Tag Archives: Training

What makes a person’s resting heart rate go up?

 

When I first got my Fitbit tracker, back when I first began seriously training as an endurance runner, it initially showed my resting heart rate’s (RHR) beats per minute (BPM) in the high 60’s.

As I continued training, my resting heart rate came down and settled around the high 50’s. Sometimes it would drift up, but often it came back down to around that number.

I noticed that generally it would increase during times of substantial stress, and that it would decrease with proper rest and exercise.

Suddenly, during the late summer and early fall, my resting heart rate started slowly climbing. Suddenly it settled into the mid 60’s and nothing I thought to do could bring it down. Resting more didn’t help. Eating more or less or better didn’t help. Exercising more or less didn’t seem to help.

At some point, not at the same time as last year, it began to come down again and settled around the high 50’s, low 60’s.

And now my resting heart rate’s risen again. It had settled around 65 for several weeks, and nothing I’ve done has gotten it to move. Now suddenly it’s climbed to 68… but at the same time I think I realized what has caused it to increase.

It’s not a lack of rest: I’ve actually slept rather well, and I haven’t trained at anywhere near the volume I’ve trained before. Outside of residual soreness from workouts and Sunday’s cross country race I haven’t been all that sore, tired or hurting. My energy levels by and large have been great.

It’s not a lack of exercise. I’ve now ramped back up to about 25-30 miles per week, and I’ve done multiple speedwork sessions as well as some long runs. The only difference from my last training cycle is I’ve taken days off and not held myself to much of a strict training schedule.

It’s not even post-marathon weight gain. I’ve had my RHR go lower even after gaining weight, and I’ve had it rise after losing weight. There’s not much correlation between my resting heart rate and my current weight.

It’s not illness. I haven’t been sick and I’m not sick right now. I don’t feel any passive symptoms like unusual tiredness or soreness. I’m in good health on that front.

It’s two things.

1) I’ve let my diet slip a bit. I’ve taken an extended victory tour when it comes to fried and fast food following my marathon effort. I still largely eat clean, but I’ve had stretches where I’m subsisting more on processed food than is probably necessary.

Sometimes, intermittent fasting can offset this by helping the body’s hormonal functions reset during the fasted state. But to be honest, while my lunch efforts to eat clean have been solid (and I generally skip breakfast by intermittent fasting), there’s been a few too many dinners of something like pizza, and I even had McDonald’s as a treat a couple times.

This can affect the function of your organs and increase the viscosity of your blood, as it has to deal with an ingested excess of chemically processed crap. Your heart now has to pump harder to keep things moving, hence a higher resting heart rate.

It’s easy to fix and clean up. I just need to lean back onto daily habits and bake/boil dinner at home every night. My resting heart rate is telling me that I’ve overkilled lately and that it’s time to clean up. Flushing the processed waste with strict, cleaner eating can correct that.

2) Reduced water intake. Remember when I mentioned blood viscosity? Well, nothing increases blood viscosity faster than a reduction of hydration. I haven’t been particularly thirsty (thanks in no small part to Chicago getting cold), and so I haven’t put down as much water as before. I’m sure the overall water content of my blood has gone down, and now the heart’s had to work more to keep the thicker blood moving.

If I make sure to drink more water going forward, my RHR should go back down.


Of course, any of my positive contributing habits need to remain for this to be effective.

I need to continue balancing running and activity with sufficient rest. I need to eat sufficient protein and other nutrients. Fasting in lieu of breakfast remains a good idea.

If I make sure to end the post-marathon honeymoon with my diet and clean it up, plus drink more water every day, my heart rate should come back down to the high 50’s in a couple weeks.

At least now I have a better idea of what insidious factors cause my resting heart rate to go up, as well as what else I can do to help bring it back down.

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Chops: A personal statistic for tracking training volume

Chops

A snapshot of my Google Docs training log, which outlines mileage, time spent in “hard running”, time spent doing hard exercise or similar labor, estimated walking distance, lifetime training miles since 2016, and my personal stat “Chops”, described below.

