Run Find Your Happy Pace

finding my happy pace in running and life

Heart Rate Training (HRT) Works! I Ran Slow and Got a PR

As some of you may know I have been know to do a HRT Heart Rate (based) Training.  Read months of running slow…very slow in my aerobic zone.  Following my last half back in November I decided to go back to HRT once again.  After completing another round of purely base HRT I switched to an 80/20 Half Marathon Training plan for my next half marathon.  What is 80/20?  Basically its running 80% of your runs at / below your Max Aerobic Heart Rate Training number.  So yes I did continued to run 80% of my training slow.  The other 20% of it was spent in my anerobic training zone.  As the plan progressed that included things like hill repeats.  This past Sunday I ran the Surfer’s Path Capitola Half Marathon a beautiful course that started and ended at the famous Boardwalk in Santa Cruz. The course took us passed several well known surfing spots (thus the name).  As luck would have it the waves were not happening Sunday morning.  Lots of surfers basically just wading in the water 🙁  However the view…still amazing.  But the best part?  I PR’d!  Up until last November I had not PR’d a half marathon in a few YEARS. So yes you can be older AND still get faster 🙂 using HRT, as long as you give it time.

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Surfers waiting on some waves.

So how did it go?  

First off I had NO planed goal for this race.  My friend had to pull out earlier in the week so I was going solo and my eating over my birthday weekend and beyond was less than stellar.  I wasn’t expecting anything other than enjoying the views and finishing.  I was more than pleasantly surprised by the PR!

My plan: I decided to go with a 2:1 run/walk ratio. I did run the entire first mile just to break up the field of runners a bit and warm up.  I also ran this race by Cadence rather than a pace. Why you may ask?  Well just out of curiosity I did my last tempo run by cadence and it felt pretty good and my time wasnt too shabby.  My cadence goal for running was 180.  I’m very happy to say I nailed it!  My walking cadence was around 124, personally I would like to see this go a bit higher, but that’s my new goal for the next race.

The course:  It wasn’t super hilly, but it wasn’t all flat either. The unfortunate part was that most of the roads had a very noticeable slant to it.  I did my best to stay on the flattest part of the road, however this wasn’t always possible.

My race: After the turn around (it was an out and back) I noticed I started passing people #winning
However by mile 8 I felt a twinge in my right knee.  No,no, no…try to adjust my form, don’t get lazy, don’t slouch!  However by about mile 9 the twinge turned more into pain. IT band related knee pain.
I continued to push through with the walk/ run.  I had IT problems happen to me about 3 years ago during a race and I knew it wasn’t as bad as that time ( I hobbled to the finish line for that one, it was awful) so I figured as long as it didn’t get worse I could continue on.

Finish:  I never looked at the time on my watch during the race. I just kept an eye on my cadence. In fact I didn’t realize I PR’d until I got home later, lol.

Feeling happy that my knee held out and didn't get worse!

Feeling happy that my knee held out and didn’t get worse! InknBurn Run or Die, the perfect shirt choice for the day :)

I like walk run because it helps me keep my HR down (however I don’t wear my Heart Rate Monitor when racing) I run by feel for races and I have to say I felt good during the entire race, knee pain aside.

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Santa Cruz Boardwalk

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Chillin’ at the beach post race.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So you might be wondering how one gets injured if doing HRT? I am 99% sure my IT band issues are from two things, and 100% sure none of it has to do with my actual HRT training!
1)Too much actual racing too close together
2) Not stretching enough.

I have done 3 “longish” races in less than a month. A nine miler, a double road race (8k followed 30 minutes by a 5k) and now this half. My body isn’t used to doing that much fast pace racing so close together.

Phillip-4032

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Running and Hiking and Just Getting Out There!

