As a nineteen year old I’ve grown up with technology, therefore all of the crazy things that can be done with computers and iPhones don’t amaze me the way they do my grandparents. However, in this case, I was pretty astonished with the technology available to help runner’s train smart and hard to gain optimal training to smash PR times.
As i began training for my first marathon, I was feeling confident as I worked through my specific training schedule, just running at the speed I felt for that run. However, this meant that my kilometre splits were all over the map and I had no idea which ones were accurate, too fast or too slow for marathon training at my level. Rather than tracking training through splits, my coach uses heart rate zones and I am lucky that he has the technology to perform a VO2 max test in order to discover these zones.
For those who are not familiar with the test, a VO2 max test determines training heart rate as a function of a percentage of VO2 max, which is a measurement of the body’s maximal oxygen uptake. When training as an endurance athlete, you should be raising you’re oxygen uptake through intense training. As we know, as your heart rate goes up, you’re level of intensity also increases. For example, when you’re running intervals, your heart rate would be much higher than during a long, easy run.
In taking the test, I discovered what my heart rate should be through 5 zones: recovery and regeneration, aerobic base, intensive base, anaerobic threshold and intervals. With my Garmin Forerunner 610 watch and my heart rate monitor, I will be able to track my heart rate to determine if it is accurate for the workout I’m doing (easy runs, long runs, intervals, temps, hills etc.).
I did my VO2 test about a week ago and as a runner nerd, it was a super interesting process. We started out weighing me, taking my blood pressure and resting heart rate, then I warmed up on the treadmill. Once I felt ready, it was time to strap on the all face consuming mask, which tightly covered the entirety of my nose down to my chin, forcing the inability of any air to escape from any sides. It was slightly claustrophobic, but I could still of course breathe freely.
It was now time to begin the test, and I was honestly pretty nervous. Not only was I going to be forced to painfully hit my physical limit, but I was anxious about the results. The first minute of the test began at 4.4(mph) and at each minute was increased by 0.6 until at five minutes I was running at 7.5. From there we began increasing the inclining starting at a 2% incline and by 10 minutes reached 8% incline. This is what killed me. I despise hill workouts, therefore was pushing myself beyond any hill limit I had ever attempted. I had to stop after this last minute, but luckily there was enough data to determine heart rate zones.
Essentially, what we discovered was that these would be my target heart rates zones:
Recovery and Regeneration: 146-156
Aerobic Base: 157-164
Intensive Base: 165-171
Anaerobic Threshold: 172-175
While I still track my splits, I believe this is the superior way to train as you know you are training at the level that is possible for you’re body and fitness level. Therefore, if you do not have a heart rate monitor I highly recommend the investment! I look forward to using my heart rate monitor for the first time on tomorrows easy run and seeing if my zones match up to my training. Hopefully this will help me as I finish my final preparations for my 8k race coming up on June 2nd.
Let me know how you train by leaving a comment below!