#206: Heart Rate Training Demystified

unnamed-3Buckle your seatbelts, this episode is one heck of a ride, with Dimity joining Sarah to welcome on mother/coach/walking-Wikipedia Mary-Katherine “MK” Fleming to talk about heart rate training for runners. Fast-talking, caffeinated MK tells why slowing down in training might just be what you need to run stronger and faster in races—and feel great along the way. Hear how heart rate training, under the guidance of MK, enables Dimity to finally be able to run more than three times per week without getting injured. Laugh along with Sarah and Dimity when MK uses her cousin Bubba and his soupped-up Bonneville as an analogy for heart rate training. Find out what pickups and surges are, and how they figure into workouts. Oh, and find out what type of “homegrown” store Sarah wants to pay a tourist-attraction visit to.

Reminder: Registration for Train Like a Mother Club Heart Rate Challenge opens April 18. The 20-week plans will prepare you for a half-marathon or a marathon with 6 weeks of base building, then 14 weeks of more specific training. There will be nine “waves” of groups, so race dates can be anywhere from September 24/25 to November 19/20. In addition to the usual features of the Train Like a Mother Club—awesome swag, private Strava Clubs and Facebook pages; exclusive podcasts; accountability galore—Dimity has a few exclusive offerings up her (wicking) sleeves. It’ll all be unveiled onMonday, April 18 when registration opens!

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28 responses to “#206: Heart Rate Training Demystified

  1. I listened to this podcast last night and am inspired. I have recurring achilles tendon issues that have forced me to take breaks from running over the last year, but after a few months off I’d like to get back out.

    I went on a little “test run” this morning to see just how slow I’d be going with 140 bpm. Well, I shouldn’t call it a run because I averaged 17:30 miles. Any running was really 10-30 second light jogs followed by a few minutes of walking.

    I’ve never been fast, but I’m used to doing ~30 minute 5ks & 2:30 half marathons.

    Does it get better? Is there a beginning beginner training plan to follow? Seems like training for a half marathon at this point is a distant goal (haha).

  2. I was listening to this podcast during a massage (I hate spa music – too many birds!) and kept giggling at MK’s enthusiastic coaching. I “retired” from my attempts at running after too many injuries over the three years I tried. But man, MK is making me want to try again. The part about warming up the tendons and ligaments to do their jobs really resonated with me. Could I really run without screaming calves and creaky ankles? Will there be a TLAM HRM club for beginners? Does that even work? Or do people need to have done a half first?
    I do have a Polar heart rate monitor – and as a “gifted” girl I can say that the strap is not an issue. The monitor itself rubbed me raw a few times in the summer so definitely use Body Glide!

  3. Listened to the podcast this afternoon .. I’m thrilled for this one. I tried heart rate training last year, but between not being able to join my BRF for runs AND feeling like I was getting nowhere, I threw in the towel. This TLAM club is just what I need – I need a tribe to hang with, I need a guide, and I need some numbers to track my improvement over time. Excited for tomorrow – JUST TAKE MY MONEY ALREADY!!! 🙂

  4. You’ve sold me, MK. No, I totally agree a half is a full race. I told myself I wouldn’t do another full until the whole family was ready…and the TLAM book says don’t start one with a new job, so that nixes that. 😉 I’ve started thinking about it recently, but that probably means it’s a training year away! 🙂 I’ll probably give your Half plan a go, though. I am a seasoned half runner and am excited to explore something new that will bring progress in a healthy way. I appreciate you writing back. You don’t mince words. I love it. (If I close this comment and question marks appear in odd places, I swear it wasn’t my fault.)

  5. I am so excited by this! I ran my first half in November using the AMR 1/2 challenge/training plan and found it incredibly helpful. I even beat my goal time by 4 minutes. However, I broke my fibula in December. I started swimming when I transitioned from the hard cast to the soft cast and have just started rehab so know that I don’t want to push it too quickly. My thought was to join one of the late waves figuring that 8 or 9 weeks out might be a good time to start back – with all the proper official approval, of course. Does this sound doable? I don’t have a particular race in mind but have been thinking that a fall race might not be out of reach.

