Run with your Heart not Muscle (Heart rate-based training)

Do you want to avoid injuries, pain and run longer with a smile !!?
 stop focusing on pace (speed) and distance and focus on your heart rate, make sure its below 180 - (your age)bpm. You will be one happy runner for life enjoying every run, may be not in first 6 months but for sure the rest of the life. but why ? continue to read.

The idea behind heart rate-based training is that you train your aerobic system without over stressing your skeletal and muscular systems.

Aerobic System is the energy system which needs oxygen to function. This means that the energy system relies on the circulatory system (breathing in oxygen) in order to create adenosine triphosphate (ATP) for energy use. It also uses fats, glucose, carbohydrates and proteins.

Anaerobic System provides the body with explosive short term energy without the need for oxygen. Stored in the cells in the chemical adenosine triphosphate(ATP), the energy is used when blood is unable to provide them with oxygen quickly enough.

Skeletal system is the framework of the body, consisting of bones and other connective tissues, which protects and supports the body tissues and internal organs.

Muscular system is an organ system consisting of skeletal, smooth and cardiac muscles. It permits movement of the body, maintains posture and circulates blood throughout the body.

Why ?

lets start with WHY… My mentor always taught me if you know your WHY you will figure out your WHAT and HOW !

When there are so many trainings available out there why should I pick heart rate training ?

there are many scientific explanations about the benefits of training in low heart rate but I will try to share what attracted me to follow this method.

Avoid Injuries:

It is said that 80% of the runners get injured every year where they need to take a break to recover or completely stop running. most common terms you must heard or experienced are Runners knee, Shin splits, Achilles Tendinitis, Hamstring Issues, Plantar Fasciitis, Micro tears….. Personally I have experienced every one of it and recovered. All of them happened either because of ignorance (Lack of knowledge) or not listening to my own body.

Injuries usually happen when you push yourself too hard. The way your body moves also plays a role along with terrain, training load, rest and your shoes.
After running over 3000+miles on foot, if I have to suggest one way to avoid most injuries is by running in your zone two and three using your Aerobic system.

This state of running lets you enjoy your runs allowing you to smile and observe the world around you will allows you fall in love with running to have your “ME time”.

Run Longer :

Every individual who starts running will dream of running a 10k, half marathon and eventually The Marathon(26.2mi/42km), but most of us don’t know how to get there, its scary to even think of running for 4-6 hours as an ameture .

we all have heard terms like lactate threshold, hitting the wall from runners who are training for long distances like marathons, personally even I had that experiences when I started running which is horrible , literally your body shuts down, then I also saw people running 100miles with a smile, So…. how is it possible ?

Simple – they train their boys to be as fuel efficient as possible. To run you need energy , how do we get energy ? by burning fuel, what are the fuels available for us – Carbs (Glucose) , Protein(Amino acids) , Fat (Fatty acids).

Carbohydratesproteinsand fats supply 90% of the dry weight of the diet and 100% of its energy. All three provide energy (measured in calories), but the amount of energy in 1 gram (1/28 ounce) differs:

  • 4 calories in a gram of carbohydrate or protein.
  • 9 calories in a gram of fat.

these nutrients also differ in how quickly they supply energy. Carbs are the quickest and fats are the slowest.

your anaerobic system(zone 4 ,5 ) uses glucose and amino acids as fuel since its easy to burn and you need quick access , how much energy can you store in form of carbs around 2000 cal, once you run out of this fuel around mile 18, 20 that’s when body shuts down since it have no reserves to go to, which is called “Hitting the WALL”.

so to avoid all these hiccups and challenges we need to train our body to run on fat as fuel which happens with your aerobic system or Zone 2,3 training, where we have immense amount of reserves..over a period of time I trained my body to burn fat for longer runs…. which has so many benefits.

What ?

So now what is Heart rate training, what are zones , how do I calculate my ideal heart rate or my zones.

Heart rate zones can be simply defined as percentages of your maximum heart rate.

We all have a personal resting heart rate “a minimum heart rate” , and a Maximum heart rate And between these values are different heart rate zones that correspond to training intensity and training benefit.

There are different ways to specify your heart rate zones. One simple way is to check your fitness watch (eg: Garmin, Suunto) or calculate them as percentages of your maximum heart rate.

The most common used formula is 220 – your age to get the rough max heart rate. for example if you are 35years old your Max Heart rate is 220-35 = 185bpm.

Heart rate zones are closely linked to your aerobic and anaerobic thresholds.

Below is a breakdown of what each heart rate zone means.

Zone 2 & 3 are the one which helps you improve your general endurance: your body will get better at oxidizing – burning – fat and your muscular fitness will increase along with your capillary density  and especially effective for improving the efficiency of blood circulation in the heart and skeletal muscles.

but If you are looking to maximize your efficiency and endurance follow the MAF  (Maximum Aerobic Function) method. (My Personal preference)

The 180 Formula To find the maximum aerobic heart rate:

1. Subtract your age from 180 (180 – age).

2. Modify this number by selecting a category below that best matches your health profile:

a. If you have or are recovering from a major illness (heart disease, high blood pressure, any operation or hospital stay, etc.) or you are taking medication, subtract an additional 10.

b. If you have not exercised before or have been training inconsistently or injured, have not recently progressed in training or competition or if you get more than two colds or bouts of flu per year or have allergies subtract an additional 5.

c. If you’ve been exercising regularly (at least four times weekly) for up to two years without any of the problems listed in a or b, keep the number (180 – age) the same.

d. If you have been competing for more than two years duration without any of the problems listed above, and have improved in competition without injury, add 5.

