How I’m Using Heart Rate Training

I’m about six weeks in to a more intentional relationship with heart rate training and wanted to share what I’ve been doing.

You may be familiar with the MAF method (Phil Maffetone’s low heart rate training method). Basically, you find the point where your heart rate shifts from aerobic to threshold and attempt to keep all of your runs easy, in the aerobic zone.

By following this method, many runners have become stronger and faster because they build a solid base of mileage and see their paces slowly increase at the same low heart rate.

I have never had patience to actually try this method as you need to eliminate all threshold and interval workouts, and those are my favorites!

However, when I upgraded my watch this fall to a Garmin 235 and heart rate tracking was happening automatically, I began to pay attention to what was happening.

The 80/20 Rule

Many coaches guide runners with the 80/20 rule and this has been my coaching and training philosophy as well. The idea is that by keeping 80% of your running easy, you can still build your aerobic base while building in the 20% of harder work at either threshold or interval pace.

I noticed that sometimes my heart rate was nice and low on my easy days, and sometimes it was actually inching into the threshold zone for the second half while it still “felt” easy.

The problem with this is that my body was not getting as much recovery from the harder days as it should have been getting and the 80% was actually more like only 50-60% easy which makes it harder to build an aerobic engine (and easier to hit burnout…spoiler alert, which happened!)

So in January, I decided to go for it- force myself to stay in the aerobic zone on my easy days.

How do you calculate the easy aerobic zone?

What Maffetone suggests is that you start with 180 and subtract your age to find the maximum heart rate for you to stay within the aerobic zone. For me, that’s 143. If you have been training for several years and have been relatively injury free, you can add 5. For me, that’s possibly up to 148. (You can find more details on his site).

Maximum heart rate is different. The traditional belief on max heart rate is 220- your age, although there are arguments that this is out of date.

I have not been worrying about my max or threshold heart rate zones. On hard workouts, my heart rate is in those zones and it is what it is.

But I have been working hard to keep my easy days truly in an aerobic zone.

As I noted in my workout recap, I feel more energized and recovered than usual despite increasing miles fairly significantly. In January, I got my weekly miles back into the 40s consistently with two weeks at near 50 miles per week without feeling like I’m in marathon training or working too hard.

I have a marathon on the calendar for the fall but for now am just wondering if I can increase my aerobic engine with the increase of easy days.

According to my Garmin, it’s slowly working. Remember how over-trained I was starting to feel in the fall? My heart rate was higher than usual on easy days and Garmin adjusted appropriately to tell me my VO2 Max had actually dropped.

I took several recovery weeks and since rebuilding with careful attention to aerobic running, my VO2 Max increased again and even surpassed where I was in the fall.

I’m going to give this a try for the year and see where it takes me!

Challenges of low heart rate training

There have been a few (hot) treadmill runs where I had to stop and walk to bring my heart rate down before it finally settled in a reasonable aerobic zone.

There have been a few threshold workouts where my recovery period took longer than usual to get my heart rate back down so I could run the recoveries in an aerobic state.

There have been days where my heart rate was staying low while I ran 8:20s and days where I had to slow to an almost 10 minute mile to keep it in the aerobic zone.

It’s not easy slowing down when I otherwise feel good, but it’s forced me to be much more in tune with my body and the recovery process.

How I track it

So far, I’m only using my watch. On easy days, I switch to the heart rate screen and glance at it every few minutes to keep myself honest. I’ve read that chest strap monitors are more accurate than wrist monitors but if it’s off by a few beats, it still gives me the general idea of how hard I’m working.

Again, I’m not officially doing MAF and going all in- I’m still doing my interval and threshold work. I’m simply forcing myself to slow it way down on the easy days (or speed it up, as the heart rate allows for that day).

Have you used heart rate training or tried MAF?

Workouts, Meal Plan and Using Heart Rate Training

Hi friends!

How amazing was that burst of 50-60 degree temps last week? Even though we’re back to winter, I needed that glimpse of spring to give me hope that the warm weather will return. It’s been a solid week of training… here’s the update from this week:

Monday: 4 easy (8:22 ave)

Tuesday:  9 miles with 4 x 4 minutes hard (8:10 ave)

This one was on the roads instead of the track, as I’m committing to doing more of my speed work this way so I can trust my body to do it in races! I didn’t have a timer set so my 4 minutes were actually 3:30, 4, 5:15 and 3:45… all at 6:20 pace except the last one at 6:28 pace. I was feeling strong!

