How do I keep my heart beat under a certain threshold to keep running?
April 14, 2015 8:53 AM   Subscribe

I've recently started running with a heart rate monitor affixed to my chest and a watch in tow. I've noticed that I can run relatively comfortably at any pace where my Beats Per Minute (BPM) is under 155 or 160. Once it gets past that, into the 170s range I get tired. More information below...

I am 28 and have calculated my MHR rate as being around 187 to 191 depending on which formula you use. As I run, I've noticed that the moment that I reach about 170 bpm I get tired and can't continue to run anymore. What are some ways that I can keep myself from getting to the 170 bpm so that I can continue to run.

One thing I've done is try to run slower, with a much more moderated pace. Nevertheless, the BPM still continues to creep up until I can't run anymore. Another thing I've attempted is to use interval training, permitting the heart rate to go up to 160 and 170 and then running full out until it reaches 180 in an attempt to acclimate my heart into that training zone. Note that I am not training for anything in particular. I am more interested in building my endurance so that I can run 3 or 4 miles without stopping once for a breather.
posted by RapcityinBlue to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Why not mix in some walking? If your goal is 3 or 4 miles, Couch to 5k is a really popular plan to build up to running 3 miles by mixing running and walking.

Once you become more experienced with running you'll have a better feel for what pace is sustainable for you and probably be able to recognize when you're overdoing it even without the HRM.
posted by ghharr at 9:03 AM on April 14, 2015 [2 favorites]

You will gradually be able to run faster at a given heart rate, the more you do it. That's what training does.
posted by OmieWise at 9:03 AM on April 14, 2015 [3 favorites]

I should add, there's no reason that you have to start at week 1 of C25K if you feel like it's too easy. Just jump in at whichever week of the plan seems to fit your fitness level.
posted by ghharr at 9:05 AM on April 14, 2015

Is there a particular reason you're wearing a heart rate monitor? For some people, it's motivating or fun; for people with health problems or serious athletes, it can be a good check on overtraining. But if you're just an average person trying to build up running stamina, it might well be a distraction. Take a look at the Couch to 5k and then go out and run and/or walk, and learn to listen to your body.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 9:07 AM on April 14, 2015

Here is a longer comment from an old thread about this phenomenon, which is related to aerobic vs anaerobic running.
posted by OmieWise at 9:08 AM on April 14, 2015 [2 favorites]

I used Podrunner's Interval mixes to build up endurance I can now easily run a 5k without stopping and am working my up to 8k. They play songs at a fixed BPM and you match your stride to the rhythm of the song. I also find that it turns running into actively playing a rhythm game which eliminates some of the boredom of long runs.
posted by edbles at 9:08 AM on April 14, 2015 [5 favorites]

My aunt who has an insanely low resting pulse rate compared to everyone else in the family despite being in her late sixties and not very athletic (which I discovered one Christmas when I was given a heart rate monitor gadget and tested it out on everybody) walks to a train station to get to work and spends much of her leisure time golfing and gardening. So, my vote would be that lots of walking is the secret.

Though it also could be that she drinks all the time. She has a refrigerator magnet that says "I tried jogging but I kept spilling my drink."
posted by XMLicious at 9:10 AM on April 14, 2015

I don't know if any for-sure techniques, except for stopping and taking a breather once in a while (which will almost certainly cause your HR to drop). One thing that absolutely knocks my HR up though is going uphill. Even a slight incline can push me up a zone or two.

If you have a regular route that you run/jog, you might want to look at it on Google Maps with the terrain layer turned on, and see if you can change it a bit to put the uphill sections, if there are any, at the beginning of the run. That way you'll get your heartrate up where you want it to be, and you'll be on level (or even downhill) at the point when you are trying to keep yourself at a particular HR for zone training.

The other thing that will drop your heartrate is to shorten your stride length. I'll alternate between actual running, jogging, and doing the "Airborne shuffle" (sort of a double-time march, with your feet just barely clearing the ground and striking flat, with only about a 15" stride per leg each step; imagine you are running with a heavy pack and are trying to minimize how far your shoulders go up and down with each step) if I want to cool down a bit. That generally does it, and it doesn't cause my HR to crash quite as quickly as walking does.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:10 AM on April 14, 2015

I'm asthmatic, only mildly, and I find that when I'm doing something that is non-stop exertion this happens to me. I asked a question about it a while ago. I found that I hit a plateau as far as running but I was able to stay much much in the right zone with other exercise like biking, hiking or even swimming. For some reason for me running+asthma had an upper limit and unless I was willing to do intervals between running and fast walking, I could not "train up" to this level.
posted by jessamyn at 9:24 AM on April 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

Short answer: run slower. You say you slow down, but your heart rate creeps up? Slow down more.

Long answer: Read up on the Maffetone method. For long distance endurance exercise (including running) he advocates for training your body for good aerobic performance. Find your 180-$age-$particulars number and do a lot of exercising (80% of mileage) at that level. And again, when you start asking how you physically keep your heart under 142 (or whatever your answer is), it's keep slowing further down. Keep in mind, it takes your heart about 10 seconds to respond to a new effort level.