For example, if you are 30 years old and fit into category b: 180 – 30 = 150, then 150 – 5 = 145. During training, create a range of 10 beats below the maximum aerobic heart rate; in the example above, train between 135 and 145 staying as close to 145 as possible.

To develop the aerobic system most effectively, all training should be at or below this level during base building. As the aerobic system develops, you will be able to run faster at the same maximum aerobic heart rate. 

How ?

First agree to the fact that you need to slow down and it will be frustrating , do a test run to see what is your pace in your MAF zone , I can say it will be very slow in my case 9:30mins/mile.

find gear which can help you with this training like a sports watch (I recommend Garmin) and a heart rate monitor and start tracking your runs using free Apps like Strava you can join our club #OneEnergyTogether to find people in same shoes as you. No need not go fancy with gear, you can find a good smart fitness watch for 150$ and a good hear rate monitor for 50$.

My gear
Garmin Fenix 5 & HRM-Tri

During training, a heart monitor can help athletes develop their body’s aerobic system, which includes the red, aerobic, “slow switch” muscle fibers. This process is referred as building an aerobic base, and is the foundation of good endurance.

Most important, for each person is to find their specific training heart rate that will allow this optimal aerobic development. Building a great aerobic base is accomplished by training exclusively aerobic for a certain number of weeks and months.

During this period, anaerobic workouts (including higher heart rate training, competition and weight work) should be avoided. Anaerobic activity can actually impair the aerobic system, therefore, each workout during aerobic base training should be only aerobic. 

I Will be writing a different post on how training schedule should look like.

Hear are some examples of me and Priya how we track and learn from our past

NYC Marathon Race 2019
A morning training run Marathon, June 2020

If you see both its very evident that to save 10 mins of time over a span of 4 hours I pushed myself in zone 4.. which will hurt you , of course you want to push in your races and till date I still do but it should be 80/20 – 80% of your runs which are training should be in your endurance zone (Aerobic) so you do that 20% in races when needed (Anaerobic).

and also never compare with someone else zones and fitness, for example look at the half marathon done together by me and Priya.

Priya’s Moderate Half marathon June 2020
The same run me running along with her

the numbers are very evident always look back to your own data to compare, of course get inspired by others to know “if they can do it so can I” but not let yourself down. Your zones, heart rate can varies on many factors like

  • Lifestyle
  • Hydration 
  • Nutrition 
  • Energy level 
  • Age 
  • Gender
  • Fitness level 

Some Tips from my experience and my learnings :

  • Shallow breaths vs deep belle breaths – reduce beats by 10, take long full breaths.
  • Run smooth cadence (160+).
  • Short frequent runs to reduce cardiac drift max-out at 1,2hr  activity.
  • Run without music, I’ve experience a difference of 5 beats.
  • Paying attention to your running form. Slight lean forward using gravity almost as a controlled fall forward. Also, using your arms well to improve running efficiency can make a difference. 
  • Find some elevation profiles and use them to your advantage. Slowly jog (or even walk) up a long not too steep hill, turn around and run comfortable fast aerobic down. 

There’s an easier 1 step way for running easy at low heart rate:

either chat with a friend, or seal your lips… Keeping your mouth shut and breathing in and out through the nose will force you to stay well under the first ventilatory threshold, and in the right zone. And it adapts along with your improvements, unlike a heartrate calculation.

Things that helped accelerate my recovery time, relieved muscle pain and soreness, improved muscle strength and increased endurance:

  • Drinking a lot of water and electrolytes during and directly after long runs.
  • Eating Rich whole nutrition food within 30 minutes after finishing a run.
  • Salt and electrolyte pills on 16-20 mile runs during hot summer months
  •  Ice baths as soon as possible after long runs. Ice baths suppress inflammation and help to flush harmful metabolic debris out of your muscles.
  • Muscle roler to get knots out, to improve circulation and prep muscles for stretching
  • Sleeping 7-8 hours a night since most recovery happens in the 7th and 8th hour of sleep.
  • Taking Glucosamine to reduce stiffness, and swelling in the joints and increase motion of joints.

Everything I have shared is through my personal experience and observing other runners and learning from great coaches and blogs like extramilist

Be patient , don’t risk your health and hurt your self for a quick fix by taking a short cut.

Don’t be Speed but become Velocity which has a direction.”

everything worthwhile takes time, patience and a game plan.

if you have any questions please feel free to ask in comments or if you are looking for an accountability group where you can learn from others with similar mindset who are doing it for health rather than records please reach out to me or request the private group #OneEnergyTogether and Strava Club

Run to change not chase

– Yeswanth Kanumuri

2 thoughts on “Run with your Heart not Muscle (Heart rate-based training)

  1. Soma gorinta

    Thanks Yeshwanth, It’s very comprehensive post. Today I got some understanding on Aerobic system and science involved in it. Definitely, I will apply the skill and see how my body functions.


  2. Pingback: #Injuryfree Running – #OneEnergyTogether

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