Training at low heart rate


A while ago I remember reading an article in RW on training at a very low HR in order to build up a good base fitness. I've had a couple of months of very sporadic training, due to injury, illness and generally feeling demotivated, and having just been given an HR monitor I think this could be a good way of getting back into some proper running. I'm hoping this would get me back to a level where I can reintroduce speedwork etc without just getting injured again straight away.

But I can't remember the specifics- does anyone know anything about this type of training, or where I can find the article? Have tried searching the site but no luck.




  • Not sure about the RW article, but this is worth a look, as is this.

  • Thanks CM, that is really useful.

    Has anyone tried this, and what did you think?

    From reading those articles, I think I'm going to fall into precisely the trap that the author warns about, which is feeling like you're not working hard enough at the specified heart rate. Using the formula given, my max HR for an aerobic workout would be 153, which does seem very low- I think I would be barely moving! But if it really works, I guess it is worth the feelings of guilt over not exerting myself enough.

  • Haven't looked at those links Harri but in my experience it works. I started training to HR in September of last year to build a good base for my first IM in the summer. Since then I've done all my training in in Zones 1-2 (up to 85% of maximum) and I'm now doing 2 hour + runs at 9 minute mile pace in Zone 2 which was previously unheard of for me. 

  • Harri - have just posted this useful link on the other active HR thread:

     I started HR training at the beg of January.  I have pretty accurate measures of my max and min HR's (the former via some horrible hills) and have determined that my 70% WHR is 155.  This currently translates into approx 11 minute miles which horrifies me as I completed both a half marathon and a 10 miler at arounf the 9mm pace. 

    However, I understand that 65-70% WHR is about 2 mins slower than your expected race pace. I am determined to give it another month to see if my easy run pace improves. Apparently it takes a while to see the difference. 

     Aviator - how long did it take you to see a change in your performance?

  • Thanks both. Sounds like it is worth doing then.

  • you could try a search on here for threads by Pantman.

    Pantman was a serious devotee of the low hr training and he could really motor at low HR's

  • I've had a quick look at the 'Pantman' threads, and was thinking of giving it a go. But, who is he/what's his background? Sorry if that's a stupid question!

    I've been running less than a year, and even though I've been doing up to 25-30 miles a week, to my horror and upon reading these threads, I've now faced the reality that I HAVE been overtraining. I've been totally maxing out my HR on every run between 150-180+ bpm, and my speed has been very sporadic, with no consistency in my speed. Until last week, I managed an easy 10miler at 12mm, according to my Garmin with an average HR of 85bpm? Not sure how accurate that is. Since then I've kept my pace to 12mm and doing 4-6 milers.

    The one thing I have noticed lately, is that when my HR rate gets to about 150+bpm, which is meant to be at a 'steady' pace, I can't sustain it for that long, hence why my speed is all over the place.

    How do I improve this? Thanks.

  • Look up Pantman, search for "Hadd's long-distance training" on google and also look at work by Arthur Lydiard/The Lydiard Foundation.

    I personally found it great for weight loss, and increasing mileage without injury.
  • An average HR of 85bpm?!?! Really? My resting rate is 54, but just walking around I would be up in the 80s somewhere.  I don't think I could get it much under 120 and still be jogging.

    Do you know your max and resting rates? Just out of interest really, I don't really know much about this! image

  • Here you go folks... read this.  Knowing your max HR is critical and ideally your resting HR too.  The 220 - age formular for MHR is crap.  It's based on statistical norms, and none of us is "average" (coz we are all runners innit)! 

    Once you know what your HR range is, you can then work out your lactic acid threshold and train at accurate training zones thereafter.  Check your MHR at regular intervals (as you become fitter it may alter and certainly will over a long period of time with age).  Your LA threshold will certainly alter (up) if you follow Hadds basetraining approach.

    Please post how you get on with doing your MHR test - it always makes great reading image

  • there was also a terrific Base Training Thread a year or so ago - I think that this was it.  Start at the beginning and work forward - there is some excellent stuff in there.
  • This is all great, thanks for all the info.

    I am a month into my HR training now.  My true MHR seems to be around 197 (highest recorded figure even after a number of hard sessions of really horrendous hills work and some of crippling speedwork).  This is opposed to 180 using a formula approach.  My current resting is 51.

