How To Properly Train With A Heart Rate Monitor

  • By Richard Diaz
  • Published Sep. 4, 2013
When used properly, heart rate monitors can be a very useful tool for runners. Photo:

My training models are all built around time, not mileage. Mileage is the reward for time spent under the appropriate training influences. As your endurance and pace improve your mileage will increase relative to the time committed.

I recommend beginning with the amount of time you are able to commit to your training per week relative to your ability. After determining your “AT” (anaerobic threshold), perform an “AT-TT” (anaerobic threshold time trial). First warm up, preferably at a track where the terrain and environment are constant. Run one mile at or close to your threshold heart rate without going over. Document the time it takes to cover this distance and use it as a reference for future comparisons.

All that’s left is to decide the amount of time to commit to the work based on periodized percentages.

Phase One – 80% AB/20% MSD (preparatory)

Our goal is to enhance the aerobic capacity and create general skeletal muscular adaptations. The increase in mileage can begin to take its toll on the feet, knees and associated muscles, tendons and ligaments along the kinetic chain. This is a critical adaptive process and if it is rushed, you risk injury.

Phase Two – 50% AB/30% MSD/LT 20%

After you have adequately established a general tolerance to the weekly training, your body will be more receptive to increases in intensity. You may note that even though the actual percentage of AB training is less, the total training volume is still progressive and continues to increase over the coming weeks. The dominant influence is still aerobic base training.

Phase Three – 50% AB/20% MSD/LT 30%

Little has changed in the arrangement of work in this phase with the exception of a minor shift in the ratio of MSD vs. LT training. This shift helps to keep the body in flux and toughens your resolve under pressure. During phases two and three, the volume tends to remain static or even regresses. These static/regression phases limit the amount of collective stress and prepare you for the next shift.

Phase Four – 70% AB/30% MSD

The last phase of the training cycle brings the intensity down and brings the volume up. This is where we begin to really notice the improvements in our resistance to fatigue. Because we have collectively kept the base training stimulus intact, all of the wonderful adaptations in aerobic functionality begin to show. Your long training days are now beginning to tell the tale.

What I have not covered here is the progression of time in training over the entire training program. I recommend an average of 10 percent increase in time commitment per week leading up to the heaviest training week before beginning the taper.

RELATED: The Pros Of HR Training For Runners


About The Author:

Richard Diaz is an experienced endurance coach based in the Los Angeles area. Learn more about his services at

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