I’d suspect many of us run for weight control and to be ‘fit’. If this sounds like you then you might consider running with a heart rate monitor. Keeping track of your heart rate can help you find your best level of effort to promote fat metabolism (aka fat burning) and improving your stamina.
It’s possible to pick up a good monitor with a chest strap for $20-30. I recommend choosing one with a chest strap since accurate wrist monitors can expensive. I found this one on Amazon.ca recently for under $20.
Knowing how hard your heart is working means you can quickly adjust your effort and get the maximum amount of ‘fat burning’ from your run. Most exercise professionals divide exercise heart rates into 5 zones, each one about 10% harder than the last. I’m going to tell you why for the next little while I think you should focus your attention on running in ‘zone 2’.
Zone 2 is approximately 60-69% of your maximum heart rate and not too demanding. If you can maintain a conversation while running without a significant effort its a pretty good guess are you are in zone 2.
To find your maximum ‘zone 2’ heart rate you can simply subtract your age from 180. This trick was discovered by exercise expert Dr. Phill Maffetone and works very well.
E.g. A 35 year old who runs one or twice a week shouldn’t run at a heart rate over 145 beats a minute.
(180 – 35 = 145bpm.)
You can raise or reduce the number by 5 beats a minute if you’re pretty fit or more sedentary. However, many heart rate monitors will automatically calculate your zones and notify you with a ‘buzz’ or ‘beep’ when you shift zones.
Once you know your maximum heart effort for zone 2, immediately begin to walk when you exceed it. Once your heart has slowed by around 15-20 beats a minute you can resume training. At first it may feel frustrating to keep stopping just when you think you’re getting going, (my partner’s frequent complaint!). However, as you train your muscles to ‘burn fat’ you should find you can stay in in the zone for longer and longer periods and your running speed may increase.
Try training three or four times a week in zone 2 for a month or two. You will build a great foundation of ‘fat burning’ and boost your stamina. After a month or so you can begin to run harder a couple of times a week, moving your heart rate into zone 3 (70%-80% effort, see the table). The foundation you’ve built should help your efficiency when running at this higher workload. Keep a few zone 2 runs in your weekly schedule to maintain your foundation and aid recovery after more strenuous efforts.
There are some great resources out there if you’d like more information. To start I’d recommend taking a look at Dr. Maffetone’s website . Enjoy your running and be safe.
My thoughts, observations and conclusions may inspire you to change or adjust your life, or perhaps impose them on the unsuspecting. Please remember I do not pretend these are absolute medical facts. Rather, they are a snapshot of my growing wisdom. I’m not a doctor nor a nutritionist. I don’t claim to possess medical insights into the workings of the human body. What I share is based upon the easily available facts, and information I’ve gleaned during a few unfortunate accidents.
Before you begin any physical or nutritional lifestyle change, please consult with a registered medical practitioner and make sure you are healthy and fit to begin. Remember, the goal is to enjoy the journey and avoid the road to disaster, which is littered with pitfalls and paved with good intentions.