Mark Allen continues his explanation on the how to best use a heart rate monitor to improve your performance in part 2 below:
So let’s figure out what heart rate will give you this kind of benefit and improvement. There is a formula that will determine your Maximum Aerobic Heart Rate, which is the maximum heart rate you can go and still burn fat as the main source of energy in your muscles. It is the heart rate that will enable you to recover day to day from your training. It’s the maximum heart rate that will help you burn those last few pounds of fat. It is the heart that will build the size of your internal engine so that you have more power to give when you do want to maximize your heart rate in a race situation.
Here is the formula:
Subtract your age
Now we need to adjust this number based on your current level of fitness. Make the following correction as it applies to you:
» If you do no working out subtract another 10 beats
» If you workout 1-2 times a week subtract 5 beats
» If you workout 3-4 times a week leave the number as it is.
» If you workout 5 or more times as week and have done so for a year or more, then add an additional 5 beats to that number.
If you are about 60 years old or older OR if you are about 20 years old or younger, add an additional 5 beats to the corrected number you now have.
You now have your maximum aerobic heart rate, which again is the maximum heart rate that you can workout at and still burn mostly fat for fuel. Now go out and do ALL of your cardiovascular training at or below this heart rate and see how your pace improves. After just a few weeks you should start to see a dramatic improvement in the speed you can go at these lower heart rates.
Over time, however, you will get the maximum benefit possible from doing just aerobic training. At that point, after several months of seeing your pace get faster at your maximum aerobic heart rate, you will begin to slow down. This is the sign that if you want to continue to improve on your speed, it is time to go back to the high end interval anaerobic training one or two days/week. So, you will have to go back to the “NO Pain, NO Gain” credo once again. But this time your body will be able to handle it. Keep at the intervals and you will see your pace improve once again for a period. But just like the aerobic training, there is a limit to the benefit you will receive from anaerobic/carbohydrate training. At that point, you will see your speed start to slow down again. And that is the signal that it is time to switch back to a strict diet of aerobic/fat burning training.
At the point of the year you are in right now, probably most of you are ready for this phase of speed work. Keep your interval sessions to around 15-30 minutes of hard high heart rate effort total. This means that if you are going to the track to do intervals do about 5k worth of speed during the entire workout. Less than that and the physiological effect is not as great. More than that and you just can’t maintain a high enough effort during the workout to maximize our benefit. You want to push your intervals, making each one a higher level of intensity and effort than the previous one. If you reach a point where you cannot maintain your form any longer, back off the effort or even call it a day. That is all your body has to give.
This is what I did to keep improving for nearly 15 years as a triathlete. It is also the training the Lance Armstrong’s coach put him on to recover from his cancer treatment when they saw that he could not handle the high end training anymore. And, although it was contrary to what most cyclists do to prepare for the grueling Tour de France, it was what enabled him to capture the title.
Best of luck!