Monday, January 28, 2013

Listen to your heart

No, I'm not talking about love. No, I am not talking about following your dreams. No, I am not talking about  This great workout song by DHT. In this case, I am talking about using your heart rate as a monitor for overall health and training progress.

Since starting back to running after my last calf strain late last year, I have been keenly focused on rebuilding my running base by running in a specific heart rate range that correlates somewhere to about Zone 2 or maybe low Zone 3. It is definitely a pace I can handle for a long amount of time. I also have been keeping my walk breaks in (currently on a 4 min run/ 1 min walk), though I am starting to stretch those out to every 10 minutes and eventually every mile on my shorter runs. With the exception of my weekend long run, I have kept my volume steady, while gradually increasing my pace. I know it is time to crank the treadmill up a few notches (since most of my weekday runs end up on the treadmill) when I start to see my average heart rate holding steady at the lower range of my prescribed HR range.

For the last few months, I had been doing my run segments at around a 5.2 or 5.3 mph (Averaging about 12 min miles with the walk breaks). In January I felt it was time to increase the speed up to 5.5 (Averaging about 11:30 including the walk breaks. Slowby, my Average HR at this speed has been coming down, and I may soon be increasing it further.

After running the marathon I waited a few days before doing any running. By day four (Thursday), I was almost pain free and decided to do a trial run on the treadmill. I only did 1.25 miles, mostly because that was all I had time for before the morning's spin class. My legs felt food and my heart rate seemed to be in the right range. I ran 3 miles on Fri, and did my first post-Disney long run of 8 miles on Saturday. That run was my best "long" run in quite some time. I felt good, was able to keep an average 11:30 pace and my heart rate was in the range it needed to be in.

Normal HR Zones - Most intervals under 160, recovery below 140

Last week, week 2 post Disney, I planned to further ease back into my weekday mileage. Things were going well until about Wednesday, when I noticed something wasn't right. While running on the treadmill, especially at a given pace, I don't necessarily watch my heart rate the whole time, but I may peek at it when I go from run to walk or walk to run. When I saw my HR getting up into the 170s during my run and not recovering as much as it normally would during my walk breaks, I knew something wasn't right. Initially I though it might be due to faster walk breaks, but I was a little skeptical of that. By Thursday, after another similar pattern, I knew what was happening.

Sick HR - All intervals creep over 160, recovery never below 140

Back around Halloween, I had the same flu-like, but negative for the flu, symptoms that Cathy had when we were at Disney. It was my hope that because I had already had this before, I would not catch it again. When my HR was elevated, I knew it would not be the case. After work, I hit the drug store for Echinacea and Airborne in order to at a minimum reduce the duration of the illness. By Friday night, I was fully feeling the symptoms, and I spent most of the day in bed Saturday taking my own concoction of various OTC meds. I was able to go to my company party on Saturday night and I spent Sunday mostly lounging around the house. When I am taking the right meds, I can mostly keep the symptoms under control. I just hope for it to clear up soon so I can resume my training. I am on my fourth day of no swimming, biking, or running, and cabin fever is starting to set in.

Because I track my average and maximum heart rates for every workout and further log this information into an excel spreadsheet, I was able to quickly detect that something wasn't right and began to react right away.I am hoping by catching this early I can nip it in the bud and get better quickly. Even if you do not alter your workouts based on heart rate, tracking your average heart rate over time can help you monitor improvements in fitness as well as detect changes that may point to overtraining or oncoming illness.

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