Getting through our first “winter” in California hasn’t been too challenging.  Lets just say now I totally get why they say the average temp is 66 year round here.  There were just a few weeks of 30-40’s back in December and now we seem to be staying in the range of mid 40’s for a low and into the 60’s on a regular basis.  The only things keeping me from running outside regularly are family schedules and the fact it still gets dark early.  Otherwise I can totally see why runner’s, and people in general, love this area so much.

I have really buckled down on following a strict heart rate training plan for the last 4 weeks. (I had veered off being quite so strict in Oct-Dec due to my November half)  Most of these recent miles have been spent on the treadmill at night.  In all honesty it hasn’t been too bad.  In fact HRT running done on a treadmill makes it much easier to stay where I need to be.

Here’s a quick snapshot from one of my recent runs.  Not too shabby

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In the meantime the family and I have also continued to enjoy hiking with The Treadmill Trail Head group hikes whenever our schedule allows.  A few weeks ago we were able to visit an extremely popular running and hiking spot out at Garland Ranch Regional Park (click on the name to learn more)  in the Carmel Valley.  These beautiful 4,000+ acres of dog, horse, hiker and runner friendly trails do not disappoint.  Myself, my husband and our boys hiked just a small portion of what this beautiful park has to offer.  When I say small I’m talking 3 hours and that is nothing compared to all the trails offered out there.  Starting off with the main group we later broke off with a smaller group and hiked up to Snively’s Ridge.   I hate to admit it but there may have been a bit of whining on my part because some of the hiking was steep and at times and it seemed the steep would never end.  Note to self: request hiking poles for my birthday.  But as usually the view was totally worth the climb.  Check it out some views from the day.

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The much flatter part of our day. The Mesa trail

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Loved this moss covered tree.

View from the top. #worthit

View from the top. #worthit

 

Breathtaking in a totally different way than our hike a few weeks earlier at Brazil Ranch out in Big Sur.   Hiking in this part of the country is so widely assessable that I am grateful for The Treadmill putting all these great adventures together.  I much prefer hiking with a group over solo hiking.  I’m looking forward to my next adventure out here is California.  Stay tuned!

 

 

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Running for MY Future – Heart Rate Training Update

Disclaimer ** Please note I am not a personal trainer nor any other sort of medical professional.  Information is based on my personal experience and is just that.  Please consult a doctor before performing any sort of physical activity.

 

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Last August I started Heart Rate Training (HRT)  (to read more about it click here for: Why Running Slow Really Might Be the New Fast)

Although I originally chose HRT to help me get back into distance running after 6 months of low mileage running, I’m now looking at is a solid plan for my running future.  When I first started researching HRT I actually got a lot of negative feedback from people.  Mostly “Oh, that’s only for elite athletes.”  Well being the stubborn bull I am (I’m a Taurus) I decided to go for it anyway and I’m glad I did.  FYI: Apparently I possess all the best traits for HRT.

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First of let me lay all MY cards on the table as to why its time for me to start looking into the future of my running:

1)I’m not in my twenties or thirties anymore.  Alright dang it I’m in my mid 40’s.  (But really it’s not so bad, honest!)

2)I’ve never been super speedy, or even very speedy for that matter and HRT isn’t going to make me speedy.

In fact some days I feel like Homer:

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3) I didn’t start running until my mid thirties and didn’t run my first half marathon until I was 40.  Just call me a late bloomer 🙂

So why on earth would I choose HRT?  Well, for this one main reason.  I want to run into my future for as long and healthy as I can, period.

So lets revisit the benefits of HRT:

You will build up a solid aerobic base.
You will run more efficiently.
Most runs are done at an easy comfortable pace (which gets faster with time I promise)
It will prevent over-training or under training by working at the right intensity for each run.
You don’t feel beat up at the end of a run.
You should be less prone to injury.
Eventually your pace will improve (you will be running longer and stronger at an easier effort)

 

So how has spending so much time in my aerobic zone helped?  Well lets look at some of my actual Heart Rate data.  ***I wanted to include some of my older HRT data but Garmin Connect has lost my 2014 data.  Whaaaaaaaaa!  I sent them an email and hoping they can get it back!!  (My first HRT runs looked much more like my third chart (post flu) listed below.)

