Monday, January 28, 2013

Running by feel and heart-rate monitors

I raced a disappointing 5k at the Gindy Parkrun on Saturday morning — 24:02 when I thought I could easily run a minute faster. The whole race was a struggle, so no fun at all! Training has been okay — good Speedygeese sprint relays on Monday, an introduction to 200 metre intervals on Friday and some fast (downhill) kilometre intervals on Sunday. Now those were fun — felt like I was running fast and smoothly for a change and the times backed that up: 4:12, 4:07 and 4:01. Maybe I've just been having an off week or two.

Anyone who reads my training diary will know that I habitually record a lot of data. For aerobic runs I'll record the course, time, pace, average/maximum heart-rate and the weather. Why? Well, it's useful to have a history of data for backwards comparison — I can see what sort of training I was doing when I was 'in good shape'. However, this doesn't mean (as an ageing runner) that repeating training blocks that resulted in PB times is the best way to train now.

I'm a huge advocate for running (and racing) by feel. I know how easy running should feel. The same for tempo running, intervals, sprinting, hill repeats, racing and long runs. One thing I don't do (these days) is 'heart-rate train'. When following Hadd training back in 2007 I used to stay strictly within the suggested zones for various training sessions. If my heart-rate went too high during an easy run I'd stop and walk! These days though, I'll start the Garmin prior to a run or race and not look at it until I've stopped. I run by feel and ignore the numbers. The only exception would be if I'm running a new out/back course and I'm looking for a kilometre point on the way out.

The main thing I like using post-run heart-rate data for is to work out my 'RS result' (for Robert Song who I got the idea from). The RS number is actually 'heart-beats per kilometre' — it's calculated by multiplying average heart-rate for the run by average kilometre rate (you can use heart-beats per mile too). Every week I'll do a steady run over a familiar course of 8 to 10k (often the Speedygeese warm-up) and afterwards calculate my RS number. I think it's a great way to keep an eye on one's aerobic fitness (besides racing a 10k or half marathon — which one doesn't want to be doing every week!). Each runner will have their own scale of what's great, average or below average in terms of aerobic fitness. For myself at age-55, below 690 h/beats per km is great, 715 is average and over 800 means I'm not fit!

The best place to finish a 1k interval — lowest point at Stromlo!


Blogger Janene said...

What, no 'latest training' info this week?!
I imagine it was pretty humid for the Gindy 5K run. Doesn't make for great run times. Maybe you could take another JKK idea and try a 5K after a rest day or 2? Springy legs may get you around quicker ;-).
The RS number is interesting, probably most useful in the winter, when you don't have to factor in an elevation in HR due to hot conditions.
It's hard to ignore all the data technology gives us these days, but good old fashioned 'feel' is probably pretty spot on for setting appropriate training/racing pace.

5:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been recording temperature & humidity details as well as how I feel running on Garmin Connect. Do you notice a huge difference between your summer & winter times??
I also track my food intake + weight separately & have worked out my ideal race weight based on previous fast races.
I started working out my "RS results" after reading one of your earlier posts but don't have enough data yet to really see a pattern.
Can never have too much data in my opinion!

I'm currently racing a minute slower than my 10km PB time, but hoping to fix this during winter with the cooler temps and loosing 2.5kg of Christmas indulgence.

6:46 pm  
Blogger Ewen said...

Janene, sorry about that! JKK-style will resume as soon as possible. I'm a couple of weeks behind and the post was long enough. Yes, the thought of springy legs is tempting - perhaps for our next match race ;-)

Hi Fiona. With my RS number, winter does produce the best results - no heat stress running at 5C! My RS number is fairly stable for a 10k run with temps up to 20C, then it gradually rises. At 30C it could be 20 higher than normal (720 instead of 700). I'm sure you'll break that 10k PB in winter - for me the cooler temps would be worth 2 minutes.

8:35 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Like yourself, I have been a long term devotee of beats/Km as an indication of fitness, but in recent times, I have begun to mistrust it. It is fairly well established that a sudden drop in b/Km, together with a subjective increase in effort at moderate paces, indicates over-training. This is fairly easy to detect. However, it is less easy to detect an insidious onset of overtraining that develops over a period of many weeks, apart from the fact that the slow decrease in b/Km is not accompanied by improvement in race performance. However race circumstances are too variable to allow confident detection of the problem. Therefore, I think that the best way to distinguish between a desirable fall in b/Km due to effective training and an undesirable fall due to insidious onset of overtraining might be to perform a standardised sub-maximal test fairly frequently. I am currently working on a sub-maximal test that involves a total of 15 minutes of running, mostly at a fairly easy pace, and includes only 3 minutes in the upper aerobic zone. This is not demanding and can be incorporated in a warm up, so it can be performed frequently without significant modification of your usual training. At this stage I am still adjusting the test. I will let you know in a few weeks time if my experiment continues to show promise of being useful.

11:15 am  
Blogger Raina said...

As a fellow stats geek, I like to use HR. I find myself also looking at it after the run, especially for the tempo or interval paced work. For those I tend to run more by pace, with HR data as an assessment. I still try to let HR rule for easy/recovery running, but not always. If I am in a time crunch or don't feel like it's accurate, I do what I feel is best for my body, or the situation.
Interesting about the heartbeats/K. I haven't tried that one. I should like to find music that correlates to my heart rate for running, though.

7:30 pm  
Blogger Ewen said...

Canute, that's interesting. I don't think I've experienced a fall in beats/km due to an onset of overtraining. Very interested in your sub-maximal test - hope to read about it on your blog in a few weeks.

Raina, I used to run intervals and tempo runs by pace (having a target pace prior). I find that method stressful now - I used to look at my watch every 400 when doing long reps on the track. These days I'm liking running what I think the effort should feel like and not worrying too much about the time.

9:05 pm  
Blogger Thomas said...

I use HR for my evaluation workouts, though that's a slightly different issue. For most runs I do the same as you, turn on the Garmin at the start and then never look at it until the end.

For tempo runs I do the occasional glance to confirm that the effort feels right, about every mile or so.

Running by feel is important, but the occasional confirmation or small correction from the Garmin doesn't hurt, I think.

11:53 pm  
Blogger Thomas said...

Oh, and never look at your Garmin in a short race! One look at the massive HR number makes me tie up, as I found out. For marathons, on the other hand, I find it useful to use Garmins as a pacing tool.

11:54 pm  
Blogger Ewen said...

Thanks for those comments Thomas. Yes, looking at the HRM is a must for those steady HR evaluations -- and I'm with you on not wanting to see scary numbers in 5k races!

7:11 pm  
Anonymous Ricardo Bueno said...

I have a Garmin forerunner with a heart-rate monitor but I don't use it... I run mostly by feel. I can tell when I'm working too hard, pacing too hard and need to slow down.

On my long runs, I pace them slow. Mainly because I'm trying to build my endurance. I've been doing some speedwork lately, but I still have a way to go. Maybe tracking things like my heartrate would help, but so far, I think I'm doing pretty good.

6:21 am  
Blogger Ewen said...

Thanks for your comment Ricardo. Great to hear that running by feel is working for you - excellent trail half marathon last weekend - 1:51 is quick!

7:19 pm  

Post a Comment

<< Home