     I am still finding the 70%  MHR (around 155bpm) hard to stick to, and find it quite dispiriting running at around 11 mm, but hopefully that will improve soon.  My speedwork went really well this week, tho' and am hoping to see an improvement in my tempo runs. 

     Will keep posting - hope others trying this out will do too.

  • Hi Tams,

    I have been base training for while now and it is going well.  My MHR is 205 and my RHR is 49.  I completed the Bristol HM last year with a PB of 2:17 which is around 10:20m/m and my comfortable long run training was always around 10:50m/m but when I started base training I had to slow right down to almost 14m/m to keep under 70%.  Within 6wks I am now back up to almost 11m/m staying under 70%.

    I have now started running 2 of my 4 runs a week at 70-80% and I will soon move into the stamina phase of my training and start adding in some steady-state and tempo runs.

    I built my own plan using the work of Arthur Lydiard and the MacMillan Running website and it is working well for me.  It may not suit everyone but it worth a try.  I think someone may have linked you to Arthur Lydiard already but here is a link to the MacMillan site.

    Good luck with everything, I look forward to hearing how you get on image

  • Having read this thread and most of the linked articles, I have to say I am finding it fascinating. It certainly appears to go against the grain that slower can equal faster.

     May have to give it a try.

  • Having read this thread and most of the linked articles, I have to say I am finding it fascinating. It certainly appears to go against the grain that slower can equal faster.

    However, I've just calculated my current 5k and 10 PB's per the formula in Hadd's approach, there is less than the 16 secs per mile difference between the two times.

    My 5k pace is 8:17m/m meaning my 10k should bein the region of an 8:33m/m. It's actually 8:21 for the 10k. Anyone any idea what this means?

  • Keeby,

    I think it may just be a natural difference.  By that I mean that most people are predisposed towards either speed or endurance. 

    Also, there will always be a degree of variance from the norm so what Hadd's approach suggests is that your 10K time should be 8:33m/m give or take a little depending on your natural predisposal to speed or endurance.

    I hope this makes sense and I am also hope someone will correct me if I am wrong?image

  • Ideally, you would need at least 3 of the 4 distances to get any meaningful data from the comparison. A good 5k runner is likely to be at least a fairly good 10k runner, but might be weaker over a 1/2 marathon or marathon.
    Keeby wrote (see)

    Having read this thread and most of the linked articles, I have to say I am finding it fascinating. It certainly appears to go against the grain that slower can equal faster.

    It only works that way to a certain extent. A base training approach involves building a strong base of aerobic endurance through low to moderate-intensity training. This might make you faster in races, depending on your training background and previous level of fitness. What it's really designed to do, though, is to give you a higher level of conditioning so that when you add the speedwork onto the aerobic base the end result is improved times.

  • i'm stunned how close my times come to the mcmillan calculator.  All times shown below are based on times achieved in the past year:

    I used 52'44" for a June08 10K for the calculations

    800m McMillian predictor  3:42.9 to 3:53.2 ; actual splits (this week during training) 3:43 to 3:51

    3 miles McMillian predictor 24:28 ; best training in past year 25:0

    10 miles  McMillian predictor 1:28:21  ; last race time (October 08) 1:28:39

    13.1 miles  McMillian predictor  1:57:20; last race time (March 08) 1:57:57

  • Harri777 - Here it is....according to my Garmin, as I said before not sure HOW accurate that is! The maximum was when I did a quick sprint up a hill, just to see how it felt!! LOL!! I must say though, that it was a lovely run, albeit slow and unlike my other runs, I didn't feel like snoozing after!!

    Date: 2009-01-27
    Start time: 11:12:57

    Distance: 16.10 KM ( 10.00 Miles )
    Duration: 2:00:34

    Average HR: 85 ( 45.9 percent of Max )
    Maximum HR: 179 ( 96.8 percent of Max )

    Average speed: 7:29 per KM
    Average speed: 12:03 per mile

    PSC - It is INDEED fascinating reading, and I'm only up to page 30......there's 580 pages of it!!! Arrggghh!! 


