We are currently hunkered down, sheltering from #hellastorm! Where we live, it’s just been some rain and some wind, although we had a giant front come through a few minutes ago which was actually quite impressive. I think San Francisco and other areas of the Bay Area have had it much worse. The Dude’s school has closed so we’re sat in bed with the iPad for a bit. And what else to do during a massive storm than blog???
Earlier this week, I had an email from a lady who is also doing 80/20 training. She asked me how I gauged my different heart rate zones, bearing in mind that I don’t use a heart-rate monitor. As I was writing back, I realised this might be an interesting subject for a post, so I thought I’d talk through it here. Many of you are much cleverer and more science-y than I am, so I’d welcome your thoughts.
This was the gist of what I wrote.
- I am not an expert. I’m not very scientific. Some of the science sections of the book had me bewildered. I could translate it into two different languages but I didn’t understand bits of it.
- I think Matt Fitzgerald would have a fit if he looked at my training and heard me claim to be using 80/20. I’m not sticking exactly to his plan for a couple of reasons.
How I’ve tried to incorporate the principles of 80/20 into my running.
- I’ve used the 3rd plan for the half-marathon – the ‘advanced’ one.
- As you know, I’ve had a crazy couple of months and so I’ve not yet started doing doubles or any cross-training that are called for in that plan. I’m hoping to start doing both very soon.
- I’ve upped my running days to 5/week instead of 3 or 4/week. This has resulted in about a 10% increase in my mileage. More would be better, I know, but life is busy and I don’t have time to add more. I think the additional mileage/running days has been good for me.
- I’ve had at least two rest days/week. That 3rd plan calls for just one rest day/fortnight but I know my legs and my spirit wouldn’t handle that very well.
- I’ve plotted my mileage carefully and done my best to keep an 80/20 balance of slower/faster miles. Sometimes I’m slightly over, sometimes slightly under but I aim to get as close as possible.
- However, I have never worn a heart-rate monitor. Ever.
How have I determined my different heart-rate zones?
I would be the first to admit it’s been guesswork. However, there has been some method in my madness. In my head, it’s a bit like driving a car – different gears, if that makes sense. I feel like, for every heart rate zone, I ramp up a gear.
Z1 – I had three weeks where I ran super slowly. My legs were very tired and I let them run as slowly as they wanted. However, I’d start slowly and then realise that I was still ‘making an effort’ so I ran slower still until it was genuinely very easy. That turned out to be about 11.25 pace, which was humbling. I rarely run that slowly now, but that would be Zone 1 for me.
Z2 – I’ve been running slowly for two months now and that easy pace is now about 10.30. Whilst I’m running, I imagine that my friends are running with me. Can I chat to them? Could I hold a conversation and run at this speed comfortably? When I stop at red lights, am I (at all) breathless? That’s kind of been my gauge for the slower paces.
Z3 – For me, zone 3 has been where I pick the pace up but am not pushing it and could still chat fairly comfortably. That has turned out to be about 9.20 – 9.40 pace for me.
Z4 – Zone 4 has been where I’m running pretty fast. Because of my heart, I rarely sprint – zone 5 – so I try to run as fast as I can at a sustainable pace. This would be tempo pace or 10k race pace, that kind of thing. That’s turned out to be anything from 8.15 – 8.40.
Z5 ? – When I do intervals, I sometimes look down on the fast sections and see 7.50 pace sometimes (which is very exciting for me) but that’s for a very short period of time and I don’t do that very often as I want to train wisely as regards my heart.
For me, the big thing about gauging easy pace was literally imagining my friends running next to me and thinking about whether I could hold a proper conversation with them as we ran along. And also the red light thing was important – am I at all out of breath or not? Those questions have been my constant guide.
I definitely think a heart-rate monitor would have been wise. It’s prescribed in the book after all, and it would definitely keep my training more true and honest. In the future, I may well get a Mio and sense-check my zones, but I’m fairly happy with the mental zoning I’ve described above.
We will see, come February, how well it’s worked.