Wednesday:  rest

Thursday:   10 miles with 2 x 2 at threshold

I did this one on a relatively flat path, with a 2.5 warm up and then ran (6:59, 6:47) and (6:59, 6:53). I’ve done faster two mile repeats on the track or treadmill so again, I’m glad to get these outside and get a more realistic idea of where my current threshold is. Plus a short strength workout.

Friday:  Easy 8 (8:56 ave)

Saturday: 5.5 easy (9ish) on the treadmill when I woke up to ‘feels like 8’ and 20 mph winds and just wasn’t feeling it

Sunday: 15 at 8:01 ave (863 elevation gain) with my speedy friend Jane again!

I would not run this fast over the hills on my own- she pushes me in the best way to get up and over those hills. She allowed me one ten second walk break but I’m working on dropping that one of these times. Maybe by the summer? 🙂

I’ve been really careful to pay attention to heart rate this training cycle for the first time ever and it’s so interesting. I always aim to run easy days easy but sometimes my easy pace was just slightly too fast, pushing my heart rate into the threshold zone.

By focusing on keeping it low for my easy days, warm ups and cool downs, I feel so much more recovered each day and don’t have the fatigue in training I’ve had in the past, despite averaging 40-50 mile weeks in 2019 so far. So that’s a huge win! I’ll share more on heart rate training later this week.

I also have no big pace goals for the spring which is helping me just enjoy the training and I feel like I’m running better because of it. Less pressure on myself is a good thing.

Meal Plan:

Have you ever paid attention to heart rate for easy runs?

What’s one thing you’re making this week?

I’m linking up with Wendy and HoHo from The Weekly Wrap and with PattyErika, and Marcia for Tuesdays on the Run.

Bloated Belly Whisperer

Every time my husband takes the girls to the library, he comes home with 2-3 holistic health books for me to read. I’d say 90% of the time he finds really quality reads that I have fun flying through.

This past week, he sat “The Bloated Belly Whisperer” in front of me. Remember the belly issues I had last spring training for Boston? They are 10x better but not completely gone.

I was intrigued.

I flew through it in two days and then went back through more carefully to the parts that connected with my experience. Last year, I had self-diagnosed myself as needing to stick to the FODMAP food plan but haven’t been strict about it. This book confirmed it and since being much more careful these last two weeks, I’ve already noticed a huge difference.

Tamara Freuman, the author, touches on nearly every possibly cause for a bloated or uncomfortable belly, from indigestion and stomach issues to small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) and carbohydrate intolerances.

The book begins with a diagnostic quiz in order to narrow down the possible causes and point you to the appropriate chapter or two that should most apply to you.

I found the flow of the book super easy and helpful. If you’ve ever dealt with stomach issues that you can’t quite figure out, this book is like a consultation with a professional without the hassle of setting up an appointment and going from doctor to doctor who may or may not really know what’s going on. Many of the intestinal issues and recommendations are topics nutritionists are familiar with, but not doctors.

So on a personal note, I’m sticking with FODMAP for a little bit longer but am reintroducing things like dairy (which I’m pretty sure is not the culprit) as I narrow down the biggest offenders. I feel empowered having this book to guide me in this.

TMI Talk- have you dealt with tummy trouble or bloat?

What’s the last book you read?

Training recap + Meal Planning

We are in the thick of winter training! I’m doing my best to get out when it’s cold, but the teens and below are a stretch.

This week I worked in a few barre/Pilates classes to use a three week unlimited pass that I bought at a nearby studio. The workouts don’t feel especially hard in the moment but I’m getting nice DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) – it feels good to push my muscles to work hard again

Monday: 5 easy on the treadmill (8:55ish) + short upper body workout

Tuesday:  10 miles with 2 x (200 x 8 with 200 recovery)

It’s crazy to me that my overall heart rate on these runs stays pretty low. I’m working hard, but I guess because it’s for such a short amount of time (40-43 seconds) my heart rate never has time to climb all that high before a recovery. I averaged 5:50-6 for these.

pm- Used my 3 week pass to try the Pilates class at the studio

Wednesday:  6 miles easy (8:55 ave) – this time my heart rate was quite high for an easy day! Apparently I wasn’t going as easy as I thought- or I wasn’t as recovered as I should have been from Tuesday’s workout.