I keep a Google Doc spreadsheet of all my training sessions, which includes mileage, any speedwork mileage, time spent in strength training and other active, intentional physical effort, and estimated distance walking. I also track known lifetime training mileage, and a self-created stat called Chops.

Chops is named after the musician term chops, which describes a performer’s current musical skill. Similarly, my Chops number provides for me an estimate of how many miles I can comfortably run at full strength over the following week.

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Strength runs, or a backpack of pain?

When I first began running in Chicago, I would run home wearing my backpack. I did it largely out of necessity, because at the end of a busy day I needed to get home, and the end of a busy night was often the only real time I could get in a run.

At the time, the weight (my bag usually weighs around 8-10 lbs) slowing me down was not a particularly big deal since I didn’t run all that fast anyway. Covering the distance consistently and building my aerobic fitness was the main goal.

But as I began training more seriously, at a higher volume, running with that weight on my back was not the most useful form of training. I began leaving my bag at home and coming to work with only what could fit in my pockets, so I could run after work as unencumbered as possible. My wallet, phone, keys, etc still added a few pounds, but that was more manageable.

The thing is, while walking with a backpack is no big deal, running with a backpack can beat up your upper body if you’re not used to hauling weight all the time. Admittedly, I’m not. The few times I had done it since, it was an unusually arduous experience even at a slow easy pace.

Along with your lower body’s typical glycogen needs, now your upper body and core muscles are demanding glycogen and post-run protein to handle the shifting extra weight as you run. Plus, this can leave your upper body feeling sore.


This morning I ran to work with my bag on, a straightforward 5K route to my workplace from home. After work, I ran back with the same bag on, albeit at an easier pace than the morning’s run. Having improved my conditioning over the last few months, this run felt a lot steadier and more comfortable both ways, and I don’t feel sore right now.

I’m not in a hurry to get back to the gym, but this could help me develop upper body strength if I can consistently, comfortably do this two way run during the workweek.  And it would further prepare my running muscles, as I’d do other runs, not to mention races, with 8-10 lbs less weight than I do during these work haul runs.

The key is for these runs to not be painful ones. If it becomes painful, then I’ll stop doing them. Until then, if it makes me stronger, then let’s go for it.

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Practicing fueling during marathon training

A lot of people struggle with fueling during a marathon because they aren’t used to running with food or drink (beyond water or maybe Gatorade) in their stomach.

I have a fairly strong running stomach. I’ve even gone as far as to eat pizza before heading out on a speedwork workout, and done well (in no small part thanks to having a bunch of fat and carbohydrates at the ready thanks to the pizza). I obviously wouldn’t recommend going that far, but I have on many occasions eaten a full meal and then gone out on a run without trouble.


Yesterday I segmented 11 miles into three separate runs, as I ran to the Loyola women’s hoops game, then back towards home.

After the game, before my 2nd run to Montrose Beach, I stopped at Raising Canes and treated myself to a Box Combo with some lemonade, because why not.

But instead of waiting a bit for the meal to digest, I immediately crossed the street onto the LUC campus and took off for Lincoln Park.

I bring this up because, while I didn’t feel sick running with such a disgusting meal in my stomach… the inevitable gas you’d expect from your stomach led to a realization.


My hiccups from the Chicago Marathon? They were certainly a product of the volume of nutrition I had put down during the race. Because I had put it down faster than my stomach could digest it, most of it sat there and bubbled for several miles. My wind/stomach pipe assembly, battling between taking in air at a moderate running pace and holding stomach contents back from randomly upchucking during said run… finally began to give, and suddenly there are hiccups.

I didn’t have hiccups during yesterday’s running, since the pace was a lot easier. I also didn’t have hiccups during long Chicago Marathon training runs where I practiced taking in nutrition, because the pace of those runs were a lot easier.

It was only on race day, when the effort was more intense yet I took in a high volume of in-race nutrition, that hiccups reared their head.

Clearly, my key to avoiding race hiccups is to either practice taking in less of my desired nutrition (probably not the best idea for a marathon), or to practice taking in my desired nutrition on more intense tempo runs (to get my body trained to do so at that intensity over distance).


