5 miles with a heart rate monitor

Just ran my longest run in over a year! 5.2 miles.

Not nearly as quickly as I could have once, but it felt wonderful to slow down and run at a more maintainable pace so that I didn’t feel like cutting the run short a few miles in. I’ve done several 2 mile runs recently, in part because I was pairing them with another activity like yoga or strength training, and the way I felt towards the end of the two miles had me a little worried about ramping up my mileage for the Maine Coast Half Marathon in May.

So… I went for a run on a day when I didn’t do any serious training or yoga, and I slowed WAY down.

The way I got myself to slow down was by using a heart rate monitor and forcing myself to pause or reduce my pace when my heart rate got outside my target zone.

You can see that my heartrate was in the 160s just running 12 minute miles… a clear metric that I’m not in fantastic running shape. (No surprise there.)

What I love about using the heart rate monitor is that I’ll be able to track my improvement based on heart rate. Right now, staying in the high 150s to low 160s produces about a 12 minute mile. In a month, I’m sure that number will change. I look forward to it!

What I don’t love about using the heart rate monitor is that there’s no real consensus on what my target heart rate should be. Active.com calculates it as 102-158 based on my age.

A Runner’s World article suggested that one updated formula would put my target heart rate around 162-169 for tempo workouts and 120-129 for recovery runs. (Looks like my recovery runs would have to be recovery walks if I’m hitting tempo heart rate at 12 minutes per mile. (Remember when I ran that half marathon at 10:01 pace? 13.1 whole miles? I like reminding myself of that when I feel insecure about my running.)

The most accurate way to get your target heart rate is to go to a lab and hook yourself up to an oxygen machine and go all-out on a treadmill with increasing pace and incline.


Until then, I have a rough idea of where my heart rate should be, and targeting around 160 helped me run a full 5.2 miles instead of these 2 and 3 mile runs that were making me nervous about half marathon training.

Now I know to really slow down for my longer runs, and to keep going to Precision Running or doing my .25 mile intervals at a faster speed to help me drop these times down. This is better than my strategy of making every run .25 miles at a challenging pace and trying to get all the way up to 4 miles but quitting around 2 or 3 because it was simply too fast to run extended mileage.

It all goes back to the basics; include a tempo run, an interval run, and a longer run in your week if you’re training for something. I was doing every run like it was an interval workout because I thought I could run my tempo run at the same pace I used to when I was in half marathon shape… and I didn’t mentally connect that my tempo pace was now my interval pace, so my long run pace was now 12 minute miles.

Thanks to a session with the heart rate monitor, I’ve got that sorted out… which means I can get back to running.

Looking forward to reporting back in a month or so and seeing what 162 beats per minute gets me then!

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