QT: Hard Workouts and Race Paces when Heart Rate Training

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To reap the benefits of heart rate training, you need to commit to doing most of your runs easy.


With the key word there being most.

Every once in a while, dropping the hammer and pushing hard is a key piece of the puzzle.

Sometimes that’s a hard workout. Other times, it’s race day.

But determining how hard to go? When you’ve been running easy the majority of your miles?

That’s not always as easy as it might seem.

Hard Workouts and Heart Rate Training

Mixing in hard workouts on occasion has a lot of physiological benefits.

Tendon strength. Bone density. Muscle growth. Improved running economy.

No matter what distance race you may be training for, you’ll almost certainly benefit from the occasional hard workout.

Even when heart rate training is the core of your training philosophy.

Just keep the following points in mind:

Don’t Over Do It

Where runners tend to get themselves in trouble is thinking that if some hard workouts are good, more must be better.

A little definitely goes a long way with hard workouts.

So how often should you push it?

A general guideline is that 80% of your training should be easy, and the other 20% you can hammer.

So for some, that would mean that a good, hard workout once per week is ok.

For others, maybe that’s “only” once every couple of weeks.

There is also a solid argument that can be made saying that it depends on where you are in a training cycle/race build up.

In a base building or off-season phase? Maybe avoid hard workouts completely or mix one in very sporadically.

As race day gets a bit closer, maybe you want to mix in something hard every week to feel confident and ready when you toe the line.

I tend to default to less being more, typically doing a couple of really hard workouts each month.

But even that varies, based on how I’m feeling mentally and physically.

If You’re Going to Go Hard, GO HARD!

When hard workouts are on the schedule and you’re ready to throw down, don’t half-ass it.

Hard workouts aren’t for messing around or pushing a little bit, it’s a time to get after it.

Pick workouts that you know you can execute, and get after it.

Struggle to really hammer hard for a short interval? Do something that’s a little longer.

Not very good at locking into tempo pace and grinding for three or four miles? Stick to the shorter/harder stuff.

While it’s true that different hard workouts do provide some different benefits, there is a lot of overlap between any harder effort.

I believe that it’s better to crush a certain workout and get all of the benefits than to sort of get a different workout right, and only sort of get the benefits.

At the end of the day, it’s your call on how you handle scheduling and planning your hard workouts.

Race Day and Heart Rate Training

This is where things can get a little more tricky.

Trying to determine race strategy and realistic pace targets is a little art, a little science, and a lot of trusting the process.

Because race day isn’t about running easy.

But it’s also not about absolutely hammering from the start, assuming you’re not running a 100m dash.

So how do you decide what’s doable for you as race day approaches?

I Don't Know

I wish I had a good answer for you.

In truth, it’s more or less an educated guess.

Consider the distance that you’re racing and your experience with that distance.

How long have you been consistent with heart rate training and how confident are you with your base?

Have recent workouts gone well, especially any longer workouts that may have simulated race paces?

These are a few of the factors to consider when it comes to setting a goal pace for your race.

But because you’re not doing all/most/many of your long runs at race pace, it’s a bit of a guessing game.

Which is why trusting the process is massive.

Those easy miles? Building that aerobic base?

It pays off on race day.

When you push a little as the miles add up, your body responds and you keep cruising.

It’s a feeling that’s really hard to explain. But once you experience it?

Game. Changer.

Heart rate training isn't all about running easy, hard workouts and race day are good times to hammer! #runchat Share on X

What is Your Favorite Hard Workout?
How Do You Determine Your Race Day Pace Targets?

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