If I just creep 2-5bpm over, I just shorten my stride a bit. If I'm over 5bpm over I stop to give my dog a 5-10 second pee/sniff break and then start up with a shorter stride.
posted by nobeagle at 9:26 AM on April 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

Yeah, you just have to slow down even more. For me, this means to the point where I'm barely even running. Don't put too much stock in what the charts say about what your heart rate should be - there's a huge amount of variation. It sounds like you've figured out where you feel good and where you feel bad. So go with that!
posted by mskyle at 9:42 AM on April 14, 2015

Find someone slower than you to run with :)

As others have mentioned, you may need to be running at a pace that feels comically slow. You may almost feel like you're running in place. You may be passed by walkers or errant snails. That's okay.
posted by ftm at 9:46 AM on April 14, 2015 [3 favorites]

The issue is aerobic vs anaerobic exercise, as others have pointed out. To stay below your aerobic threshold, you just need to slow down. It sounds like you should aim to keep your heart rate significantly lower than 170 (perhaps under 155 or 150). You don't want to be training near your aerobic threshold, but somewhat lower. No shame in walking, especially up hills. Eventually, you will increase your endurance and be able to run up the hills you formerly walked up with the same degree of exertion. Walking up a hill or even on the flats is a perfectly reasonable training strategy if your long term goal is to be able to run a few miles without stopping.

In other words, you build up to being able to run a few miles by interspersing running with walking, you don't just try to keep running until you can't anymore.

Interval training can help too, but that doesn't mean just running full out.
posted by ssg at 10:33 AM on April 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

2nd-ing the Maffetone method mentioned by nobeagle above. I've been running for several years, but until last fall I didn't have a strong aerobic base - so my HR would get pretty high even when I didn't feel like I was working that hard. I took a few months to just run within my aerobic zone, slowing down every time my HR creeped up out of this zone (for me this was 150bpm). It took a while, but eventually I was able to run at my previous comfortable pace while keeping my HR under 150.
posted by barnoley at 10:34 AM on April 14, 2015

One of the things that's great about a heartrate monitor is that it's about the best effort level measure you can get from your body for relatively cheap. If your heart rate is creeping up as you run and maintain the same pace, there can be a lot of reasons for it (pace, dehydration, outside temperature, caffeine intake) but it's a good idea to have a set heart rate, and just run at that. Don't worry about your pace, just keep your heart within 5 beats or so of your target (which should be closer to 70% of your measured max, not too near your max). As you train, you're heart and body will get used to the effort level and be able to maintain a higher pace (again, for a given temperature, etc.) at a lower heartrate.

It's very much OK to run slow, and there are a lot of benefits in doing it, one of which you've discovered -- running fast makes you tired much more quickly, and you get less of a work out.
posted by garlic at 12:03 PM on April 14, 2015

What I've ended up doing is a lot of treadmill sessions, where I can precisely control my speed. Then I slow it down to whatever it takes to keep my heart in the rate where I want it - and early on we're literally talking speeds I could have walked.

Over time, I found the speed and time I could do while keeping my heart below my arbitrary ceiling started to creep up, but it's still nowhere near what I routinely do when running outside. At that point, my heart rate still skyrockets. The overall distance I can run on the road, however, did increase, albeit not nearly as much as it did on the more controllable treadmill. I'm still working on perfecting this.
posted by Naberius at 12:24 PM on April 14, 2015

Response by poster: Could somebody briefly elaborate on the Mafftone method. As I am 28, I would take 180-28 and I would subtract 5 since I am within a category of people he mentions on his website who would need to subtract that amount. Then I am to keep running at 80 percent of that I assume?
posted by RapcityinBlue at 12:52 PM on April 14, 2015

If you're 28, then your number is correct; 180-28-5=147. So your training range is 137-147 (not 80% of that, but your number minus 10. You'll have the best gains the closer you are to 147 while doing your best to not go over. I'm not really that sure when to stop subtracting that 5, but if you've consistently been doing most of your runs in the 160-170 then you might be edging towards over training. Personally, I did 3 months of nothing but my 127-137 training range (I've got a decade on you), and after that three months went to 132-142. This is a runner's LSD (obviously not all runners specifically do the maffetone method, but everyone talks about the easy runs).

The 80% thing is 80% of your weekly mileage should be runs aiming to stay in this heart rate zone. The other 20% will be tempo/fartlek/intervals/hill runs, whatever you want for a more challenging workout. For beginning the Maffetone method, his book (The Big Book of Endurance) advises at least 1 month, and ideally three doing 100% of your workouts in this training range.

I'm pretty new to this, but when I started, routes that I currently run at a 5:20 pace I was running at a 5:50 pace. I can slowly run up all of the hills in my area, when previously I'd need to fast walk to keep my heart rate low.
posted by nobeagle at 7:05 AM on April 15, 2015

There are other methods to figure out what heart rate to do, but they all basically say run way slower than you think you should be running. I do Joe Friel's method to determine my max aerobic zone (exercise at your max for 30 minutes, use the average heartrate of the last 20 as your top zone), and scale back from there.
posted by garlic at 6:14 PM on May 2, 2015

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