HR training - Getting Started


I'm was wondering if any experienced runners could offer a little advice.

I have been running for nearly two years now, and after several 10k's and three half's I've decided to take the plunge and do a marathon next year. I have targeted Edinburgh at the end of May 2010.

My plan was to do some base training building up lots of slow miles until Jan 2010 (with one speed/internval session per week), and then follow a 16-18week specific marathon training programme after that. Currently I run about 25 miles per week. I'm hoping to build up to around 40 miles per week.

With this in mind, I have a brand spanky new Garmin 405 with heart rate monitor. I think I have sorted out my resting rate, it seems to "bottom out" at about 49, but I'm struggling with the max rate. I have done three minute runs (3 x 3mins when warmed up with jogging in between), as fast as I can, but the highest I can measure my heart rate is 175.

I know absolutely nothing about HR training, but all the stuff I've read talks about max rates around 200 bpm.

Also, if I then run at say 65% of my working heart rate this is at about 130bpm. Again, this seems a bit low?

My usual running pace is about 9 - 9.5min miles, and during the 3 minute runs, my average pace was 6.5 min miles.

 Apologies for long ramble, but my basic question is should I train to 130 bpm, or try again to test my max rate - perhaps I could have pushed myself harder - although it felt flat out image



  • Your max test might not have been terribly effective. Try doing it again but up a hill this time and after you have done your 3 reps, do another image

    My max comes from a really hard 5k race effort rather than a test as i do find myself switching off and not pushing hard enough without an additional incentive. 

    Dont worry if it is as low as 175 though. There are various rules of thumb for what it 'ought' to be but everyone is different.

    Dont be surprised if your sub 70% WHR figure does feel low. There is every chance you will find that pace horribly horribly slow and even quite hard to achieve without walking. Stick at it and you will eventually get quicker.

  • Thanks, for the response - maybe I'll try again on a hill a couple of times to see what happens. It can't do me any harm, and there's loads to choose from where I live in sunny Lancashire.

    Maybe I'm a bit light-weight when it comes to really pushing myself. Perhaps no coincidence finding the resting pulse rate lying on a sofa was much easier image.

    I'm really hoping this theory of lots of slow miles will help, it does sound a bit back to front as a means of getting faster, but I'm willing to give it a go image

  • It definitely works but the early stages are frustrating because they are sooooooo slow. Don't get hung up on the max test though. You are liable to be using a lower figure than your actual max which will mean you are safely under your 70% limit. The actual numbers are less important than the principles so longg as you are in the right range. Just enjoy it, it makes for some nice relaxed running
  • bp, I'd really recomend reading Parker's book ... It tells you everything you need to know.

    My restingHR is 49 and my max is 179. My 70% workingHR is 140 bpm ... when I started I used to have to run at 10:30 min/mile pace to stay below this ... now I can run 8:45-9 min/mile (and needless to say my race pace improved massively as a result). It takes a couple of months - the more miles the better.

  • I bought a 405 last week and have a RHR of 49

    i needed my max HR: so I jogged easy for 30mins then sprinted up(jogged down) a shortish hill for 5 x

    My mAX HR=180bpm


    I reckon 180bpm is NOT my true max: and am putting 185bpm into my garmin

    I do know from a mile time trial last year my hR peaked at 186bpm with a polar hRM

    Good luck with the garmin: I love mine

  • If you have recorded 186 then that is your max
  • Cheers....I will put 186 into my garmin

    I chose 185 as I guessed your HR reduced a bit as you got older!!;-)

  • Thanks Dr Dan, I think I may invest in that book. The improvement in you pace is fantastic. You say it takes a few months, what sort of mileage were/are you putting in to make that sort of improvement? I was aiming to build up to about 40miles per week, I can't see me fitting anymore than that in, with family commitments and work. Pesky real life gets in the way of running image.

    Bambi, I think you may be right, hills and somebody pushing me may be the way forward to find my max, however, as chunky gentleman says if I'm under my limit, I should be OK.

    My plan is to duck out of work and have a bit of a jog at lunch time, aiming to keep my heart rate as near to 130 as possible, although if my max is wrong, I guess it may be "safe" if it drifts as high as 140. But I'll try not to go beyond that. I've a feeling it's going to be over 10min/ mile pace.

  • Good grief. I live in Bombay which is very humid plus I am also a bit lazy. I only have one training pace which is at (very embarassing) 12 minutes and 30 seconds a mile. I usually run about 5 1/2 miles each time on my training runs about three times a week. At the end of it I look like I have had a really hard work out (honest) and am absolutely dripping in perspiration. Am i doing all this wrong? Should I become more scientific and use a HRM? Is my pace sooooo slow that I should give up running and stick to tennis? I love jogging: can anyone help suggest some way I can increase my pace? I have a half marathon to run on Jan 16th 2010.
  • Sorry I gt that wrong: I am actually doing 12 minute miles and not 12 minutes and 30 seconds: I know that's still not good enough by a long way. HELP
  • Goodness me Bombay Duck, my hat goes off to you, that you can even run at all in the heat and humidity of Bombay.

    Even if you are used to the heat, I imagine it would be really hard work. I visited India once, and found the heat and humidity to be quite something!!

    Definitely don't give up! Everybody runs at their own pace, it's completely personal to you.

    I'm not best qualified to advise on training plans, and am still in the very early stages of training with a HRM, but I think it's been a great investment and has really focused my mind on making the most of the training time I have, rather than what I was doing (which sounds just like you - going out and just running at the same speed everytime 3 or 4 times a week). The pace is irrelevant (compared to others), it's the effort level (ie.HR) that's important. 

