/ Training using Heart Rate Zones

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Ridge 05 Sep 2019

No doubt a bit of a daft question.

Just retired my faithful Garmin 220 as the battery life on GPS is now about 2 hours and replaced in with a 245, mainly for the battery life when doing long days walks.

Obviously its a huge leap in terms of stuff loaded on there, but I'm quite keen on looking at using the HRM to do a bit more structured training in terms of tempo runs etc.

I'm aware that wrist HRMs aren't particularly accurate, (but its pretty much spot on at resting heart rate), and the pre-loaded zones are based on some 220 - age metric, but there seems to be a big difference between measured heart rate and my perceived effort.

On my first run with it tonight my usual hill climbs, which feel reasonably hard but I can keep jogging on up, it was showing I was in the 90 to 100% 'Max' region. I'd have expected to be breathing much heavier and feeling sick at that level of exertion. Similarly running a 9 mile route a good 30 secs per mile slower than my normal pace falls into the top end of 'tempo', but feels steady enough to hold a conversation.

Am I much less fit than I thought and my heart is about to explode, do I need to let the various metrics (apparently it has a go at estimating VO2 max after a week of data) do their stuff or does it need some manual tweaking?

Any thoughts?

syv_k 05 Sep 2019
In reply to Ridge:

It’ll be saying you’re close to max based on the 220-age estimate of your maximum heart rate, which isn’t very accurate. Some people have little hearts that can go fast and some have big ones that go slow. To be properly accurate you will need to work out your max, which for me is after 5k all out, but others prefer a one km hill, run up three times. It should plateau and not get any higher even if you feel you are exploding. Then enter it into the watch and things should get better.

I find wrist HR to agree with a strap most of the time, except when doing intervals as the wrists reacts slower, and wrist sensors are more easily confused when doing non running activities that involve moving the arms a lot. If is going to be out it is usually way out. If in doubt you can always stop and count.

Ridge 05 Sep 2019
In reply to syv_k:

Thanks, that makes sense. There's no way I'm telling Mrs Ridge I might have a little heart though!

syv_k 05 Sep 2019
In reply to Ridge:

If you have a little heart you could truthfully tell her that she can raise your pulse to levels that would be impossible for lesser men.

afx22 05 Sep 2019
In reply to Ridge:

It may be 90% of lactate threshold rather than 90% of max heart rate.  It’s an optional setting on my Garmin.

kevin stephens 05 Sep 2019
In reply to Ridge:

220 - your age is bollox, on that basis I am 34 rather than 61, and I’m no athlete. After a warm up find the pace/effort you can just about sustain for say 15 minutes without going into oxygen debt and use that as your 95% to work out your training zones. You should then find it works well

summo 06 Sep 2019
In reply to Ridge:

Maybe it's just my watch, but I shave the hair off just where the sensor sits over. The slight loss of accuracy is the price to pay for strap free convenience. 

Yanis Nayu 06 Sep 2019
In reply to Ridge:

You need to test your max hr and change the zones I’d say. I’m 48 and my max is 195  

yorkshireman 06 Sep 2019
In reply to Ridge:

Just to give another perspective, the problem with HR, especially on trails/uneven surfaces/altitude is that it doesn't represent your level of effort in a consistent way (even if it is measured accurately).

What it represents is how hard your heart is working in order to service a particular level of effort - subtly different. Depending on things such as your level of fatigue, ambient temperature, altitude, general training state etc, your heart may need to work harder or slower in order to maintain the same level of effort.

This is why many coaches recommend working on relative perceived effort (RPE) where you work on 'feel' on a scale of 1-10. Obviously its something you have to be happy with doing but it may be worth considering, especially on your 'normal' runs.

Mr Fuller 06 Sep 2019
In reply to Ridge:

I don't know why the 220-age rule even exists, it is woefully inaccurate for 99% of people. Measure your max heart rate by having a few rest days then warming up thoroughly. Then run up a steep tarmacked or grassy hill as fast as you can for about five minutes, aiming to completely explode when you get to the top. This sort of effort isn't fun: you should see double, get tunnel vision, lose the feeling in your arms, etc.). The biggest number you reached is your max heart rate. Work out your zones based on that. Beware that humidity, tiredness, past training, illness etc all affect heart rate so it is nowhere near as defined as the 80%-90% zones stuff, so take even the zones with a pinch of salt 

Ridge 06 Sep 2019
In reply to Ridge:

Thanks all. Obviously trying to run to HR on hilly routes was a bit of a daft idea! Some good advice there, looks like running till I puke is in order for calibration purposes.