Thursday:  Who am I running 4 days in a row?! Back on the treadmill for a tempo workout- 8 miles with 4 x 1 mile at tempo and 90 second recoveries. (7:05, 6:55, 6:50, 6:45) + 4 x 200m

Friday:  Total Fit class- a nice mix of Barre like work and TRX and a few HIIT moves thrown in

Saturday: 6 very easy (9:25 ave) and kept my heart rate nice and low, in the 130s

Sunday: 13.25 at 8:10 overall ave (and 820 elevation gain!)

I got to meet my speed hill lover running friend Jane and she made me work for it, in a good way! It’s all mental for me, but I am just not a fan of hills and often allow myself a short walk on the long climbs. She kept me moving and I was definitely feeling accomplished after this one!

pm- a nap! The best way to recover from a long run.

That’s almost 50 miles for the week, so I guess training is picking up! I’m hoping to get into the Broad Street run – the lottery opens this week. It’s one of my favorite ten milers, through Philadelphia.

Other than that, I have a half in April and need to push myself to do a few 5ks. I think I’ll save the marathon for the fall, but occasionally I’m tempted to consider the NJ full at the end of April as well.

Mostly, I want to tune into my body this spring cycle and do what I’m excited about.

Meal Plan:

  • Whole Roast Chicken with potatoes and carrots
  • Spaghetti Squash with turkey meatballs and sauce
  • One pan Teriyaki Chicken and veggies
  • Meatloaf Muffins with Cauliflower “Frosting”
  • Plus a batch of Superhero muffins!

Hills- do you seek them out, or avoid them? I am pretty good at avoiding them, but thankful to have tough friends who push me!

What’s the big spring goal on your calendar?

I’m linking up with Wendy and HoHo from The Weekly Wrap and with PattyErika, and Marcia for Tuesdays on the Run.

Training recap

We had another big storm threatening this weekend, although all we really got was an inch of snow, some rain and ice and really cold temps.

It was also a birthday weekend at our house, celebrating my oldest turning 9!! Her birthday is actually today but she had a friend sleepover Friday night to celebrate, and we took her out to dinner last night. Next year, double digits!

Nine feels like a big one because in marks half way – in another 9 years she could be heading off to college! But rather than feeling sad by that, I’m really in awe of this process of parenting and love watching her figure out who she is.

Here’s training… after getting Monday’s 200/400 workout done Sunday night, the week started off nice and easy:

Monday: 4 very easy (9:45ish)

Tuesday:  1 hour “Total Fit” class which was a mix of Barre and HIIT- it was fun. They were having a promo for a 3 week pass so I’m going to get to some classes these next couple of weeks if I can, but beyond that I’m not sure I can fit it in on a regular basis

Wednesday:  9 with 3 warm up (9:00, 8:15, 8:00) 3 tempo (7:00, 6:50, 6:45) 3 minute rest, 2 tempo (6:43, 6:39) 1 mile cool down – this was a treadmill run and again, it’s always faster for me on the treadmill so I take these paces with a grain of salt

Thursday:  5.5 easy (9:15 ave

Friday:  5 miles easy, 9ish pace + Total Fit again

Saturday: 10 miles, progressing down to 7:30 pace for a few miles- but this run just felt hard. I was tired and ready for my rest day

Sunday: rest!

I’m also feeling a bit burnt out on social media and haven’t been posting all my training as I usually do. When I’m motivated to get back at it, I will. It has to bring joy, right?

(Speaking of which, I totally jumped on the KonMari bandwagon this weekend and reorganized everyone’s drawers with her folding method!)

Are there any studio classes or classes at the gym that you get to on a regular basis?

Have you revamped your closets yet? It is pretty life-changing.

I’m linking up with Wendy and HoHo from The Weekly Wrap and with PattyErika, and Marcia for Tuesdays on the Run.

Training Recap

Happy Monday!

We had a full weekend that wrapped up yesterday with my husband’s cousin and son hanging out for the Eagles game, and now we’re on to a new week already. It’s going to be a cold one!

I ventured out in the 10-20 degree temps multiple times last week which always requires an extra mental push to get out the door, but honestly, with the right gear it wasn’t so bad. I’m hoping I can keep this up!

