My Heart Rate Monitor Experiment…The Beginning

As the summer heat of Phoenix envelopes us, running and other outdoor athletic endeavors become quite a challenge.  Perceived exertion gets harder when dry heat sucks out all our moisture, then humidity kicks in with the monsoons and we struggle to breathe and cool down. We dehydrate quickly, melt a lot and slow down more than any of us would prefer. PRs are not being set during the summer months when temps routinely hit 110 degrees.

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This made me laugh when it popped up on my Facebook feed.  Apparently, running in Phoenix is rarely recommended since we don’t see temps below 80 degrees for very long.

Many runners will hit their stride, pun intended, in spring, and use the summer as a chance to rest and recover, lowering mileage down to a maintenance level.  Not me or my husband.  We decided that running an early fall 50K in Oregon was a GREAT idea!  Our plan is to run the McKenzie River Trail run to celebrate our 15th anniversary.  In Oregon, September weather is usually quite beautiful.  Unfortunately, we forgot that we don’t live in Oregon anymore.  We live in Phoenix now.  It is HOT here and once monsoons start HUMID (despite what everyone thinks, Phoenix heat is not always dry heat).  And we have to train here.  What….were….we….thinking?!?

After coming off a great winter and spring of training and racing, I knew I needed to readjust my expectations if I was going to survive this summer, both physically and emotionally.  I am a sucker for beating myself up if I am not exceling at everything I do  (did I mention I am a Type A Overachiever?).  Going into this training cycle, I knew that if I didn’t hit the same paces or better that I was going to beat myself up to no end.  Treating myself this way will only feed that monster called Depression that I have lurking inside.  Enter Heart Rate training which forces me to run to my HR and ignore pace.  Seems like a good solution.

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Pondering if this HR thing is a good idea..

 

I have read all the great info on how heart rate monitor training can help you become a better endurance athlete.  This article by Dr. Phil Maffetone does a great job of laying out both the how-to and the subsequent benefits.  Joel Friel also has a great method that you can read here and which produces amazingly similar numbers to Dr. Maffetone.  Most runners, especially those of us who do it recreationally, run too hard on easy days and not hard enough on hard days.  Frequently our pace is the same from one run to the next, always a little afraid of what it means if an individual run is slower than the last.  A heart rate monitor serves as a coach of sorts, providing instant biofeedback that tells us to speed up or slow down (usually slow down…haha).

Based on the formulas and trial runs, I need to maintain a heart rate between 141bpm and 151 bpm for all easy runs.  Easier said than done.  No matter how much the science makes sense – IT IS SO DAMNED HARD because you have to run SO DAMNED SLOW!  Majority of people have never taken the time to build the foundation of good aerobic capacity and it comes as a huge surprise when you start training this way.  You are unable to run very fast or fast or quick….you must run slow.  And I am no exception.

In the past when running with a heart rate monitor, I have told myself that I am unique and that is why my heart rate is higher at my “easy 10 min/mile” pace.  I naturally have a higher heart rate and it has nothing to do with my non-existent aerobic foundation.  I have told myself that I know better than the coaches and scientists who have used these methods successfully hundreds of time.  Ultimately, I give up because my way is better of course.  Silly me!!

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Before is what is how I usually feel running a 10:00 min/mile.  After is what my HR is telling me that 10:00 min/mile feels like

 

Given that this summer will slow me down anyway, it seemed like a good time to give it a go again, admitting to myself that all my excuses are false.  So as I embark on this grand adventure, I have no idea how long it will take to see results (hopefully not forever), how patient I will have to be (infinitely I am sure), how much my ego will get bruised (a ton no doubt).

I have been at it for almost a month now.  Many days I find it hard to believe I am actually doing any good, but I keep coming back for more.  Excitingly, I have already learned a few things which I will write about in a follow-up post.   My pace remains slow however  so “Be Determined. Remain Strong” might as well be my mantra for the time being.

My journey continues…..

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