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home > training > training tips > the power of pace & heart rate training

The Power of Pace & Heart Rate Training
What is your athletic goal? Do you want to set a marathon PR or do you want to lose 5 pounds? Have you always wanted to see what's around that next corner, but can't quite make it? If improved fitness or performance is your goal, pace training may be the answer.

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By Jesse Darley
Posted Friday, 21 March, 2003

Heart Rate Training
Not so long ago only world-class triathletes and bike racers wore those weird black chest straps. Today, heart rate monitors are everywhere. The word is out. Heart rate training is a great way to improve your performance, avoid over-training, and track your fitness. Heart rate monitors are also great motivational aids, providing instant feedback on your wrist. The monitors do have their limitations, though.

Most trainers, coaches, and athletes establish heart rate zones for distinct training goals. These zones are based on an estimate of the athlete's maximum heart rate. For example, your heart rate should stay between 60% and 75% of your maximum heart rate on your easy days. The problem lies in estimating your maximum heart rate. Many people have adopted a rule-of-thumb: Maximum Heart Rate = 220-Age. Researchers have discredited this estimate though, replacing it with gender specific equations:

Male Maximum Heart Rate = 214 - (0.8*age)
Female Maximum Heart Rate= 209 - (0.7*age)

This is still a gross estimate. In reality, maximum heart rate varies greatly among people of the same age. Consequently, if you guess your maximum heart rate poorly, you end up with inaccurate training zones. If you aren't careful, you may be over or under training.

Knowing Your Pace
For runners and walkers, heart rate is used to estimate effort, a secondary measurement of performance. The best measurement of performance is the speed and distance of every step you take. Speed and distance systems that display this information on your wrist have begun to flourish over the past couple of years. So what makes pace training powerful?

Pace is intuitive: You have been looking at your car speedometer for years to avoid Smokey's radar gun. You are addicted to your mile splits each time you run a 10K. How formidable and memorable was the 4-minute mile barrier? You already understand pace, so you don't have to change how you think to reap the benefits of pace training.


Avoid the wall!


Pace is immediate: The speedometer measures how fast you are moving EVERY step. You expect your car speedometer needle to jump when you step on the gas. The same is true with your running speedometer. Heart rate, on the other hand, lags effort. If you speed up, your heart rate may not rise for 10 or more seconds, and may not come back down for a minute or more after you slow back down. This is especially true if you are untrained or out of shape. This can result in overshooting your heart rate zone by speeding up or slowing down too much. Training with pace and heart rate simultaneously can provide you with the feedback you need to train smarter.

Pace is pace is pace: Pace is an external measure of how fast you are moving over the ground. Pace has nothing to do with what color clothing you are wearing or how many cans of soda you drank this morning. Heart rate is an internal biological measurement. While maximum heart rate is relatively stable, heart rate under a given set of conditions is highly variable. Hydration, weather, posture, nutrition, fatigue, stress, excitement, and body temperature can all affect heart rate. Therefore, pace and heart rate complement each other well. Comparing your external and internal performance gives you the whole picture. You can track how your fitness changes over time. Run at the same pace and watch your heart rate drop or hold your heart rate at the same level and see how much faster you are running than last month. You can begin to understand your body.

Pace is performance: You want to run a 3-hour marathon? Well, you better be able to run 5 miles in 32 minutes. Or finish eight 800-meter repeats in 3 minutes each. A speed & distance system helps you learn your pace and create the workouts needed to reach your goal.

Pace is biomechanics: Heart rate is a great estimate of the amount of oxygen required by your muscles. For bikers, swimmers, and rowers this is a great measurement of effort and fatigue level. But running and walking are weight-bearing activities that damage those small but essential tissues like tendons, cartilage, and muscle fibers. A couple of days after that hard race or long day at the mall, your heart rate monitor may say you are taking it easy, but your legs are telling you to slow down. If it hurts to run a pace that normally feels fine, you will know to back off. Your speedometer pace is a great way to gauge your legs. Use it to protect your tendons and joints from too much pounding.

Free Your Feet and Your Spirit Will Follow
Have you grown accustomed to the speed and distance readout on your treadmill? Do you measure all of your routes by car so you know how far you run? It's time to turn off your treadmill and leave your car in the garage. The speedometer is like a treadmill display on your wrist, giving you distance and speed in real time. Now you can run or walk anywhere you want and know more about your workout than ever before. The speedometer provides information for freedom. Your body and mind yearn for variety. It's time to explore your own neighborhood and rejuvenate your workout routine.

Those "run it with your eyes closed" loops can be great. But they can also drag you down on those low-motivation days, when you dread running along a boring stretch of highway or up a really tough hill. And familiar loops are throttles on your high-energy days, keeping you from exploring for a few extra miles. With the speedometer, you can run as far as you want and know the distance traveled once you finish. (It's up to you to find your way home, though.)