  6. I was so excited to hear this podcast!! I have always wanted to try HR training, but I haven’t pursued it. I can definitely see myself joining this challenge because of the guidance & support! And I completely concur about never having run a truly slow-paced run. I think I run in the grey A LOT. Anywho, can’t wait!!!

  7. I loved this podcast so much. I have so many questions. First, can I use this method of training while maintaining my goal of running 2016 miles in 2016? This means that I have to average 5.5 miles per day. I will be racing in several 1/2 marathons and/or 10 k races so I will be able to make up for any shorter mile training days but I don’t want to get to far off that average. Would it make sense to use this method to train for a 1/2 instead of the full or try it out first for a 1/2 then pick up again for the full. So many questions.

  8. I loved this too. My problem is that whenever I try to introduce more speed than once a week or so…like on my long runs, my hip/piriforus acts up. I would like to up my mileage and not get injured but also qualify for Boston. My marathon last year was 4:15…how much time would I have to take to work up to a faster marathon. By running so slow most of the time…how long about does it take to start to get faster. Such a great podcast! The prospect of getting faster and not be injured is very appealing!!!!

  9. So I have just a few more questions. I work as a group fitness instructor and the big problem I face with most training plans is having the energy to teach my classes and do my runs. Do you think HR training would help with this or at least work with this? I can’t just not teach for a few months as this is the money that pays for the fun stuff. Also do you know how/if it would work with Galloway for long runs. I love running with the group and can run slow with them doing 90/30 intervals but I have a really hard time going long alone.

  10. Amanda, a half-marathon is a full race and is FAR less of a time-suck than a marathon. Why not start with one of the HM plans? Your long runs will start at 60 minutes, slowly build then average between 140-165 minutes. After that we can check your progress and see what you want to do.

    There is a lot of ego involved when runners start talking to each other. Somehow the marathon is viewed as ‘superior’ in some way to the half. When I hear, “it’s just a half…I bang those out every other weekend” it is very difficult for me to bite my tongue (not that it’s easy for me the rest of the time but YOLO). Runners ought to measure themselves by how honest they are with themselves about their time constraints and setting goals accordingly, not by the distance of the event for which they’ve registered. Gimme a client who approaches the time commitment intelligently and absolutely nails their 5k, 10k or half-marathon training ANYDAY over someone who fails to recognize that training for a marathon is a part-time job, and that their boss/kids/spouse may not be excited at the idea of you taking on a part-time job right now so they complete 50% (ish?) of the training and hope for no injury and a PR. The 100% halfer beats a 50% marathoner EVERY SINGLE DAY in my book.

    I promise you, I did A LOT of math so you would never have to do any. SO MUCH MATH! My plans will not work out to be a bigger time commitment than anything else you do, but the approach is geared towards making smart choices at every turn and getting the maximum results from every minute you spend training with me. You haven’t met me yet, but I feel strongly about everyone getting their money’s worth every single day. I have no intention of hurting you, wasting your time, or stealing time from your babies. This is a long way of saying that marathon training in general might not be right for you right now, but the half plan might be perfect. 100% halfer is 100% badass, so let’s be great big badasses together!

  11. Sorry my punctuation got all messed up in my prior message. Question marks where periods were supposed to go? I feel caffeinated myself by that awesome podcast!

  12. MK I am so intrigued by this. I ran my first (only so far) marathon with a Galloway group in 2010 and finished in 4:29—thinking about doing run walk intervals and long run paces that were at least 2 min slower per mile than race pace. I’ve been thinking about a second marathon, but like one of the other listeners, am wondering if I have time for the long runs of any marathon plan, particularly a slower one—which on one level I know is perfect, and probably exactly what I need, and on another level, it makes me think, maybe this still isn’t the time in my life to train for a full. So, are the long runs mileage based? Run as long as it takes for you to do that long of a run at that HR- under-140 pace? I imagine that could keep an average runner out there for a really, really long time—like 5 hours or more for a 20 mile run? I’m just wondering. What kind of hours are we thinking we need to budget for a long run? I want to be realistic? I appreciate you saying 45 min- max 65 on the average runs, ignoring miles. Ok got that. Now demystify the long-runs a bit.