January 2015 – 8 mile run: Slow and steady but still a lot of HR fluctuation.  

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Recent 10 mile long run.  Notice that my heart rate is much more steady and in zone, that’s what your aiming for. Staying steadily in your zone.

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Another nice thing, though be it frustrating at times, is knowing when to slow down especially due to sickness / recovery.  In January I got the flu.  Coming back from said flu was no joke.  But I trusted my instincts and my heart rate and new when I was pushing too hard, too soon. (see below) 

HRT 2 mile run right after having the flu:  (yea, not good.) PS:  This is more like what my early HRT runs looked like.

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So am I blazing fast?  Hahahaha…no.  I’m still working on speed, however I rarely feel spent after a run, even a long run.  I have done 6 half marathons since starting HRT with my average time as before HRT with less fatigue, less soreness   Please note I do NOT wear my Heart Rate Monitor for races.  I run by feel.  In fact in November 2014 I missed a PR by seconds!

Does it happen overnight?  No, no and no.  Patience is key.  I also belong to an online group of HRT runners ( Sub 30 Heart Rate Training) We share a lot of support and information and its nice to see the transformation and success stories.

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Are there some down sides?  Well yes.  I rarely have “pace” running buddies.  My hubby will run with me when he can just so we can spend time together #keeper.  HRT paces are really individual and most runners do NOT run in their aerobic zone but go all out every run and end up spending most to all their time in their anaerobic zone.  It can still be very humbling when I am out there running on the roads and trails.  Getting passed by other runners is a daily occurrence.  I have to remind myself that it’s not about their pace, it’s about my fitness and this is the type of training I choose.  And hey when you have this view to look at, I think I can deal just fine!

What more info about HRT?  Check out these books **  Please not I am in now way connected to nor a sponsor for the following books.  Names are provided for informational purposes only.

Heart Monitor Training for the Compleat Idiot  (John L. Parker)

The Maffetone Method (Philip Maffetone)

80/20 Running: Run Stronger and Race Faster by Training Slow  (Matt Fitzgerald and Robert Johnson)

 

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Motivational Monday – The Historic Half – What I Learned About Me

Quick Motivational Monday and Historic Half recap in words and pictures:

 

Things learned from a truly hot and hilly half marathon.

  • Hills are tough, I am tougher
  • I need more hill training in my life
  • Take Gatorade at the water stops on a really hot day, even if you hate it, you need it (done)
  • You can accomplish much more than you think.  Less doubting..more doing
  • Challenges are good and make you a better person & runner
  • HRT (heart rate training) truly does improve your endurance
  • I finished and it wasn’t about my time it was about my effort
  • When conditions aren’t ideal, run smart
  • Marines are good motivators
  • Bring on the next one!
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Done!

 

God is good, life is good  🙂

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Not the first or last but, the biggest hill of the half

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Making our way up Hospital Hill

 

 

 

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On course entertainment – downtown Fredericksburg

 

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The New Harbor Lights Half Marathon and 5k Get Lit Challenge #harborlights14

This past weekend, November 22 and 23, I participated in the Inaugural Harbor Lights Half Marathon and 5K Get Lit challenge in Norfolk, VA.

I was excited as always to participate in another J&A Racing event.  J&A Racing is the premier racing company in the area. I swear they have their skills down to a science.  And this new race was no exception.  Well organized, plenty of cool swag and a great new course in Norfolk.

