Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Heart Rate Zones and Pace Management

Knowing our heart condition and body capacity should be made the utmost priority in planning the training program. As the gun goes off, adrenaline kicks in and cloud our pace judgement. We were so focus in positioning ourselves among the front echelon without realising that we’ve been in Zone 5 for quite some time. The success of the run solely depends on the execution of a perfect game plan. Running a few seconds slower could bring our heart rate into lower zones which totally change the primary energy system our body is using and ultimately determine how soon we will hit the wall.

The very famous heart rate zone diagram I found from the internet.

Pace management is interrelated to the heart rate zones while the heart rate zones determine what kind of fuel to burn. For example, an athlete warms up and heart rate is at 130bpm. Push the pace 15 seconds faster and the heart rate most likely goes 140bpm, 150bpm and very soon 160bpm. The lower intensity workout results in lower zones or the running community like to call it the fat burning zone. Does aerobic (low intensity) activity burns only fats as the only source of fuel? The answer is it burns fat more than the anaerobic (high intensity) activity. It does burn carbs in this zone but fats are the primary source of fuel.  In the anaerobic zone, the body burns carbohydrates in the form of glycogen which is then changed to glucose for the body’s consumption. On the other hand, fats need more oxygen and takes longer to metabolize. In long distance races, fats are able to fuel an athlete longer. In Ironman races which stretch 17 hours long, it is definitely not possible to do Zone 4 and above all the way because the glycogen stores can last less than 2 hours. Before the marathon, this athlete would have burned out all his fuel.

If we compare athletes of different levels running at the same pace, the heart rate zone varies from one person to another.  More conditioned athletes could be running 4.00mins/km at Zone 3 while the newbies might be hitting Zone 5 already at such high pace, the primary fuel they burn is absolutely different. How to get the Zones right? Get to know the Maximum heart rate first. High Intensity Interval Training is a great training to achieve maximum heart rate, so once a week get your Maximum heart rate updated !

In conclusion, manage the pace by knowing the heart rate zones. Then, reschedule the training program to gain the most out of every workout.

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