  13. Cindy, yes you can! If you have a coach, ask them about trying this on your weekday easy runs. If you are self-coached, Change nothing in your current plan, just cap your easy runs at 140 effort. If that slows you down to slower than 12 minutes per mile that is totally fine. Your min time on your feet should be 45 minutes and Max 65. So, if you have a 5-mile easy run on Monday and the heart rate cap slows you to 12:30/mile, after 60 minutes you are good, don’t worry about the mileage. You didn’t miss anything and do not need to make it up. If 4.38 miles is going to scare you or stress you out, then I would recommend waiting till after race day to try anything new.

    Donna, I strongly prefer Garmin and Polar technology. See my previous message about low-hanging fruit though, it tastes just as sweet. If you already have a TomTom and like it no reason to toss it.

  14. Loved the podcast. MK – what do u think of the Tomtom runner 2 watch which monitors heart rate? I love it for (having music on it is great) but wonder what u think of its heart rate function. Thx

  15. Loved the podcast. MK – what do you think of the Tomtom runner watch which monitors heartrate? i find it really hard to keep in my lower rate zones but I’m working on it!

  16. Listened to this yesterday on my 20 miler and would really love to try it! Thanks for answering about how to measure heart rate – I am scared of the straps and so have never tried. So my question – I am at that point in training where I am starting to flag (Memorial Day race). SO would really slowing down my easy runs be beneficial in these last 6 weeks? Can I still get some benefit or is it too late?

  17. Can’t wait to start this training. I started doing my own version in January and have seen my race pace get better. It has worked for me and can’t wait to do it with guidance and expertise. It can only get better. I too am a walk/run girl and I did a lot of walking when trying to keep my heart rate below 140. Thank you so much for offering this and for making the podcast.

  18. Erin, you won’t be! Must runs are 30-60 minutes, we train in timed capped blocks. I would never send anyone out for hours.

    Susan, I have an AMAZING plan for new runners!!!! Yes yes yes!

    Janet- that fear is baseless, I promise. This is why I say it will be scary. If you are losing speed gains and are running consistently, then you are a great candidate for my training because your aerobic base needs work. It is an easy fix, once we get you dialed in your body will respond to speedwork like never before.

  19. I love the idea of training like this but am concerned that I will be running for hours and I already find it hard to find exercise time. Can you give me an idea of how long an average slow run might take? Thanks!

  20. halfway through the podcast and wondering a couple things: is this good for beginning runners? I am a run/walk interval girl working hard with TLAM to increase that interval time. is there any baseline you should be at before considering heart rate training? also, any thoughts on relying on my FitBit for the heart rate stuff? currently I ignore it. I do have a heart rate monitor but I am one of those “gifted” girls and the thought of strapping that thing to my chest gives me the heebs. thanks!

  21. Oh wow! I never thought I’d be considering attempting a heart rate based training plan. I have no patience, and most of my runs feel easy, until all of a sudden they don’t. My hubby was listening to this too, and I wish I had a dollar for every time he said, “That sounds like you!” My biggest fear is that if I spend 4-6 weeks running really slowly, that I won’t be able to speed up again. I’m already experiencing the dreaded age-induced slow down, and speed doesn’t come nearly as easy as it used to. But I also have a feeling I’ve never run a truly easy run in my 20+ years of running, and maybe I won’t know what I’m really capable of until I try something totally different than I’ve tried before. So much to think about!

  22. I personally use a Polar m400 and LOVE it! But I use a Blackberry because I am a Luddite. 😉 My advice is to go for the low-hanging fruit. If you are all fancy and use an iPhone while you run, then look at the available run apps like Strava, MapMyRun and Runkeeper. All will sync with different heart rate straps, so pick the combo that works with your budget. I encourage my clients to stick to those apps/straps, or Polar products, or Garmin products. They are THE best, hands-down.

    Also bear in mind, I have the chest of a 7-year-old boy and (no joke) wear seamless training bras from the juniors section at Nike. Adding the heart rate strap to my chest is NBD. Many of my ‘gifted’ clients need to double-bag it and prefer wrist-based monitors. The Garmin 225/235 is a terrific option for you. The only real downside to these is that you have to wear them really tightly against your wrist to get good, continuous heart rate data so if you have tiny wrists go for the chest straps, unless you are ‘gifted’ and a chest strap just won’t work. Does that help?

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