Monthly Archives: November 2015

Hard Runs And No Results

I got emails telling me that running fast was dangerous because of the risk of heart attack and that hard runs without enough time for recovery was stupid.

Thank you 🙂

I agree with “stupid”, it is. But regarding a heart attack, I don’t think so: I have my great running watch telling me exactly at what heart rate I am currently running and I know my max heart rate. So no risk, even with hard runs. In fact there is a basic function which shows you in which of the 5 training zones you are, based on your heart rate, and I have also set alarms (audio and vibrating) that tell me when I push it too far.

In fact, this running watch is great, but for some reason I feel a bit depressed right now, writing these lines. Maybe not exactly depressed, but.. disappointed, I don’t find the right word.

I’ll try to explain but I have to detail the training zones first. Here it is, directly from the Garmin manual:

Max Heart Rate

The traditional way to calculate MHR is to use this formula: 220 minus your age for men, or 226 minus your age for women. For example, if you are a man of 40 then your estimated MHR is 180. You can then calculate training heart rates from this by using a formula such as 70% MHR, which in this case is 126. This formula is simple and convenient but unfortunately it is not accurate for up to 30% of runners, so your training could be set at completely the wrong HR level.
There are other ways to find your true MHR. For example, you can undergo a physiological test at a sports science lab which combines treadmill run results with blood lactate samples to establish your MHR and HR zones.
An alternative way of self-assessing your MHR is to run as fast as you can on the level for three minutes, take 2—3 minutes recovery with gentle running, then repeat your three-minute max run. During the second run you should reach your MHR. Use your HR monitor to record your heart rate as you may peak just after you finish the effort.

Zone% of MHRPerceived ExertionBenefits
Warm Up
50–60%Relaxed, easy pace, rhythmic breathingBeginning-level aerobic training, reduces stress
60–70%Comfortable pace, slightly deeper breathing, conversation possibleBasic cardiovascular training, good recovery pace
70–80%Moderate pace, more difficult to hold conversationImproved aerobic capacity, optimal cardiovascular training
80–90%Fast pace and a bit uncomfortable, breathing forcefulImproved anaerobic capacity and threshold, improved speed
90–100%Sprinting pace, unsustainable for long period of time, labored breathingAnaerobic and muscular endurance, increased power

Garmin Hard Runs


My Garmin Experience

So here is what I did: as the training zones are based on the Maximum Heart Rate, the first and crucial point is to find your real one. You know me, I can’t be satisfied with a formula that is not accurate for up to 30% of runners 🙂
So I decided to challenge the result of this formula. But no way to go to a “sports science lab” for a blood test! A bit excessive…
So I decided to go for the second option, much easier 😉
“Run as fast as you can for three minutes, take 2—3 minutes recovery with gentle running, then repeat your three-minute max run”.
That, I can do 🙂
To be honest, I was so tired after my first run that the 2-3 minutes recovery seemed like seconds to me and then, the second “three-minute max run” has been a shame: after 50 meters you could see no difference with the “recovery with gentle running” 😉
No way to increase my speed. Burned out.

Good News First

You remember that I did a charity run some months ago? Well, it proves that good deeds pay off 😉 In fact, during that run my watch saved a max heart rate which was much higher than the one I got with this lame test, “three-minute max, three-minute recovery and again three-minute max”. Very cool, great for the ego 😉

Bad News Now

The cool feeling didn’t last long. In fact, the problem is that after setting this MHR, it then dictates your training pace 🙁
And let’s be honest: I have the feeling that this watch is pushing me to the limits.

When my watch shows that I am in the warm up zone, honestly I feel more than warm 🙂 What did they say? Relaxed, easy pace, rhythmic breathing? I wouldn’t describe it like that 🙂 Maybe during the first minute…

The “blue zone”? I don’t know it.
And the “green zone”? I can’t remember.
I feel like I always jump directly to the orange one: threshold!
I call it the “pain zone”: not enough to let down because you are not in the red zone, but more than you can really stand for the long run. Pure pain. Hard runs.
Your mind (“you can do it“) is fighting against your body (“please, stop it“).
Most of my training is in this zone. Exhausting. Counterproductive. Stupid…

The result is that I have 3 running injuries now. Right hip, left ankle and right knee. Great 🙁

And you know the best part? I didn’t even lose 1 pound!

Hard Runs in Vain?

This running watch is great. I’m not. Now I know it, based on high tech measurements.

Why not stopping these hard runs? Because it would be a failure. And because I thought that this magic weight loss would come finally, overnight.
If I stop now, all these efforts would have been for nothing. Which is kind of stupid, I agree. Unless you still hope that your efforts will pay off someday 🙂

Mike Budd