Heart rate schmart rate

When I first started this running program earlier this year, I just ran. I wasn’t concerned with pace or things like that. I just ran, starting at about a mile, trying to get my time down.

During the run, and for a while after I’d finished, I’d be gasping for breath. I believe the term is sucking wind. Then afterwards, I’d be completely drained.

After a while, I learned pacing: that I shouldn’t be trying to run at fast as I can, but to run at a pace where I’m not struggling to breathe. One suggestion is to run at a pace where you can comfortably hold a conversation. (Since I run solo, that isn’t possible, unless I talk to myself.)

So, over a few months, I worked on pace while gradually increasing distance and trying to decrease time.

Generally, my heart rate has been between 145 beats per minute up to 160 or more when I attempt to sprint.

I have never paid attention to target heart rate, max heart rate, or heart rate range. At least not recently. I think I calculated that when I was a much younger man, but taking heart rate measurements back in the Stone Age wasn’t as instantaneous as with today’s portable wrist monitors. It was difficult at best to take your heart rate on the run and stopping to do it seems inconvenient. So I never bothered.

So I just looked the heart rate formula up. [For those who aren’t familiar with the formula to find your max heart rate, you take the number 220 and subtract your age. Where they came up with 220, I don’t know. Is that the number at which your heart will burst from your chest like a baby alien? Then to find your target heart rate, you take the max heart rate and calculate what 55% and 85%. That’s it. That’s your range.]

Without revealing my age (if you do math, you should figure it out), my heart range while exercising should be between 88 beats per minute and 136!

Seriously? I’m at 78 just sitting here typing this. I reach 88 just walking down the hall! That’s my goal for exercising? Am I supposed to be a couch potato?
My mall walk pace puts my heart rate around 112 to 118 bpm. So 136, I blow right past that even when I’m doing a slow run. Who created this calculation? It doesn’t seem reasonable. Maybe when you’re younger, because your max heart rate is so much closer to the 220. But as you get older? It makes no sense.

As I said, my heart rate on my runs is generally in the 150s (although I do try to keep it in the 140s). That’s almost my max heart rate.

And when I first started running, I was exhausted afterwards. My legs would be so tired I could barely climb the stairs to bed.

Now, however, after a good six months of running (give or take the last month with the injury), when I finish my run, I notice that I’m not as tired. Certainly not drained of all life force. In fact, after my last few runs I’ve felt invigorated afterwards. Not tired. Refreshed. It’s an odd feeling. And the stairs are no trouble at all afterwards. My legs don’t feel like noodles.

So this whole max heart rate thing? I think it needs to be taken with a grain of salt. One size does not fit all.

Listen to your body, not some formula.

If you’re gasping for breathe as you run, slow down. If your heart is pounding in your chest, slow down. If you’re exhausted afterwards and don’t seem to recover right away, slow down.

If you’re running at a pace that seems comfortable yet is still beyond the target heart range of that formula, use your own judgement.

Me, I’d keep going.

Nevertheless, if you’re just starting out, and you’re completely out of shape, never having really been active before, the heart rate range might be a good starting point. As they say, before starting any exercise program, consult your doctor.

Run. Rest. Throw away the heart monitor.

-30-

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