Graham Briffett 06 Sep 2019
In reply to Mr Fuller:

Its also worth checking that both your Garmin App or setting in your account are properly synched with your watch. I've found with my Garmin 235 that if I set things up on my watch but not in the app then the app will override what is in the watch next time they are synched. I seem to have to do both, separately, for things to be properly set up the way I want them.

nniff 06 Sep 2019
In reply to Ridge:

The 220 - age is just a rule of thumb.  I have a friend of the same age - if we go for the same ride, his average HR is 185 whereas mine is 135.  My maximum is about 162 these days, whereas his is about 225.  I work out my maximum by building pace up a hill and then picking picking it up and holding it until the number won't go up any more and it feels as though the wheels will come off at any moment.  Cyclist rather than runner.

Garethza 06 Sep 2019
In reply to Ridge:

I find the wrist HR woefully incorrect on my Suunto compared to wearing a HR belt. There are so many factors working against you with regards to wrist HR that its not viable in the long term. I think you have to wear the watch super tight, sweat minimally and have no hair for it to be even slightly accurate during exercise.

If you want the most accurate readings, the new HR belts are the way to go.. soft and comfortable and you forget they are even there.

Check out 'uphillathlete.com' for more info about setting heart rate zones according to your thresholds

Dave B 06 Sep 2019
In reply to Ridge:

What was the heart rate. Could it have been your cadence? The two are sometimes confused on ohr. 

Dave B 06 Sep 2019
In reply to Mr Fuller:

Its not a rule, its a mathematical model that has been simplified. The evidence showed that this was the best model, but that there was a variability so that with a normal distribution 99% were within +- 20 bpm of this (from memory! Someone correct me if I'm wrong on this) 

Is been been picked up by the fitness industry as ' useful rule of thumb' .  However, its not necessarily that use full as you have commented. There are a large number of protocols designed to estimate max hr using non maximum effort which is useful for people who are returning to fitness or should not be exercising to max hr.

Worth suggesting a PARQ (Participation Readiness Questionnaire) to someone before suggesting a max effort protocol, or any protocol who is returning to exercise. 

ClimberEd 06 Sep 2019
In reply to Ridge:

with HR zones max HR is basically irrelevant. 

There are really only about 5 zones (or 4 if you want it even simpler, you can combine 2 and 3) that you need to worry about and if you run with your watch for a few weeks you'll know what HRs they correspond to as HR tends to stick at various levels and jump with effort rather than move smoothly up and down.

I'll give you my HRs to flesh it out but they aren't applicable to anyone else.

Essentially, and practically.

zone 1 - easy.moving but no real effort. Genuinely easy. <115

zone 2. - steady. you start to notice light breathing. Effort level low. This is your aerobic threshold and you'll start to get a tiny bit of lactic. 115-128

zone 3 - tempo - deeper more regular breathing. effort. but nothing hurts. 128-145

zone 4 - hard but sustainable effort - at or just under anaerobic threshold 145-155 (I think my threshold is about 151). hard breathing, hurts, but you aren't about to blow up

zone 5 - anything harder than that. hard. hurts. 155-max (most recently about 171 - probably about 177 in reality.)

Hope that is some help.

SouthernSteve 07 Sep 2019
In reply to Dave B:

> Measuring cadence

Yes - I have seen this a lot if the watch is comfortably loose.

Post edited at 08:55
gazhbo 07 Sep 2019
In reply to SouthernSteve:

Mine gives me an HR reading even when on the handlebars of my bike (and it seems consistent with effort) so I’m sure half the time it’s measuring something else.

wbo2 07 Sep 2019
In reply to ClimberEd:no it's not irrelevant but it's not the be all and end all.  Really what you want are rest, lactate threshold and max, and calculate zones from , with the proviso that lactate threshold will change as a training response.  It's not easy....

HR isnt irrelevant,  but is abused.  The problem with training by perceived effort is that most people are rubbish at perceiving so HR is a numeric proxy.  Ditto pace, if you're not on a track

I tested mine with 3 times a longish hill (<2mins) , max effort walk down and don't expect to finish the third...

Post edited at 09:47
ClimberEd 09 Sep 2019
In reply to wbo2:

You misunderstood me.

Use the effort levels I described to set your HR zones. Then train from those zones. 

This is far more effective than measuring max HR and guessing zones based on some %. 


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