Most tend to either put no practice into in-race fueling during their training, or they fuel casually throughout too many runs, which may not fully prepare their body to handle a long distance endurance event.

Many, like I did, will make the mistake of practicing fueling on long runs, but only on those long runs. Therefore, you get used to doing so at an easy pace, but on race day you run faster than that, and your body’s not prepared to fuel on the run at that pace.

The marathon fuel training sweet spot:

After you have stretched out your tempo runs, or after you have added some marathon tempo to your long runs, practice fueling with your desired fuel every few miles on your marathon pace runs.

This gets the body used to handling fuel during a race effort. The run itself may not be a peak training effort, but it’s not necessarily the run itself you’re working on. You are working on handling fuel at a faster pace over a longer high-intensity effort.

Much like how training your running muscles and strength training other parts of your body often are best done with specific, separate focus… training your internal organs to handle fuel at a race effort is a skill and set of muscles that need to be gradually trained.

If your marathon fueling plan is more serious than ‘take some Gatorade or whatever the race makes available every few miles’, then it’s just as vital to train in taking that fuel in as it is to build up your specific running endurance or your speed.

Just maybe don’t practice with chicken fingers and lemonade from Raising Canes. Perhaps consume something healthier.

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Heart Rate: Should It Be Tied To Pace?

Many running guides, metrics, coaches, etc, will talk about your pace in relation to your heart rate, namely your maximum heart rate and what percentage of your maximum heart rate corresponds to a given effort or pace.

What to do in accordance with your heart rate depends on who is giving the advice, from Daniels and other coaches recommending a given heart rate for every pace, even suggesting your fastest runs be done at 100% of your max… to the Phil Maffetones of the world recommending you never run above 75-80% of your maximum heart rate… to coaches like the Hanson Brothers who won’t really discuss heart rate at all, focusing solely on your pace.

And this never minds that few can seem to agree on how to determine your max heart rate. Presuming you don’t shell out for an abusive VO2max or heart rate test, you’re often left to estimate using methods no one can agree on. The conventional ‘subtract your age from 220’ formula has long since been proven inaccurate. Runner’s World floated the result of a 2001 study as proof that the formula is close to (207 – (your age * 0.7)).

Scientists in Norway have found that an accurate formula is (211 – (your age * 0.64)). That’s the formula I use. The max it gives me (currently 185) seems more attainable than other results.

But anyway…. Personally, because I’m a fan of not dropping dead, I tend to avoid trying to hit my max heart rate even when running hard.

The closest I have gotten according to my Fitbit tracker is 184. My Blaze once said my heart rate had hit 187, but that could have been a blip. In neither case did I feel anywhere close to death: They were random occurrences during otherwise typically tough runs or workouts.

In most of my speed workouts and races, my heart rate may reach the 160’s, occasionally the 170’s. In my fastest 5K’s my HR has tapped the low 170’s for a short spell, but otherwise I never get above the high 160’s… even if technically I should be able to hit 185.

I do begin to wonder if along with my aerobic endurance my lower body muscles have sort of a ‘solid state hard drive’ strength to them, where my heart doesn’t need to pump at a maximal rate to keep everything going, where the muscles have the strength and energy systems to keep going with a more high-normal rate of circulation.

Even when running at closer to threshold effort or pace, I find I don’t always get to what Daniels would consider a threshold heart rate. It’s often closer to a marathon effort heart rate, maybe a half marathon rate. Even when I PR’d last year’s Lakefront 10, my heart rate never hit the 160’s until the final couple miles, when I was kicking for a strong finish.

Sometimes during my regular runs I hit the 140’s, but often my heart rate is in the 130’s. On my long runs during the last training cycle, I even hung in the recovery-territory 120’s for much of those runs.

I don’t know if I’m doing things differently, or if my body is wired differently, or what. But I certainly don’t mind seeing results even if my heart’s not having to pump at the rate that experts say it should be for me to get those results.

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