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The 5k

Saturday morning was one word……brrrr,.  It was very cold for this time of year in Virginia.  Like most of the country we had been experiencing below normal temps for most of the week.  Saturday morning was no exception.  With a start time temp of 27 my buddy Cara (Running in Sanity) and I bundled up an headed for the start line.  My goal for this race was nice and easy.   I have been fighting a cold virus all week and I wanted to stay as healthy as I could.  So no PR goal just a nice shake out for Sunday’s main event.  This was the first time I have ever run the day before a half marathon and I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Although cold for VA the breeze was light and there was some sun.  The only negative for me was I wasn’t a huge fan of the two cobblestone roads that we hit during the course,  (we adapted by running on the brick sidewalk) the race was a nice new course to run.  This was also the first race Cara and I have ever run together from start to finish.  It was enjoyable to run with her as I often run solo.  I never got too warm during the race and my hat, headband, gloves etc stayed on for the entire 5k.   Race #1 done

Pre Race Selfie

Pre Race Selfie

 

Yup it was cold.  All these clothes stayed on me!

Yup it was cold. All these clothes stayed on me!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Race #2 The Half Marathon (lots of firsts this weekend for me)

  • first time I completed an entire half marathon using run/walk
  • first time I ran with a buddy at my pace
  • first time doing a race challenge weekend
  • first time I have ever run a race sick.
  • first time there was mini pie tarts at mile 10ish! 😉
  • first time I had negative splits during the second half of a race

Sunday’s weather started off about 10 degrees warmer than Saturday at about 38 degrees.  Thank goodness.  The high by my anticipated finish was supposed to be in the upper 40’s low 50’s.  I decided to go with a visor, short sleeve shirt with a long sleeve half zip top over that, capris and a gloves.  I also brought a “throw away” fleece I got from the thrift store for waiting at the start and warm up miles.  I am not a fan of cold and wanted to have options.  I had a plan to meet up with a buddy Natascha whom I met through the Sub Thirty Club on Facebook.  We had met in person at Crawlin’ Crab Half  but missed each other at Wicked 10K.

Cara, Myself and Natashca

Cara, Myself and Natashca

After catching up with Natasha at the corral we headed to the start.  I had warned her ahead of time about my cold and that I had no definite time goal because I wasn’t sure how I would feel.  We decided on a run/walk interval of 3/1 and off we went.  The course was really nice with some great views of Norfolk.  I guess I never realized how lovely Norfolk really is.  Natascha and I ended up staying together until somewhere between mile 7-8.  I was feeling way better than expected and decided to go ahead and stick with my 3/1 intervals.  I truly enjoyed pacing with another runner, it really did make the miles wiz by.  I wished my buddy luck and headed out on my own.  I have run a few races in Norfolk before (Heart of Ghent, CHKD 8k and The Freedom Half) but never this exact course.  I wish I had more pictures to share because I have to say this was my favorite race in Norfok by far.  And the tiny tarts around miles 10 didn’t hurt either!  YUM!

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View of the Battleship Wisconsin near the Nauticus Museum – photo credits HarborLights Facebook page

Tiny tart pies at around mile 10 ish

Tiny tart pies at around mile 10 ish  Photo Credits Harbor Lights Facebook Page

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At mile 10 I was more than pleasantly surprised at how good I felt.  Run/walk and the HRT or heart rate training  (you can learn more about that by clicking here) I have done since August definitely made all the difference for me.  At about mile 11 I realized I was in PR territory, even while not at 100% health.  Wow!  I found a few people around and ahead of me to set my sights on for those last few miles.  I missed my PR by only 28 seconds!   Of course a PR would have been nice of course but I am 100% satisfied with my race effort.  I took off just over 11 minutes since my last half in October.  That’s huge!  Kudos to J&A Racing for another amazing race!  Now its time for me to get healthy so I can enjoy the Manchester Road Race with my brother on Turkey Day in CT!

Running in Sanity and I Get Lit Challenge Finishers!

Running in Sanity and I
Get Lit Challenge Finishers!

Happy girl!  Ran sick yet only 28 seconds off my PR!

Happy girl! Sick and only 28 seconds off my PR!