  • PSC- thanks for the article, very informative. I'm going to do an HR max test tomorrow so will let you know how it goes... argh.
  • Yifter - I AM a newbie and am well aware the pace I was running at was Sllloowww!!!! Over the last few months literally every run has been done with an elevated HR and I was feeling fatigued constantly, hence coming back to RW for some much needed advice. Thanks to those that have given me advice, and THAT was to build up my mileage, and work on my endurance. As for pace, I'm trying not to think of that at the moment, as I don't want to burn myself out again!
  • I certainly haven't dropped my speed or tempo work, I just wanted to make sure that my long / easy runs were as effective as possible, and after reading a few HR threads thought I would see what doing these at the suggested 70% WHR could do for my overall performance.

    My smart coach schedule for an up and coming H-M tells me I should be doing long / easy runs at 10-04m/m, but my 70% WHR translates into 11m/m. Maybe it's because I have a scientific background, but I am interested to see how running at this pace instead affects the rest of my training, and my race pace. It's just my little experiment image.

    I should also add, like Natasha I am pretty much a beginner (18 months or so) and have only just joined a running club. Up until now all my training has followed the RW smartcoach.

  • Yifter- what you're saying is true- but as I read in another thread recently "speedwork is the icing on the cake- without endurance you don't have a cake to ice". You say running slowly won't make you faster- true in an absolute sense, but it will make you run faster at a given heartrate, which makes you more efficient (can you tell I've been reading up on this?image)

     I've been running for about 5 years but I think I dived in way too quickly to trying to be faster, without building up the necessary base first. I've run marathons, but my marathon times are way down on what would be predicted from my 10 mile times. From the article PSC posted on this thread, this is a classic sign of not having sufficient endurance. I think that the argument in this article is extremely persuasive, and I'm going to give it a go.

    The plateau comment is obviously valid, you have to keep challenging yourself in order to improve. One of the good things in the Hadd article is that it offers a framework for regular assessment of your fitness level, and a gradual ramping up of the programme as your endurance improves. (oh dear I seem to have become a bit of an evangelist and I haven't even tried it yet)

    I don't think anyone is suggesting that you can to go for a slow, gentle jog a few times a week and then expect to break the marathon world record!

  • Yifter - No worries! X image

    Question - Based on the 180 minus age (37) formula plus 5, for running 4x a week, does that mean I should be running between 143-148bpm then, to get the most out of my aerobic fitness? I've yet to test my max MHR, and realise that will give a more accurate figure at what HR I should be training at. But I know that, at the above range, I've pretty much been doing alot of runs already within that range, and I tire very quickly, albeit my speed is a bit erratic at times at 8-10mm, but not consistent. image  That's why I've slowed it right down. I was thinking of following a smart-coach schedule as I'm at about 25 mpw at the moment, but even though I've done a bit of speedwork, worry I'm not at the stage to start speedwork yet.

    Any thoughts? 

  • Yifter S. wrote (see)

    Most newbies run too hard on these runs and not hard enough when they do the quality sessions (threshold and intervals).

    Surely that's the whole point of this thread - by posting my progress (if any) I was hoping that other relative newbies who haven't read up on this would be interested enough to do this too.  I wouldn't dream of thinking I was contributing to the science of running with my 'experiment' - i only meant it I was seeing how my performaces could be improved!!

    I would say that it's not only newbies who don't train effectively enough.  I can immediatley of three people I know who have run for many years, who, when I mentioned that I had bought a HR monitor and was now going to run to do my easy and long runs at 70%  said 'oh I could never run that slow'.  

    I'm not surprised that Yifter finds this thread a bit boring - for his experience and knowledge this is running kindergarden stuff! 

    Natasha: John L Parker in his book Heart Rate Monitor Training for the Compleat Idiot gives a different formula that gave a MHR that turned out to be much closer (within 7 bpm) of my actual, compared to the 180 - age formula.  Unfortunately, I have leant the book to a friend, but will let you know what it is as soon as I can.  I don't think there's any subsitute for actually going out there and getting the real reading, though.

  • 70% is a great HR to be aiming for for "tireless runs". What I mean by this is, you can usually go out and do a session at 70%MHR and get back feeling like you've done nothing.

    Great for recovery sessions, longer runs that you don't want to be sore from the next day and I have used daily 70%MHR runs before to achieve higher mileages than I'd previously been capable of.
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