This week I acquired something I never even considered incorporating into my training – a heart rate monitor. Over the past months as I have immersed myself into everything triathlon, almost every piece of training advice comes down to monitoring your performance via heart rate (or, rather, lactic threshold – but heart rate is an easy way to estimate LT outside of a lab environment). Entire workouts are predicated on staying within a certain zone, such as running 4 miles in Zone 2 or swimming laps in Zone 4.
It has all seemed so foreign to me, but the more I learn about it, the more it makes sense. Training is so much more scientific than I had ever realized, but now that I’m working in three separate disciplines in the same amount of time I previously was using for one, it’s critical that I tailor my workouts to get the maximum benefit. And, to my surprise, running (or biking, or swimming) fast 100 percent of the time is not necessarily good training.
Although I have some races coming up within the next couple months – a 10k and a sprint triathlon – my “A” race for the year is the Olympic in September. So I am trying to keep a mindset of being at the beginning of my major training cycle with the peak coming in six months. And that means base-building. Although my official training began January 1, I already had a decent base (I even set a 3-minute half-marathon PR in November 2010). But now I should be focusing more on volume rather than intensity.
This is where the heart monitor comes in. When I wear it during training, I can always know when I am in base-building mode or when I creep higher into intensity mode. To do this I have to calculate my heart rate and the specific zones. Max heart rate is calculated by age – so mine is 188. The monitor tells me my resting heart rate is somewhere around 48. My zones fall as follows:
Zone 1: 118-132; Zone 2: 132-146; Zone 3: 146-160; Zone 4: 160-174; Zone 5: 174-max.
This is great information for me, but the proof comes when I start putting it to the test. I have yet to use the monitor during a workout, so I will be very interested to learn what levels of effort are associated with these zones. And, if the effort prescribed is less than what I might expend on a workout, it will be a challenge for me to dial it back. Hopefully the payoff comes later in the season when the more intense workouts kick in.