Monday: 7 easy with 5 x 25 second strides + pull up practice/ upper body ST

Tuesday:  9 miles with 12 x 400m (averaging 6:00 pace) and 400 recoveries

This had to be a treadmill run, but I got it done.

Wednesday:  easy day- a few short walks

Thursday:  7 miles with 3 x 200, 1.25 @ threshold, 2 miles at half marathon pace

(6:48 for the 1.25, 2 miles at 7:15)

Friday:  5 miles easy, 9ish pace

Saturday: 12 miles over rolling hills to a nearby town and back (8:25 ave)

Sunday: supposed to be rest, but Sunday evening I fit in Monday’s run as it’s a busy week ahead! 8 miles with 4 x (200, 200, 400) all at 6:00 pace

Were you one of the places that got hit with snow this weekend?

I’m linking up with Wendy and HoHo from The Weekly Wrap and with PattyErika, and Marcia for Tuesdays on the Run.

Progress is not always from faster running

I’ve shared a few times now about my fall of running faster paces than ever in training and then crashing in November and having a rough race.

Recently I read this quote: “If you dread your speed workouts, slow them down.”

It resonated with me and I’m making an effort to get back to basics. Making sure that 80% of my running is aerobic and easy, with 20% at the faster paces.

My new watch has been helping to keep me honest. I upgraded to a Garmin 235 this fall and it’s so interesting to note the heart rate on various runs and the correlating VO2 max. Even though the watch is just guessing, it was interesting to me that my VO2 max dropped off in November (when I wasn’t feeling good in my running) and has since jumped back up to where it was over the summer.

Faster running has it’s place but if it becomes more than an appropriate fraction of total running it can backfire. Instead, consistent training at the correct threshold or interval paces (letting the body find it- not all out!) is key.

For now, I’m working on a solid base again with a bit of faster stuff thrown in:S

Monday: New Year’s Eve- rest day

Tuesday:  8 miles (7:42 ave)

2 easy, 1 hard (6:34), 1 easy, 1/2 hard (6:22 pace), 1 easy, 2 hill sprints, 2 miles cool down

Wednesday:  5 miles easy (9:15 ave) with rolling hills

Thursday: 4 miles easy (9ish) with push ups/ core

Friday:  8 miles – supposed to be 2 x 2 miles but with the ice it became more of a fartlek

2 mile warm up, 1.5 (7:15 ave), .75 mile (6:50 ave), .75 mile (6:58 ave) with recoveries, 4 x 200 @ 5:59 ave

Saturday: easy 45 minutes spinning

Sunday: 10 miles easy

How’s your 2019 starting?

Intentions for 2019

Happy New Year’s Eve!

How has your holiday week been? We traveled for much of last week and then had my husband’s family stay with us for a few days.  We’re now in the phase of organizing gifts, cleaning the house, restocking groceries, and having a bit of much needed down time.

I do love looking back and looking forward around the new year.  We even have a sitter coming today for a few hours so we can sit in a coffee shop, review our budget, and plan out our summer and any trips or goals for 2019.  I don’t know if that sounds fun to you or not, but I love it!

In addition to family goals, I like to make a few running goals every year.

2018 was the first year in several years that I had a bit fat ZERO in terms of race prs. Race times are traditionally the way I have set and measured goals in running.  I do still hope to improve a few this year but my goals are more around my training and racing:

Maintain my mileage

I’m good at increasing for races but my weekly mileage can yo-yo a lot and this year I want to maintain my base more steadily.  This can help both with a stronger aerobic base and also with preventing injuries.

Stop holding back (fear) in races

I am good at running smart and pacing appropriately but I want to run a few shorter races where I just go for it and run hard.  Reading Deena’s book, Let Your Mind Run, has inspired me to take a risk now and then.  Why not? What’s the worst that can happen?

Less risks in my training

However, despite wanting to take more risks in my training I’d like to take fewer risks in my training.  I was pushing my body with longer tempos this fall and it backfired when I fell apart in the Richmond half and needed a few weeks to undo the mild over training.

Instead, my goal is to train smarter with smaller hard efforts.  I would never put a 9 or 10 mile tempo effort in a training plan for a client.  Why did I allow myself to run that hard just because I felt good?


