General Running

How can i lower my heart rate while running?

posted almost 8 years ago | Report

When I run, my heart rate gets pretty high. My average heart rate is usually in the mid 160s to mid 170s. My max heart rate usually hits the mid 180s. This is typical for all runs, even the ones that I say are going to be easier. The highest I've ever seen my HR was 202, in my last 5K.

As much as I'd like to get faster, I am thinking what I'd really like to do is to be able to run the same pace that I do now at a lower heart rate and effort. The farthest I've run is a half-marathon and I'm thinking about running a full in fall of 2011. The half marathon distance is still a big challenge for me and if I want to go farther, I feel like I'm going to have to make running more comfortable.

Does anyone have any advice for training to keeping my HR down but without losing too much speed? Or does this just come with time.

Or should I not even worry about it? Part of me things its just a number, but when I bike or swim, I don't see such high heart rate numbers.

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  • Have you looked into the low-heart rate training (Maffetone) stuff? Maybe it would work out better for you than it did with me?

    I'm thinking maybe not worry about it if you feel OK? Has your heart rate changed from a year ago?

    Perhaps just slow down and keep running at the lowest heart rate you can manage. Supposedly as you do this more, you will have to increase your speed to maintain that same rate.

    posted almost 8 years ago

  • The way I've worked on it is through a couple techniques.

    First though is to have a good HRM so you know your heart rate (I assume you have one since you're quoting specific HRs).

    One technique is pacing and breathing control... You're heart rate is easy to synch up with your breathing rate and your pace with a little bit of practice. Its kind of a combination of relaxation techniques along with deliberate breathing. You'll need to match your effort level so you're not demanding more energy/oxygen from your body than the heart rate you're trying to maintain can provide so this doesn't work with sprints... just with nice steady paces. (Works real well on an elliptical machine.)

    The other technique is a bit more "scientific" and absolutely requires a good HRM. The basis of the technique is "bio-feedback", requires practice, and getting to know what controls your heart rate. So, with a good HRM you start running (easiest to learn the technique on a treadmill or an elliptical machine) at a easy consistent pace. continuously monitor your HR... after a short bit it should level out at a fairly constant rate. Once it does you can begin to learn to control it. While continuing to workout at the same level you can try a variety of techniques to see which affects your heart rate best and by how much. For me the best technique is a "relaxing" of my core upper body and shoulders. I concentrate on relaxing the muscles of my arms and back, trying to relax the whole of my upper body while still keeping my pace. I watch my heart rate the whole time and (strangely as it sounds) think of it going down. Imagining it beating at a slower rate. If I'm seeing 150 on the HRM, I think of it being 145... I look at my pace (on a elliptical this is pretty easy as they will report your steps per minute) and try to think of my heart rate matching my spm. Another technique is to listen to music of a BPM at the rate you want your heart to beat at and having a noticeable beat and imagine your heart beating along in time with the music. Strange as it sounds... the technique does work... it takes practice and it takes the feedback of a good HRM. But, you can influence and even control your HR within certain limits with practice.

    As to is it worth it? Well, there is, in effect, a curve the is a function of the amount of effort and your heart rate... you can control your HR within a certain range +/- of that curve... but you can't take too far simply because the blood flow rate is what determines how much energy/oxygen you have available to your muscles. If your HR isn't high enough you'll cramp up... to high and you'll pass out... So, you're only going to be able to make as small difference in you HR at each effort level... the question is then... is that enough to make a positive performance difference?

    The whole other approach is to train and strengthen your heart so that it works more efficiently. That would take cardio conditioning and with the running level you're at... the improvements may not be huge. Useful, most likely.. but not huge.

    posted almost 8 years ago

  • Thank you both for your responses! You've both given me a lot to think about.

    Mimi -- I did look into Maffetone briefly when you were getting into it. I thought it sounded too strict and disheartening to want to follow at the time, but maybe I should take some of the principles from it. Up until recently, I hadn't been too concerned with HR, but lately (after my last half especially), I'm starting to think that I could feel better and that maybe I should pay attention to this more. I think my running heart rate's been about the same since last year, but my pace has improved.

