing out my body and “burning my matches”. That doesn’t mean I race with intelligence and adjust to what my body tells me, but I know my body to an extent. I’m not a pro and I’m not racing for podium spots, necessarily. I’ve had some success in the past few seasons, getting some top 5 spots in local short course triathlons, which has lead me to the delusion I could be better!

And, doesn’t every triathlete have the dream of completing a full Ironman? I have no illusions about placing or qualifying for Kona, but I’d like to start AND finish one and not have to be carried on a stretcher to the medical tent afterwards. If that’s one of my goals, I need to get more serious about my training methods than getting a plan for swim, bike and run distances and using PRE.

That’s why heart rate monitoring is so appealing. If you already have the equipment, all you need to do is wear it. That’s easier said than done. The straps are a bit unnatural feeling and remembering to throw it on for all workouts isn’t instinctual. I’ve worn mine for a few workouts, but for the most part I have forgotten the strap. I have a Garmin 301XT and that can easily handle the data, but without the strap, it’s a problem. Usually the equipment is already available or you can get it for a reasonable price. That’s more realistic than paying thousands of dollars for a power meter.

Without a plan, it’s pointless as well. Sure, you can just watch your heart rate bounce all over the place, or you can have a plan. This is where my latest VO2 max test data that I participated in for MVT comes into play and another reason why heart rate training is so appealing now. I can actually apply test data from my own body and come up with a real plan to trains and MAYBE improve! What a concept.

Am I trained to come up with a heart rate training plan? No. Back to the trusty internet. Where else will I find great info about ironman or long distance training than Ironman’s own Bob Mitera. I’ve used him for a couple of other articles and while I’m not trying to pimp him out or get him PR, his blog has very good incite and boils down some quality training ideas. THIS POST is about training in the right heart rate zones. With this and consulting Dr. Sandra Billinger, who tested me for VO2 max for THIS research project, I was able to come up with a decent self-coached plan.

At 70-78% of my max heart rate (179 bpm), I should be training between 125 and 140 bpm for longer sustained training workouts. Before I really put pencil to paper to figure out my true zones I should be in, I wore the heart rate strap for a 10 mile run and the photo is a screen shot of the workout. I intentionally tried to keep my heart rate low and consistent and resisted the urge to pick up the pace if I felt I was slowing down. As you can see, I fluctuated here and there, but my overall average was 141. Not bad for not really having a plan at the time. The downer part is looking at my average pace and I was a hair shy of 9 min/mile. Resisting the urge in speeding up may have kept my heart rate low, but it was s snail’s pace. I did feel pretty good and lactic acid build-up wasn’t an issue after I was done. It was probably the best I ever felt after a long run day. It was a trade off of not killing myself by sacrificing speed.

Also an item to note is avoiding the Anaerobic zone at 85-95%. For me, I need to avoid 152 bpm and above, but you can see from my run I hit a high of 155, but came out of it pretty quick. Racing above the 140 bpm for a length of time during a race will ultimately results in a crash and burn since I will be in the 79-85% grey area. If you are mainly racing sprint to olympic distances, then this school of thought may not be fore you as you will sacrifice speed to be able to go long (TWSS), but it gives you food for thought.

I have every intention of applying this in future workouts (when I can remember the heart rate strap!) and Bob promised I’ll stay within that range for my half Ironman in June! He promised!!!



Bob Mitera said...

Thanks for the discussion on this. It was 84 F last night in Chicago. Extremely unusual for us this time of year (once in every 10-15 years). For the "conditioning" part of my computrainer class (in which I ride too) we keep the heart rates in upper zone 2 - a bit high for that portion of the class, but still under 78% as a avg. Then on the recovery - heart rates dropped to 68% - this is how I knew it was just the heat. For the "power/strength" potion of the class, heart rates were up at 90-94%, but then plummeted to 68% on the recovery and averaging 78% for the power set as a whole.

I've done 5 Ironman races (Kona, Canada, Lake Placid, Florida and Wisconsin) - in every race - I was in the same heart rate zone and around 3 heart beats of the same avg. The only difference was the speed at which I raced at that heart rate. In the 40 1/2 IM/70.3s I've done the heart rates were up between 78-83%, but my swimming background has always allowed me to push a (slightly) higher heart rate in races ~5 hours or less. Technically... still aerobic, but a bit "gray".

Good luck to your Jayhawks. I have KU and MU squaring off in the Final Four in my "just for fun" bracket league.

Ryan said...

Ironically I have MU and KU in the final as well, but I suspect we picked different winners.

I'm hoping some heart rate training can take me to the next level. I have to justify the obscene amount of money I spent on gear and how much time I spend online for the sport!