    I am also halfway through reading the book Dr Dan recommended above. It's really good, and it explains everything in straightforward terms that are easy to understand. I got it from Amazon.

    Keep it up, and good luck in the half in January.

  • I'm 42 and during a recent 5k race my HR reached 193 (!) so I think I'll take that as my max!
  • thanks BBP appreciate the encouragement. Will try the book as well.
  • I've done a max test on an inclined treadmill with a personal trainer this week - somebody shouting at me to go "faster, faster" did get my heart rate up as high as 177, but that's the peak I've been able to reach.

    That puts my 70% at 139 bpm. I've done a couple of 4 - 5mile runs and I've managed to average 140 bpm, so I think I'm just about in the right range.

    Colonel Blimp   - 193 wow !!  Although I do suspect that if I measured my HR in a race, it would probably peak higher than in my test, although my muscles were burning like crazy.

  • Hi - I have also recently read Parkers book and thought I would train that way. Suggested calculations would put my theoretical max HR at 178 to 182 ish but I have never come anywhere near that.My max was 157 running pretty much flat out (I'm not fast)

    Tried his hill test today - could only manage 3 reps not 5 and could barely breath at the end of the third and still only maxed at 157. I'm inclined to believe then that I have a low max for my age or is it possible that being new to running I just don't know how to push myself hard enough?

    During my long slow runs my HR is 120 to 125 and tempo runs in the 140s

    Thanks for any advice


  • i am not an expert on HRs- it is fairly new to me; but I think your MHR is probably 157

    Keep an eye on it during races and see if you get a higher HR then

    I would be setting my training zones using MHR of 157-160( you prbably could push it to 160 if someone was running with you?)

    If slow runs are 120 that sounds right(my  MHR =186 and slow runs=140)

    NB you should use your WORKING HR to calculate  the %'s not MHR( I have just learned this)

  • Thanks Bambi - I think you are right and I will keep track to see if I get any higher.

    Have used working HR to set the zones - the book seemed to make sense and it is a simple way to make long slow runs easy enough (I just didn't want to be going too easy!)

  • Dr.DanDr.Dan ✭✭✭
    bburn plodder wrote (see)

    Thanks Dr Dan, I think I may invest in that book. The improvement in you pace is fantastic. You say it takes a few months, what sort of mileage were/are you putting in to make that sort of improvement? I was aiming to build up to about 40miles per week, I can't see me fitting anymore than that in, with family commitments and work. Pesky real life gets in the way of running image.

    Sorry for the delay in getting back ... my main improvements came with doing 30 miles per week. With real life I struggled to fit that much in to be honest!
  •  I managed to reach 194 bpm today whilst doing my interval training session on a tread mill.

    This is a 45 min workout it starts with 3 mins at 10k per hour pace then 1 min at 15 kph then 1 min at 16 kph, then back down to 10kph pace for 3 mins then back up to either 15 or 16 for the next 2 mins i vary the 2 hard mins with incline added as well, when im getting down to the last 15 mins ill do 2 mins at 16kph then a 2min at 10kph then 2 mins at 15kph 3 mins at 10kph 1 min 15kph 1 min 16 kph 4 mins 10 kph  (for a rest) then 2 mins at 16kph whilst every 10 seconds i add 1 degree of incline until the last 30 seconds where i increase the incline to 12% sprinting uphill for that last 30 seconds is evi, however this interval training mixed in with my other runs has helped increase my average pace without pushing myself to 9 miles per hour. And i have achieved this from beinga 13 and a half stone couch potato to a maniac runner in 18 months with no help only my own nuts ness.

  • Just letting you guys know that I have been following this thread and because of it I decided to take Dr.Dan's advice and I bought the book he links to: "Heart Rate Monitors For The Compleat Idiot". 

    It arrived Friday night and I had finished it by Saturday night.   Absolutely fantastic!  It all makes perfect sense and ties up with other "running theories" I have come across.  I cannot recommend this book enough!   Needless to say my training week has been turned on it's head.......

    Go and buy it!!!..


    PS I have created a very simple Excel spreadsheet since completing the book which works out all your heart rate % for you in an instant (once you know your resting and max etc.)     If anyone wants a copy just send me your email address and I'll pass it on.  It's nothing special but it does the job!

  • It's a great book isn't it TBSIARFimage

    I found it really easy to read, and it explains things in terms I could get my head around.

    I've completed two weeks now where all my running has been at <70%, with just one tempo run.

    I must admit it feels flipping slow, and my pace is looking rather plodding, at 11 min/ miles image, but I'm sticking with it.

     Mileage wise, I'm aiming for 30 miles per week at the moment. I've managed 33 & 28 miles per week since I started.

    TBSIARF - keep us updated on how you get on.


    It is a fantastic book and as you say, it is explained clearly and simply. As I said earlier I have now adopted the books mantra of <70% to ensure the easy runs and yes of course my pace has dropped as a result BUT not as much as i thought it would. 

    I had been quite careful anyway to ensure my days were easy(ish) prior to getting the book but they weren't quite easy enough but not far from the magic percentage.

    I did 16 miles @ 73% yesterday which averaged 8:36 miling so i'm quite pleased with those figures at this stage. My weekly mileage is currently at 40 per week but I'm not expecting any big "improvements" at 70% until i get to 60 a week ( that's my hope anyway). 

    A few years ago I followed the HADD approach to running for about 5/6 months which involved lots and lots of slow miles but after a while you can really feel ( and see) the difference so I know this will work.

    Still, we are here to support each other and give us some time and eventually everyone else will be eating our dust (well....maybe).


  • TBSIARF - lol everybody eating my dust !!! Not at 11 min/miles !!!

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