The Ultimate Speed Workout
Runners understand compromise. We know that to race faster, we need to train faster. Until now, the track was the best way to monitor training speed. But track running sacrifices the variety of road and trail running and does not let your body learn to handle terrain variations. Historically, runners have addressed these problems with fartlek and tempo runs while sacrificing the speed and distance feedback of the track. Finally, runners can have their track and leave it too. Imagine running repeat miles with 1/4 mile rest while cruising Venice Beach. It's easy with a speedometer. Simply set the distance alerts to 1/4 mile and go. The watch will beep every 1/4 mile, simulating the track on the open road. After 4 "laps" you have completed your first mile repeat. You can rest now, until your watch beeps again, telling you to turn up the heat! And you can make sure you are on pace at any point, not just as you finish a lap and your coach yells out your split.

Pace Zones
Ever wished that you could set your legs on cruise control? Try the next best thing: Pace Zones. Your Pace Zone can be as wide or tight as you wish. Set up a 30 second/mile window for that important race. The watch will beep if you run too fast or too slow. Set a ceiling to make sure you don't overdo it on your easy days. Set a floor to make sure you are walking fast enough to get to the movie on time. Turn Pace Zones on and off with the touch of a button. Now you can customize your workout, avoiding the alert when warming up and cooling down.

Distance Alerts
Turn every run into a marked course with the Speedometer's Distance Alerts. The Speedometer watch will beep every time you cover your chosen distance (from 0.20 - 2.50 miles). It's simple, but powerful. Consider some of the possibilities and imagine your own:

  • You are in an unfamiliar town and want to go out for a five mile run. Set your Distance Alert to 2.5 miles, run down that frontage road past the Holiday Inn and Wendy's. When your watch beeps, turn around and head back. You won't get lost and won't have to do laps of the parking lot.
  • Set the Distance Alert to 0.25 miles and pretend you are running around a track. Now you can run intervals on the road. One beep for a 400, two for an 800, or four for your mile repeats with 1/4 mile rest.
  • Use it as a motivational tool. Set it to 0.20 miles and see if you can walk until it beeps one more time than it did yesterday.
  • Establish 1/2 mile landmarks on your favorite courses. ("Cindy's house is exactly 3.5 miles away from mine!")

Heart Rate Training and Zones
The Speedometer includes one of the most useful features of all top heart monitors: Heart Zones. Set a lower and upper limit and listen for the special heart tone. This feature is wonderful if you have grown accustomed to your heart rate monitor but want to incorporate pace and distance training into your workout. On hot days you can't run as efficiently. For a given pace, you will maintain a higher heart rate then on a cooler day. By using the heart rate zones, you will be able to see if you are pushing too hard even thought your pace is telling you otherwise. With the combined feedback of pace and heart rate, you can monitor changes in your performance. When cruising at a constant pace during a run and, while on the flats you see your heart rate going up, you will know you need to take on fuel to make it to the finish. Avoid the wall!

Now you can have heart rate, pace and distance ON ONE WORKOUT SCREEN. Who wants to wear two watches and endure the ridicule of training partners and friends. Ever tried pushing the START button on two watches at once? Don't. A Speedometer is the complete training tool.

For the beginning runner, walking breaks are a great way to stay motivated and go further. Walking reduces the stress on overworked muscles and allows you to conserve energy for the end of a run or race. The Speedometer is the world's first training tool for the run-walker. It accurately measures speed and distance for any speed from a slow walk to a fast run. Therefore, you don't have to worry about the reported distance if you stop and walk once during your run or stop every three minutes. Use the interval alert feature to schedule regular walking breaks (maybe you want to walk for 0.2 miles every mile). As you get fitter your walking breaks will get shorter and less frequent. Watch your fitness improve using the speedometer's detailed charts. Compare your average speed over time. And you thought running was boring!

The Power of Pace and Heart Rate
A speedometer a device that accurately tracks pace, distance, and heart rate, and provides detailed analysis of your workouts on the computer for a complete picture of your fitness. The instant feedback of the device lets you know if you are keeping pace, while simultaneously monitoring your heart rate to let you know if you are pushing yourself too hard or not hard enough. Use the feedback from the device to train smarter. Make sure you are going at the right pace and in the right heart rate zone for your intended workout, and with the device's instant feedback, adjust your pace along the way instead of realizing you were off only after you're finished. As your training progresses, your fitness level will improve, and you will see that you are able to run faster and further while maintaining a lower heart rate. Seeing your improvement, with data from the device, is a great motivator. It's like getting a pat on the back for a job well done. What ever your fitness goals are, a speedometer can help you achieve them.

Jesse Darley was a two-time cross-country All-American at MIT. He finished 42nd at the 1998 Boston Marathon and was a regular in the New England Grand Prix Road Racing circuit while running for the Greater Boston Track Club. Today, you can find Jesse in Madison, WI contemplating a future in trail racing. He urges you to keep the pace.



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