QT: Heart Rate Training FAQs After 3 Months of Running Easy

Back in November, I grabbed me a copy of Primal Endurance.

I had been toying with the idea of trying the low-carb diet/lifestyle and was curious how to do so while maintaining my running fitness.


While Primal Endurance does talk about the health benefits (and performance benefits) of avoiding all processed sugars, all grains, and all cheap oils, one thing I was not expecting was to learn so much about the value of heart rate training and how beneficial it is to train easy if you want your body to become proficient at burning fats for fuel.

When I finished the book, I knew I needed to try both slowing down and kicking the carbs out of my diet.

It’s now been a little over three months that I’ve basically done heart rate training exclusively, and the results are promising.

My experiment will continue at least until the end of 2018, but in just these first few months I’ve had a lot of folks ask me about my experience so far.

May as well answer the common questions for all of you then, eh?

Heart Rate Training FAQs

I’ve gotten several heart rate training questions at various points in the past, but now that I’m actually trying it on myself I feel like I can (hopefully!) offer some better answers.

That said, feel free to reach out to me anytime you have any other questions related to heart rate training. I’m really planning to dive deep on the science of heart rate training this year, so if I can help you understand it better I’m happy to do that.

But for now, let’s start with three of the most common questions I’ve gotten about heart rate training since I started down this road.

How will I get faster by running slow?

This is the biggest fear of every runner I talk to about heart rate training.

The answer is really quite simple: science.

Running 400m repeats isn’t going to make you faster in the marathon.

It’s just not.

Are there benefits of doing some repeats when you’re training for a marathon? Absolutely.

But you can do 400m repeats until you’re blue in the face (or Yasso 800s, for that matter) and it’s not going to make you a better marathon runner.

Why? Because the marathon is an aerobic event and 400m sprints don’t do much to help you strengthen and improve your aerobic system.

In order to train your aerobic system, you need to slow down.

If you push too hard, you start training more anaerobically which simply doesn’t help you as much on race day.

Can I still do my hard days?


When you first get into heart rate training, you have to commit to it.

I went two months without running over my maximum aerobic heart rate. And in hindsight, I probably should have gone a few more months to really build my aerobic base.

The reason for this is simple: higher intensity workouts (repeats, tempos, etc) are great on occasion but without a proper aerobic base in place you aren’t getting as much payoff for the effort that is demanded of those hard workouts.

As your aerobic efficiency improves, as measured by performing a MAF test, you can mix in an occasional higher intensity workout.

Do I need to get a heart rate strap?


I don’t care if you have one of the fancy Garmins or other watches that can measure your heart rate at your wrist.

Those readings, to put it bluntly, are not accurate.

(Don’t believe me? Check out this study from the American College of Cardiology.)

And don’t think that you can just “tell” if you’re running easy or not.

One of the things that I’ve learned as I’ve been studying and researching heart rate training is that there are a whole host of factors going on beyond our running that determines whether or not our heart rates are creeping up.

And as such, the only way to know if you need to slow down during your run is to have the feedback of the heart rate montior alerting you if your heart is beating too quickly.

If you are serious about heart rate training, spend the money to buy a strap and wear the damn thing!

This is one that I have, and it’s even machine washable so you don’t have to worry about it starting to stink.

The only negative is that this strap can’t be read by your phone. So if you’re using an app instead of your watch to keep track of your pace, you should get this strap instead.

(Full disclosure, I have both. I wear the Garmin strap for my runs and the Wahoo strap to measure my heart rate while I’m sleeping.)

At this point, I can’t see myself going back to “traditional” training methods.

I’ve learned too much about heart rate training, and how beneficial it is months and years down the road.

And for me, my goals are still several years off.

But by training more intelligently and staying consistent for the next several years, it’s only a matter of time before my aerobic fitness is so strong that I’m comfortably cruising to a Boston Qualifying time.

A bold statement? Perhaps.

But you know why I’m so confident?


Answers to some comming heart rate training questions I've been getting lately. #runchat Click To Tweet

What are Your Thoughts on Heart Rate Training?

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