Which leads me to the realization that I would benefit from a coach again who can simultaneously reign me in and push me.  I can do this for others but it’s tricky to do it for myself!


Yes, of course I still want to pr.  I feel like I have a half marathon pr that’s been waiting for the right day so I’m hoping that clicks this year.  I felt trained for a marathon pr as well in the spring but the weather at Boston thwarted that.  As for the sub 20 5k, it’s been a repeat goal and I keep just coming up a bit short! Maybe this year?

I’m focusing on short distances and the half this spring and then might venture back up to the full marathon this fall.

So that’s it for me! Tell me about your goals.

What’s one of your 2019 intentions or running goals?


Three Questions to Ask as You Wrap up the Year

We’re just ten days out from 2019 and I’m a big fan of writing out intentions for the new year.

But before I get a chance to think through those, I appreciate this reminder from Marie Forleo to look back and ask these three questions as you reflect on the past year.

1) What’s one thing you did this year that you’re proud of?

In running terms, it would have to be running the Boston marathon in miserable conditions.  Fighting through the wind, rain and cold was empowering and a powerful reminder that I can do hard things.  Although I finished a solid ten minutes off the goal time I had in mind with a 3:26, I couldn’t be upset about that when so many runners had to drop out or dealt with hypothermia.

2) What’s one mistake you made and the lesson you’ve learned?

After Boston, my second marathon in 6 months, I wanted to train for another fall marathon but my body didn’t agree.  I fought back for a few weeks until I realized the paces were getting harder, not easier. Reflecting on the fall and my failed half marathon attempt, I realize I was guilty of slight over training, pushing through when my body was giving me signs to pull back.

I’m honoring that lesson as I look ahead.  I know we can improve our fitness without miles and miles of hard workouts- sometimes the short and sweet workouts serve us better, so that’s where my focus is for the near future.

3) What’s one limiting story you’re ready to let go of before 2019?

Hmm.  This one took some thought.  I think fear of the ‘what if’ is something I need to drop in several areas in my life.  After watching my mom battle breast cancer this year and my dad having some of his own health issues, I realized I can’t guarantee good health.  But rather than let fear limit me, I can be proactive with healthy eating choices, sleep, reducing stress, and moving my body in order to do what I can to prevent health issues in the future.

I need to drop the fear in my business too.  I set big goals for myself and then struggle sometimes with the what if around reaching them- instead of being so hard on myself, I’m determined to focus on the successes I’ve had and keep moving forward with gratitude, not fear.

So how about you? I’d love to hear your answer to one, two or all three of these!



Feeling stronger and looking ahead

Here we are, one week out from Christmas! For the most part, I think I have everything under control but no matter how far ahead I work, there are always last minute details to finish up.

This past week, we surprised the girls with a getaway to an indoor water park about an hour away. We like the idea of making the holidays more about experiences together than gifts, although they will still get some gifts.  Here’s hoping that message is going to stick.

In training, I’m starting to feel like myself again and by the end of the week I even joined in a workout for the first time in several weeks.  It’s getting me excited to set some goals and work toward a spring race or two.

Monday: 4 miles easy + short strength

Tuesday:  easy 50 minutes on the bike

Wednesday:  6 miles with a few hill sprints thrown in (8:22 ave) early before we left for the Great Wolf Lodge

Thursday: 6 miles easy (8:40s) after we returned from our getaway

Friday:  1 hour walk

Saturday: 11 miles (7:48 ave)

I had two friends to chase on this one and we aimed for 3 rounds of 8:00, 7:30 and 7:00 although I skipped the last repeat of the 7:00 mile as I didn’t want to get my heart rate up that much this early on and end up back where I was, feeling over-trained. The other 8 miles of work felt surprisingly good!

Sunday: 5.5 easy (8:55 pace)

I’m back to decent mileage, in the low 30s, and will hang out here for a few weeks.  I put my first spring race on the calendar: the Asbury Half marathon.  It’s a new one for me, but only an hour away and one I’ve heard good things about.

Are you ready for the holidays?

Have you registered for any 2019 races?

Also, for some good reading, check out these tips for running faster from fellow run blogger, Alex.

I’m linking up with Wendy and HoHo from The Weekly Wrap and with PattyErika, and Marcia for Tuesdays on the Ru