QT: Reflecting on a Long-Term Commitment to Heart-Rate Training

A couple of weeks ago, I had someone ask me on social media if I had done any episodes I had done about my experience with heart rate training.

I knew I had done a couple, but also knew it had been a minute since I’d done one.

Turns out, it had been a few minutes…

I know I’ve talked about MAF/heart rate training several times in the last couple of years, but it’s been two and half years since I’ve done a focused episode on my experience with my commitment to heart-rate training.

Seems like we are overdue then, eh?

A Commitment to Heart-Rate Training

First and foremost, I want to make it clear that my progress over the past 3.5 years is simply that: mine.

While I whole-heartedly believe in the value of effort-based training, just because heart-rate training has worked brilliantly for me there’s no guarantee it’ll work similarly for you.

So, with that out of the way, let’s dive into some details of my progress since making my commitment to heart-rate training.

  • Consistent AF

The first thing that stands out to me since making a commitment to heart-rate training is that I’ve been a much more consistent runner in the last 3.5 years than I’ve ever been in my running career.

I’ve been basically injury-free. I haven’t had any issues with burnout.

The only breaks I’ve had have been after races while taking a dose of my Pain-Free + 3 advice.

  • More Miles

A byproduct of being consistent over the past few years is that I’ve also run more miles than ever before.

    • 2018: 1,299.5 miles
    • 2019: 1,572.5 miles
    • 2020: 2,188.75 miles

This year, I’m on pace for more than 2,600 miles.

All the while, being as healthy as I’ve ever been.

Plenty of people would tell you that I increased my mileage way too much in such a short period of time.

But by keeping the vast majority of my miles “easy,” I’ve been able to handle the increase in volume without issue.

  • A Slew of PRs

The single biggest argument I hear against heart rate training is that you can’t get faster if you’re not running faster.

Technically, perhaps, this argument isn’t completely off base.

But the key thing to remember is that for most of us, running faster isn’t the key to faster times on race day.

Building endurance is.

And there is nothing I know of that will help you build your endurance like effort-based training in some form or fashion.

In October of 2018, I found myself running marathons on consecutive weekends. I ran the first one a bit conservatively, crossing the finish line about 15 minutes slower than my PR at the time (4:20). The following weekend, I felt good so I went for it: 4:04 and a one-minute PR!

In January of 2019, I one-upped myself by running a 50k one weekend and a road marathon the next. This time, however, I ended up with PRs in both races! While ultra PRs are always a bit sketchy, the marathon PR was a big one: 6 minutes and my first sub-4 (3:58).

Haven’t had any PRs in a couple of years, but I also haven’t really run many races since then (where I’ve actually raced them).

I went for another marathon PR in October of 2019, but blew up (massively!) at mile 20.

Based on how I’m feeling now?

There’s a good chance there are more PRs (and some big ones!) coming whenever I get around to racing again.

  • MAF Tests

I’m not going to bore you with the results of all my MAF tests over the years, I’ll just give you the bookends.

(In case you’re unfamiliar, MAF tests are the ways to measure your aerobic fitness and see whether or not you’re making any progress.)

Huge, if I do say so myself.

Now, this isn’t quite a perfect apples-to-apples comparison.

I’ve adjusted my MAF test route, changing it from 4-miles to 3-miles.

If I had run the 4th mile, there’s a pretty good chance my average pace would have slowed by a few seconds.

Still, safe to say that I have knocked two minutes per mile off of my MAF pace in 3.5 years.

Will It Work for You?

That is an Excellent Question

I think so.

I know I just said that there are no guarantees, and I believe that, but the science behind effort-based training is rock solid.

The reason it works or doesn’t work, in most cases, comes down to the individual.

If you commit to the process for the long haul? It’s a near certainty that you’ll see progress.

The problem is that it’s going to take months and years, and not days and weeks, to really see things pay off.

Without going back and looking at the data with a fine-toothed comb, I’d say I’ve made more progress in the last 6 months of heart rate training than I did in the first 18 months.

That’s the kind of patience and commitment that is required to really see the benefits of effort-based training.

Those that give up after a couple/few months?

Those are the runners that bitch and complain about how it doesn’t work.

Spoiler alert: if you only commit to MAF/heart rate training for a couple of months it’s not going to work.

Just saying

Coming Soon: Tips for Success

If you’re ready to give heart-rate training a shot, stay tuned.

I’ll share some lessons learned/best practices for keeping your heart rate in check as you get started (or continue) on the heart-rate training journey.

The longer you stick with heart rate training, the more it pays off. I'm sharing my experience after 3.5 years of heart rate training. #runchat Click To Tweet

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2 replies
  1. Rob
    Rob says:

    Through heart rate training I’ve noticed I can control day to day anxiety easier, or more aware of it . While running I can sense when my heart rate is getting too high and I try to slow down and breathe deeper. . So on day to day I start to sense the same. When conversation or situations cause my heart rate to elevate I can take a step back, breathe deeper , and relax helping to calm the situation for myself and others.


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