June 16, 2024

Is Heart Rate Training for You? By Jason Saltmarsh

Would you like to run longer and faster with less effort? Heart rate training can help you reach that goal. A heart rate monitor provides real-time biofeedback during your workouts to help you stay in the optimal training zone. Consult your physician to determine your specific target heart rate zones as they vary based on fitness goals, medications and state of health.

Determining Your Maximum and Minimum Heart Rate
To find your target heart rate zone, you’ll need to know your maximum heart rate and your resting heart rate. Then, you can determine several training zones between those two extreme values. The idea is that you use the heart rate data during your workout to stay in the intended heart rate zone. Some people choose to run by pace per mile speeds, while others by their ability to carry on a conversation. Heart rate training is based solely on BPM (beats per minute).

The American Heart Association recommends a method for identifying your maximum heart rate. Their method is to simply subtract your age from 220. For example, if you are thirty years old, you get the following: 220-30=190.

Determining your resting heart rate by taking your pulse for one minute just after waking up, or while sitting down relaxing. Athletes usually find their resting rate is around 60 BPM.

Determining Your Heart Rate Training Zones
Variety is the spice of life and the cure for ‘lazy’ running. Runners aren’t lazy, but their approach to training may be if they’re doing the same thing, at the same effort, day after day. To see improvements, you’ll need to mix things up and challenge yourself in a variety of ways.

The advantage to heart rate training is that it’s based solely on your own biofeedback. External measures such as pace per mile do not interfere with your results. For example, if you run a flat 6 mile course on a cool day at 8:00 pace, how does that compare to running 6 miles on a hilly course under a scorching sun at 8:30 pace?

Final Thoughts
Training principles remain the same no matter what method you use. A blend of long and short, easy and hard, fast and slow, and plenty of rest will keep you fit and healthy. Heart rate training offers you an exact measure of effort and gives you the certainty of knowing that you are training at your intended level of exertion.


Jason Saltmarsh is an competitive masters runner at distances ranging from 5K to the half marathon. In November 2013, he raced his first 26.2 at the iconic New York City Marathon. Jason’s goal is to share with others the benefits and joys of running, fitness and healthy living. For more information, please visit saltmarshrunning.com

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