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Why Running Slow Really Might be the New Fast: Training by Heart Rate

Please Note:  I am not a coach or professional runner.  I am writing this blog using my own experience with HRT.  You should check with your doctor or medical professional before starting any exercise regime.  🙂

Also note that my HRT plan is based on the book:

Heart Monitor Training for the Complete Idiot by John L. Parker, Jr.

There are different books with slightly different plans, choose which is best for you.

 

As a runner you have probably seen something like this…

Screen Shot 2014-11-10 at 8.52.34 PMAdmittedly I love this slogan!  Why?  Because I believe every runner fast or slow is still a runner.  We cover the same miles in the end no matter what the time!  But did you know running slow may actually be the key to running faster with less effort?

Welcome to the world of Heart Rate Training or HRT.

So where in the world did I even hear out about HRT? 

After reading Finding Ultra” by Rick Roll (in which he touches upon his experience with Heart Rate Training)  I remembered reading a blog about HRT on  Shut Up + Run (click here to read her post)  a while back.  Being August (at the time) and with a half marathon on the schedule for October, I decided that book was a good place to start. I was not in great long distance aerobic shape at all since I hadn’t run a half in almost a year.

I bought the book,  “Heart Monitor Training for the Complete Idiot” by John L Parker, Jr. and got started. Now I have to tell you Heart Rate based training is first and foremost HUMBLING. It will knock your butt off your running pedestal  after run #1.  But we will get more into that later. The basic idea is that most people train far too often in their anaerobic zone, even when they don’t realize it.  That was totally me and most likely, it’s also you.  While most gains are actually made in the aerobic base building zone.

Aerobic vs Anaerobic training

For the sake of keeping things as simple as possible (you know keep it simple stupid)  I will use the following colors for each word to help us keep track:

  • Aerobic (pink, easy runs where most of HRT takes place)
  • Anaerobic (red, faster running, less time is spent here in HRT)  Not that there isn’t a place for faster running because there absolutely is.  But it’s how often should you be in this anaerobic zone that might surprise you.

OK so lets step back a minute and discuss the differences of Aerobic vs. Anaerobic.

 I found this on My Food Diary :

“During aerobic conditions, the muscle cells have adequate fuel and oxygen, and they can contract repeatedly without fatigue.”

“During anaerobic conditions, muscle cells must rely on other reactions that do not require oxygen. This anaerobic metabolism in the cells produces waste molecules that can impair muscle contractions. This results in fatigue. Fatigue causes you to experience added discomfort and weakening muscles. Eventually you will need to lower your intensity level and allow your body to remove the waste molecules.”

Using the above definitions we can conclude the idea behind aerobic training is training without fatigue to build your running base.  The heart of HRT (no pun intended) is building your aerobic base. 

 Less fatigue = less stress on the body = less injury = stronger base

Build a strong base and eventually the faster pace will come.  The science behind HRT is actually pretty cool and I enjoyed learning about it.  However I won’t be going all scientific on you in this post.

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 If you do want more info you can check out this great article from Runners Connect it’s worth the read.

Note: There are a few different books out on HRT and they do have some variations.  

As I mentioned earlier the book I am basing this post off is the one I started off with:

“Heart Monitor Training for the Complete Idiot”  John L. Parker, Jr.

 

So how exactly does one build their aerobic base with HRT?  

Well that’s the kicker.  You do MOST of your weekly running slow at or below your aerobic training heart rate. And by slow I mean…

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How slow?  That depends on your specific training heart rate. And will differ for each person depending on factors like age, health, injuries etc. 

Wondering what your easy training heart rate might be?  

An fairly simple formula to use is called the MAF 180 (Maximum Aerobic Function)

Click here to find out more from 

TriFind.com about calculating your MAF training heart rate.**

**MAF is not the formula used in Heart Rate Training for Idiots but it lined up pretty darn close.  And is popular among those using Heart Rate Training.

 

And so it began:  Time to set aside your pride and get humble, really humble.

