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Solution #1: Heart Rate Monitoring
When I tell groups of runners that most of them run too hard, too often, I get a lot of funny looks. Most runners assume they probably don’t train hard enough. I suppose this is true in the sense that most runners should run more mileage and make their hardest workouts harder, but these things would be a lot easier to embrace if runners first slowed down in 80 percent of their runs.
The problem is that most runners don’t know what it means to run easy. Training by heart rate can fix that. Using a heart-rate monitor in workouts allows runners to see objectively whether their intensity level is actually easy, moderate, or hard. Once you’ve determined the proper heart rate training zones for your fitness level, it’s no longer possible to fool yourself into thinking you’re taking it easy when you really aren’t.
Recent technologies based on heart rate training offer the promise of a new solution to the problem of running too hard, too often. Last year I started working with PEAR Sports, a company that makes one such device, called the Square One. It essentially combines coaching with heart rate monitoring to give athletes the best of both worlds. As you do your workouts you listen through headphones to a coach who guides you through heart rate-based training sessions. Effective training becomes as easy as pressing one button and doing as you’re told.
So why doesn’t every runner train with a heart-rate monitor all the time? Surveys suggest that many athletes find heart rate monitors difficult to use and find the theory behind heart rate-based training difficult to master. It seems to require the knowledge of a coach to correctly prescribe customized heart rate-training zones, create a sensible heart rate-based training plan, and execute each workout correctly.