Liza Howard

Liza Howard

Liza Howard is a long-time is a longtime ultrarunner who lives in San Antonio, Texas. She teaches for NOLS Wilderness Medicine, coaches, directs the non-profit Band of Runners, and drives her kids around in a minivan.

October 2010
« Sep   Nov »


Heart rate monitor training


I’ve had a bit of a conversion experience concerning heart rate monitor training.  A change of heart.  😉  I’ve been training with one under Amanda’s direction for about a year now.  And there’s no doubt using it has made me a better runner.  But, until recently, I’ve always hated strapping on the monitor and the gigantic Garmin watch.  That elastic strap and hard plastic can do some impressive chaffing.  (I’ll see your open blister and raise you a sub-bosom abrasion.)  And I hated having to slow my pace when my heart rate got too high for the day’s workout.  And, oh my gosh!, the first few months using it were awful.  I started training with it on a visit to my sister’s house when she and her husband were still stationed in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.  I’d head out the door and make it about 50 yards down the flat road before I’d have to walk because my pathetic heart was already pounding away 20 beats per minute faster than I was supposed to go.   My Garmin has the most annoying alarm when I’m going faster or slower than I want to go.  BEE-eep!  I’d shout at it those first months.  “All right already!  OK!  I’ll slow down.  Just shut up!”  I’d try to run more slowly.  BEE-eeP! (You’re not fit enough to run a 13 minute pace.) I’d try to relax.  BE-eeP! (Wow, you’re really more a jogger than a runner.) I’d concentrate on my breathing.  BEE-eep!(Time to slow down old lady.)  I’d tell my heart to slow down (for the love of Pete!).  BEE-eep!(Better take up a less taxing sport.  Putt putt golf?)  Then I’d walk.  The Kansas terrain was too much for my heart.

My low point came when I was jogging along in Zone 3 and I was passed by a woman with a baby jogger.  Say what you will, but being able to run faster than a lady pushing an extra 3o or 4o pounds is a measure of fitness for me.  Yes, I know there are strong women out there who can move at quite a clip, (I think the record marathon time for a male pushing a baby jogger is something like 2:50. !!!!)  but the woman who passed me in Kansas that day was not tearing down the road.  She was out for a short jog.  I had some choice words for the Garmin after she passed me and moved out of sight.

I also had to give up my morning coffee before I ran with the heart rate monitor.  The caffeine increased my heart rate a good 5 beats per minute.  Dropping that morning cup meant I could run most the workout.  Yes, so, being passed by baby joggers while I was uncaffeinated and chaffing didn’t produce much love for heart rate monitor training.  And even after I was able to run faster at a lower heart rate and I could take the morning coffee hit and not get bumped up into a higher training zone, my prejudice lingered.  I didn’t like feeling tethered.  I just wanted to run and lose myself in the running.  The watch kept drawing me back to the fact that I was training.

So, I’m not sure what’s changed exactly, but I’m having fun keeping in the different zones Amanda’s set for the runs.  My Zone 4 heart rate is between 160 and 165 and it’s hard for me to maintain that over a long run.  It’s become a fun challenge.  How far can I go before I feel wrecked and have to slow down?  I also look forward to the Zone 1-2 days when I’m forced to walk.  “Looks like I’ll have to walk this steep hill.  Oh darn.”  Perhaps my work ethic is failing.  Perhaps I see the runs as a means to an end rather than an end in and of themselves.  Running to perform rather than only for the pleasure of running.  Hard to say.  It’s nice not to feel like cursing the BEE-eep!(A lady with a baby jogger could pass you at this pace.) anymore.

My folks are in town for a visit from Virginia, so I’ve been scouring the house these last three days.  Now that they’re here and they’ve gotten a good first impression of the place, I’ll have some time to blog again.  I feel like I need to invite people over before the dust bunnies return and start breeding again.  Goodness knows when it’ll be in this kind of shape again.  Feel free to drop by unexpectedly and use the bathroom.

Comments 3
  • Mark M.
    Posted on

    Mark M. Mark M.

    Reply Author

    Thank you expressing my thoughts exactly as my Garmin beeps and vibrates at me. However, I keep adjusting my strap and tapping my watch assuming that it must be double counting beats (“you know a heart beat has TWO contractions – ‘thump-dump’ – right, Garmin!?”). Anyway – I’ll keep in mind your experiences as trundle down the road or look enviously at the other folks at the gym cranking their treadmills way beyond my lugubrious pace.