The hardest part of HRT for me (and it seems most participants) has been realizing how slow my base building pace really should be.  In fact in the beginning I had to walk…a lot.  Even today I still have to run/walk on my easy run days.  Seriously humbling.  On a happier note I have read about elite athletes (i.e.: Rich Roll) having to walk hills when beginning HRT.  That made me feel a lot better. 😉  In other words you can be a fast runner and have a crappy aerobic base.

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It’s also NOT easy to give up your “get out there and get it done as fast as you can” mentality.  I have read about people ready to throw the towel in after day #1 of HRT.  So if your going to do it your really need to commit to the process.  Check your pride and the door and dig in.  I admit I have strayed off the path a few times myself, but I buckled myself back in and am seeing benefits.

So what can HRT do for you?

Let me break it down in layman’s, or even better Runfyhp cupcakey (yes it’s a word, don’t judge) terms.  You will be doing most of your weekly running slowly, at first possibly even painfully slow (maybe even walking like me).  But this is how you will  begin building up your aerobic base. In our “cupcakey” example the base is the bottom half of your cupcake.  You know the part that holds up all the good magical stuff (the frosting!).  Strong, sturdy and the biggest part.

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If your base is not strong you won’t be built to last.  And I don’t know about you but I would like to keep on running for as many years as I can.  I’m not saying you can’t get fast any other way, BUT training at your anaerobic threshold on a regular basis is more likely to get you injured, fatigued and at some point dare I say it….you’ll drop your frosting!!!!!  Gasp!!! And no one wants that.

Injury / Fatigue =Pain / Frustration =Time off

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However over time using HRT at your aerobic pace you build a strong base and will begin to reap the benefits of your running potential.  That’s when the sweet stuff happens “the frosting” if you will. You begin to reach your happy pace with less effort!  Easy runs become easier at a faster pace, tempo runs become quicker AND you don’t feel beat up after a run.  Then when the time comes to race you should be strong, healthy, injury free and able to hold up and enjoy every bit of it. 

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OK so there is some bad news: 

  • Progress is slow, running at first is also slow.  It will take time, probably more than most of us would like
  • Patience and persistence are key.  This WILL NOT happen overnight.
  • Once you begin to reap the base building benefits you have to push yourself harder on tempo and speed work days to get your HR up.  But this is actually a good thing!

Benefits will happen.  I am starting to see progress with my pace. And best of all I feel great after a run!  It works if you have patience and stick to the program.

You might ask….Do you run slow on every run?  No.  The program I have followed from Heart Monitor Training for the Complete Idiot” includes a weekly tempo run (at a specific Tempo Heart Rate) and weekly speed work (also at my specific Interval Training Heart Rate)  These heart rates are different from my easy run HRT.  But yes all other weekly runs should be done at my easy pace. I’m trying I swear! 🙂

The Pros:

  • You will build up a solid aerobic base
  • You will run more efficiently
  • Most runs are done at an easy comfortable pace (which gets faster with time I promise)
  • It will prevent over-training or under training by working at the right intensity for each run
  • You don’t feel beat up at the end of a run
  • You should be less prone to injury
  • Eventually your pace will improve (you will be running longer and stronger at an easier effort)

The Cons:

  • I would, at least, get a HRT book, or a coach if your so inclined, to help walk you through the steps of HRT
  • Be prepared to run slow (and possibly walk) in the beginning (like painfully slow, I’m not gonna lie)
  • Progress takes time (how much depends on the starting point of your aerobic base)
  • You will need to invest in a Heart Rate Monitor (if you don’t already own one)
  • Humility and Pride need to be checked at the door BEFORE you leave for your run

For me Heart Rate Training has been a huge blessing.  I don’t feel as tired and beat up after a run, my times and paces are beginning to show improvement and I have been able to find my happy pace on almost every run.  If your worried about your pace or training I would suggest starting HRT in your “off-season” That may help you with persistence at sticking to the program.

I would love to hear if any of you decide to try HRT out.  Its working for me, maybe it can work for you too!

So who’s ready for the challenge?

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