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Heart Rate & Race Pacing

Tonight I gave a talk to the 10K and 1/2 Marathon Clinics at the Sheridan Running Room. The topic was Heart Rate and Race Pacing. Here is the worksheet I put together as a supplemental to my presentation:

Determining Exercise Heart Rate (ExHR)

1.) Determine maximum heart rate (MaxHR) Based on age only

220 –  (_Age in Years_)  =  __Max HR__

Max HR x .9 = Upper Target HR
Max HR x .55 = Lower Target HR

2.) Heart Rate Reserve HRR - takes into account resting HR and is a more accurately individual calculation.

Target HR = [(HR Max - Resting HR) x %] + Resting HR

Use .85 for Upper Target HR and .5 for Lower Target HR when using HRR formula.

3.) To find your resting heart rate (RestHR)

              Check pulse for 6 seconds:  ___________
              Multiply number of heart beats by 10:  ___________

• Maintain or lose weight, your TZ is 60% - 70% of maximum HR
• Reach cardiovascular fitness, your TZ is 70% - 80% of maximum HR
• Increase athletic performance, your TZ is 80% + of maximum HR

4.) Consider how your HR relates to your RPE - Rate of Perceived Exertion


Pacing skills are crucial to achieving best results on race day. Typically the challenge on race day originates from starting out either too fast or too slow. By starting out too fast you fatigue over the distance. Starting too slow you may find your legs will not respond to increases in pace as the legs become tired stride length and turnover will not increase.It is defeating to start out too fast at the beginning and fade badly- when other runners pass you one-by-one along the course it is negative feedback.

Every aerobic workout is subject to increase in heart rate [HR] as it progresses. Your HR increases both during warm-up and then more gradually as you continue at the same pace. This is what we call heart rate drift and it is influenced by both weather conditions and hydration.

A negative split is when your speed increases during the run so the second half is faster than the first. As you take HR drift into consideration, adjustments must be made to keep consistent pacing. For most workouts with a specified HR, you'll need to begin by holding your HR a little lower and finish a little higher than the desired average for the entire workout.

Practical Strategy: What does this mean on race day?

For the first ½ mile go mostly by feel, making sure to not go too high too soon. By the mile mark look for about 72-75% HR and maintain that for the first half of the race, then raise the RPE or simply hold RPE as the heart rate drifts up above 75% to get that even or negative split. In this example HR would be about 75-78% for the second half of the race. You may also need to adjust for hills on the course that will take the HR higher, making sure HR comes back down to the target range on the course.

ZoneBenefitsFrequencyHeart rate
% of reserve
Recovery runsGives you time to recover from harder workouts.Use recovery runs the day after hard workouts.< 70%
Long, slow runs.Builds endurance, and develop the strength of your muscles, bones and joints. Helps develop the metabolic system to enable you to burn more fat. Burn more calories, and so reduce weight. At least one long, slow run a week. 80-90% of your training mileage should be at recovery run pace or long slow run pace.67% - 77%
Lactate (or anaerobic)
threshold pace
Increases the ability of the running muscles to use available oxygen to convert carbohydrate and fat fuel into output.No more than once a week. No more than 10 to 15 percent of total training mileage. About 3-8 miles a week.Beginner:
77% - 83%
82% - 88%
VO2 max paceImproves the body's ability to transport blood and oxygen. Improves running economy.No more than once a week. No more than 4 to 8 percent of total training mileage. 95% -98%


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