Have A Heart! (rate training plan) #HHR2016

I recently discovered “Training Plans” in Garmin Connect, and I’m using one to train for Hospital Hill. I selected a Heart Rate based training plan to avoid re-injury as I entered my first training cycle after returning to running earlier this year. Also, I already had a Heart Rate Monitor (HRM) that syncs with my watch, and I wanted to put its real-time data to use as a training tool.

Finding a training plan that is geared to your current fitness levels and goals is a key to success for a race at any distance. Hospital Hill offers free, downloadable training plans for all of its race distances, at multiple levels. You can find them here.

I’ve always used some sort of training plan, and at times a coach (Coach Kyle, highly recommended) when I’ve had a goal race on the calendar. Presently, I’m coming back to running after a “break” to recuperate from an acute injury I suffered last fall. My goals were to ease back into running and find a plan that would rein me in while simultaneously increasing fitness. I knew it would be difficult for my body to tell my brain “no.” In other words, I knew I would have to resist the urge to jump back in at the paces I was attaining last fall. Heart rate training is a reliable (but not perfect) way to measure exercise intensity, so I elected to keep an eye on my training intensity with my HRM. I have the chest strap that came with my Garmin Fenix as well as a wrist-based Mio Link. There are pros and cons to each.

Chiefly, I have a hard time keeping any chest strap reliably or comfortably in place, and it also gives me the sensation of constricting my breathing, although I don’t believe it’s actually doing that. Its positives are that it produces fabulous data you can spend hours pouring over, like ground contact time and vertical oscillation, because it also houses an accelerometer. It also measures cadence, but my Fenix has that built into the watch, so Department of Redundancy Department.

My Mio Link uses LEDs to measure HR through the wrist – no straps. Cons? You do have to wear it kind of tight for it to work reliably, but I have learned to live with it. I won’t fault it for not having an accelerometer. Surely that would be useless on a swinging wrist – it needs to be on the torso with the chest strap. Both HRMs link to my Garmin with ANT+ wireless technology. The Mio also supports a Bluetooth connection to your phone with an app that displays data if you don’t have a running watch. Not sure about the chest strap and Bluetooth – I don’t think so but it’s designed to link to your Garmin which you presumably have if you have a chest strap.


Yes, that’s an LED you see there – but it’s your feedback, not what measures your HR. Those LEDs are underneath. Even if you don’t have a connection to a watch with a display, this LED changes color to let you know which of the 5 HR zones you’re in.

The Runners Connect podcast had Phil Maffetone on a while back, and that’s part of what convinced me to try a HR based training plan. Dr. Maffetone developed the 180 Formula as a means of finding the optimal aerobic training level. It’s really pretty simple, age-based with certain adjustments, but he’s the doctor, so go to the source. I also believe in his philsophy of training the body to burn fat, rather than relying so extensively on carbs during endurance events. Incidentally, there is no direct connection between the Garmin HRM training plan and Dr. Maffetone that I am aware of. Also, the Garmin plan has a lot of the slower paced “Zone 2” running I was looking for as I continue to mend. This keeps me comfortably out of the anaerobic “Zone 4” most of the time. Anaerobic (aka tempo or threshold) has its place in training, but it does produce stress and increased risk of injury. My plan does have some Zone 4 running, but not a lot. I find myself running a lot of the “Easy” runs near the top of zone 2, which is actually only about 5 BPM lower than my current MAF number of 130 (I had to subtract 5 due to my injury layoff, otherwise my number would be 135).

I’ve been easing back into running with a return to my minimalist roots. I love the feedback of Skora’s Core and Phase models, and I’m using them to stay off my heel(s). These are my oldest Cores, still going strong!

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My podiatrist actually told me that my running form and shoe selection has helped me get over my acute injury. Even after a month of running, he palpated my bursa sac at my second (and hopefully final) appointment and told me it was much better and he wouldn’t recommend the cortisone shot based on my improvement. That’s a relief!

I’m a big Garmin fan, currently using a Fenix 3. The Fenix 3 is the Swiss Army knife of running watches. It’s a smart watch that links to your phone for alerts and myriad other uses. It’s an activity monitory, counting steps and prompting you to get up and move around during the day. It’s a full-featured independent GPS running watch (take that, Apple Watch). I like it so well that it’s displaced my everyday watch – I used to just wear my GPS watch for running. I find that I can’t take the Fenix 3 off. It’s also got a cool feature where you can load different Garmin and user-created watch faces onto it. There are literally hundreds. Just the other day, somebody asked me “is that an Omega?” (A pricey diver’s watch). This is a replica face of the Omega Bond wore in “Spectre”:


In my next post, we’ll go for a run, and I’ll show you some of the cool new ways that Garmin lets you push your Training Calendar onto your watch for detailed workout instructions and feedback (teaser: “whoa, there – slow down!” and no more “what number interval am I on?”). Sure, we can all count, but can we run and count at the same time? 🙂