    Bo -- You've offered a lot of interesting advice I'll have to try out. I much prefer running outdoors to the treadmill or elliptical, but I agree its a good way to get consistent feedback. I also like the idea of listening to music at the correct BPM range.

    posted almost 8 years ago

  • Are you doing specific training days targeting your VO2 Max (short sprint or interval sets), coupled with longer slower days?

    What I find is if I'm not doing both speed days (included as part of a middle distance run, such as doing fartliks or 1/4 sprint 3/4 jog miles), and doing long slower days, I don't see the max results.

    Also, if you're training every day at same intensity, you're body won't have time to recover.

    A better indicator of have full cardio recovery is your waking HR or you "bed-time" HR. I try taking mine after laying in bed 3-5 minutes in the evenings, or upon waking up in the middle of the night. When I'm in race fitness, my resting HR is between 42-45 bpm. So if I'm seeing numbers over 50 or near 60, I know I'm still not fully recovered from the last hard workout. That doesn't mean I won't work out the next day,but goeasier.

    posted almost 8 years ago

  • Also forgot to mention - don't ignore your HR range for races. It -does- matter, and once you hit distances beyond 10k (or even sprint-tri's that will take over 60 minutes to complete it -really- matters.

    Basically, the higher into your Lactic Threshold or VO2Max range, you're expotentially creating more lactic acid. Once you start talking 1/2 to full marathons, even going 5bpm too high, will likely result in super-bonk (steel-hard leg-cramping, that you can't even walk out).
    Therefore, on race day, you can use your HR as your "speed-limit". Especially important with a head-wind or hills. You have to lower your goal pace to stay in your aerobic zone, at least the first 3/4 (through 16-20 miles) of the marathon, or you'll give time back by walking at 18-20 min/mile pace due to cramps. Had it happen, seen it happen to training partners, etc. :-)

    For just training runs..if it is supposed to be an easy day..just go slower so you're body isn't building up all that extra lactic acid. That'll also make your -hard- days more enjoyable.

    posted almost 8 years ago

  • Thanks Sol. Theoretically, I do a shorter faster day and long, slow run, but for this last half I know I took some of my long runs much too fast. I also rarely do full-out sprint or interval sets, even though I know its a good idea. That's probably my least favorite type of workout.

    I don't take my resting HR very often, that makes sense to do that to measure my recovery.

    Hope this isn't too much of a dumb question, but how do I determine the optimal heart rate for a race?

    posted almost 8 years ago

  • All good advice. I would also focus on what you're eating or not eating. This may sound counter-intuitive, but caffeine can have a positive affect on heart rate at every distance or pace. First, consider your current caffeine intake --or really any other stimulant--you ingest. If you are already a heavy coffee or caffeinated soda drinker, the affects will be minimized. Consider that doctors put kids with ADHD on Ritalin (sp?), a stimulant. My personal experience was by accident. I am not a coffee drinker or a soda drinker, but one day I tried a caffeinated gel on a long run and noticed that not only was I more alert and focused, but my HRM showed about an 8-10 bpm REDUCTION. And my HR seemed to stay in a zone for a longer period of time. I continued to experiment and have it perfected, meaning timing of injestion. There are other foods that can have a positive affect on HR, which would be well worth checking into.

    posted almost 8 years ago

  • in reply to what Steve T. said:All good advice. I would also focus on what you're eating or not eating. This may sound counter-intuitive, but caffeine can have a positive affect on heart rate at every distance or pace. First, consider your current caffeine intake --or r... read more

    Interesting, Steve. Thanks for your response. I drink a cup of green tea on work days, but I usually am caffeine-free on weekends except for a caffeinated gel on runs ten miles or longer. I'd be interested to see what other foods would have an effect on HR.

    posted almost 8 years ago

  • in reply to what Joanne S. said:Interesting, Steve. Thanks for your response. I drink a cup of green tea on work days, but I usually am caffeine-free on weekends except for a caffeinated gel on runs ten miles or longer. I'd be interested to see what other foods would have... read more

    Specifically Step 3, but the others are informative as well.
    Have also read that blueberries are helpful, but I couldn't find any info to support that. Hmm. Good luck.

    posted almost 8 years ago

  • Thanks Steve. I unfortunately still have a bit of work to do on Step 2 as well. :)

    posted almost 8 years ago

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