Reply To: Easy run/heart rate


So I am going to try something different.  This is how I work with all of my individual coached athletes.  I write my feedback in red in their email so I fully answer every question.  Since I can’t find red, I will respond in bold and italics. Let’s see if it works on this forum since there is so much to try to weed through in here.  However I am doing this because Christy brings an incredible learning experience to the table for all of you.  Hopefully her email and my responses will bring most of what we have talked about throughout the season together in one place.  Read on and please thank Christy 🙂

‘I was guessing based on the Garmin zones that “easy” was zone 2, but in doing my third scheduled run at the above pace, I would estimate if I stay within zone 2 I am only running 5-10% of the workout. After reviewing the Athlete’s Guide, it looks like easy is in zone 2.  Yes, zone 2 is your long slow distance so easy or 100% conversational (no broken speech or gasping for air). If you are only doing 5-10% of your easy runs in zone 2, you are drastically increasing your risk for overtraining.  You must change this situation ASAP.  

I did the LT tests. For the bike, I felt comfortable that it was a fairly accurate assessment. For the run, I don’t think my first attempt went well. Running is my weakest discipline of the 3, and I was concerned about consistent pacing for 20 minutes. About 5 minutes in I increased my speed. While during the bike LT test I felt like I could not go another minute, I took the advice in TrainingPeaks description that the run should be at an 8-9 and a common mistake is that people run it too hard. In addition to the pacing issues I had with the run, I also know it’s inaccurate because it’s 3 bpm lower than my bike LT.  It is my recommendations to redo your run test asap.  Change it out for your mid week run whatever it is.  At this point in your training, a 20 minute hard effort should not break you (unless you are potentially overtrained).  Just be sure to follow the run test with a recovery like workout or day.  

For the run test, it should be executed just like your bike test.  We tell you to go out at an 8 or 9 out of 10 because if you went out at a 10, you would blow up.  Thus if you execute the test at an 8 or 9, by the end, due to heart rate drift, you will be at a 10 and should finish where you know you had nothing else to give.  It sounds like you managed it will for your bike test.  Now you want to do the same for the run test.  

Since this is your weakest discipline, it may takes several attempts until you get it right.  However the better you learn to pace at the run test, the better you will pace come race day.  So testing really is a win win (even if it is intimidating)! So have patience with the process until you get it right. 

Finally, typically what I would expect to see if your run LT (20 minute average from your run baseline test) to be 5-10 beats higher than your bike LT.  This could vary if you have a strength or weakness with one or the other.  However it is not typical that your run LT is lower than your bike LT.  If so, this is definitely an indication that you need to redo your run test until you know you executed it correctly. 

With that being said, I just remembered that I couldn’t find a place to enter my run LT on TrainingPeaks. I entered my bike LT and I didn’t adjust it with my run LT for this easy workout. (Do people just switch their numbers out based on the workout they’re completing?) So my heart rate zones were actually slightly higher at my bike LT numbers.  You should have two distinct HR zones for the bike and run (both based off the individual test you do for the respective discipline).  Once you find the LT for your bike and the LT for your run (different numbers and NOT based off of the other), you need to enter each in their respective place in Training Peaks and you need to manually adjust both of them in your Garmin.  By doing so, you are always using the respective numbers for the discipline you are practicing.  

I walked through how to enter your numbers in Training Peaks at the Kick Off Meeting. I also sent a follow up post out on this forum with the following instructions.  

Heart Rate Zone Training – Once you do your bike and run test and find your peak 20 minute average heart rate, here are the steps to calculate your HR zones.

  1. Account Settings -> Zones -> Heart Rate (or Power)
  2. ‘Add Sport’ -> Chose your sport -> ‘Add’
  3. Under the discipline, put your 20 minute HR average under ‘Threshold Heart Rate.’
  4. Under ‘Auto Calculation,’ choose ‘Lactate Threshold.’
  5. Under ‘Choose Method,’ choose ‘Joel Friel for cycling,’ Joel Friel for running,’ or ‘Andy Coggan’ (for power).
  6. ‘Calculate,’ ‘Save and Close’ and you are done!

For your Garmin, you must do this according to the watch that you have.  As I shared at the Kick Off Meeting and in the Athlete’s Guide, here is the best resource to better understand how to operate your Garmin.  You can also google it and find the instructions on the Garmin website.  This is not something we can do for you.  Once you complete the required steps, you will be using the corresponding HR zones for the bike and run respectively.

Do you recommend doing another LT test before it is scheduled to try to get my zones right, or will that throw off my recovery by pushing too hard on what is scheduled to be an easier workout? Should I run that 20 minutes at a 10 or an 8-9? Please see above.  Yes, redo your test yesterday! Start at an 8 or 9 however due to HR drift, you should end at a 10 and leave it all out there just like the bike test.  

Using perceived exertion on the easy run, I was in between able to speak full sentences and difficult to have a conversation. This is my first time using heart rate training. I bought my Garmin watch after the HIP kickoff meeting and have used the last couple of months trying to become familiar with it, remembering to log workouts, and getting all apps synced up together. So while I’m practicing and working on lowering my heart rate, would I be correct to assume heart rate is paramount regardless of the walk/run ratio?  Unfortunately I can’t copy and paste my favorite HR zone cheatsheet here.  This is why it is added to the Athlete’s Guide (page 12). This is another scenario where sometimes the very basic options at your finger tips can be better than technology.  If you are not using technology correctly, it can have devastating consequences and this is one of those times.  When technology doesn’t work for whatever reason, you can always use rate of perceived exertion (RPE) in combination with the talk test.  Because we are not always honest to RPE, talk test doesn’t lie.  If you cannot do your easy run at a completely conversational pace, you are pushing too hard.  Yes, zone 2 is much slower than most people think.  

Finally, when you get to a place where it’s all coming together, ideally what you want to be doing is using the run/walk strategy (even if it’s a brief walk through the aid station to get your HR back down) where you use an appropriate target HR for the run portion (like high zone 3 for the HIM distance) and then get your HR back down as low during the walk portion. If you can nail this execution, this is how you will have your fastest, most strategic race. 

Heart rate zone training is why I have a full time job as a coach! It can take athletes season after season to really understand and properly execute.  And some never get it (going out too fast, fading and hanging on to finish is just one example) so please don’t be too hard on yourself.  It takes time, lots of practice and often the oversight of a coach to really dial it in and execute it properly.  Hopefully this is a good starting point for you to further your HR zone training journey 🙂 

Thanks for the feedback!