Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Using a Heartmonitor to Mitigate Over-training

I’ve lately begun running with a heart monitor to see where I am from an aerobic/anaerobic standpoint.  Being analytical by nature, I have always been interested in trying to improve my speed as well as while working on a balanced training regimen.

I am now learning, though, that I am not balanced between the two.  For example, I do cycle between home and work and log and average of 16 miles a day.  With the exception of a couple decent hills on the way home, it is pretty flat.  When I run during lunch, I have found using the heart monitor, I run an average 9:12 pace and an average 133 beats per minute, well within an my optimum aerobic range.  So it was a bit of a surprise when I came across some of the warning signs that I had been over-training aerobically.   I came across the Soc-Doc website which discussed aerobically over-training. The Soc-Doc outlines these signs in his blog here.

So when I look back to July and September, the months when I had huge insomnia and anxiety issues, were preceded by huge mile increases in June and August. That, combined with the added stress of getting used to a new job in a new industry, was a deadly combination.

Aerobic over-training is different from anaerobic over-training.  According to the Soc-Doc, when you over-train aerobically, you increase your cortisol (the stress hormone).  The affect causes the above warning signs.  Anaerobic over-training affects how your body metabolizes glycogen.  This affects how your muscles are feed and rebuild which causes things to break, like tissue and ligaments.

Took a wrong turn, need balance here!

Compare this to a couple of runner friends I have.  They are the ones that do very little if any training.  While running for years, when training for a marathon, they are haphazard in when and how long they run.  Their longest long run may be 12 to 15 miles.  Now you know why it is frustrating to my wife and I when they run a sub-4 marathon.  However, their lack of training comes with a cost.  They tend to catch every bug that comes around and are very injury prone.  They typify anaerobic over-training.

Really balanced training requires balance in both anaerobic and aerobic work. 

To improve your endurance, long runs (not at race day speed) are important; this requires building up your cardiovascular system through the long hours of Aerobic exercise. Using a heart monitor will help you slow down and keep within a healthy range so that you are maximizing the oxygen you are receiving while economizing your glycogen.  Typically you want to be between 70% and 80% of your maximum heart rate..

Speed work is also very important to build up your V02Max as well as increase your lactic threshold and adding speed work also helps to improve the efficiency of your run. This can be done in many ways: 
This is just part of the over 400 Filbert Street Steps
  • Running hills or steps. (love the hills and of course the Filbert St. steps!)
  • Sprinting 20 or 30 seconds, with 60 to 90 seconds of recovery, 4 or 5 times. 
  • Running Yasso 800
  • Or other high intensity intervals, plyometric exercises. 
However, this is where a heart monitor really comes in handy.  To properly know if you are running anaerobically and to best test your V02Max you need to sustain running at 80% to 90% of your maximum heart rate for 20 seconds to 2 minutes.

To calculate my maximum heart rate, I used the following trusty calculation: 220 minus my age.  While it is pretty easy to calculate your thresholds, I found the following calculator helpful in getting my exact range.  

Now I will say, I am still getting used to the heart monitor.  Tricks like making sure the sensors are wet (by licking them I might add) at the start of the run, where to place the monitor so I don’t feel it when I run, etc. have been challenging.  However, I am learning a lot.  I also can better understand as my pace increases if I am keeping the balance or beginning to over-train.  Hopefully I can use this information to really fine-tune my running going forward and reduce my efficiency.

That said, while I am not a doctor, sports medicine specialist, or even a trainer, the above information I have found useful and am now adding to my training regimen.  I highly recommend anyone reading this to do their own research and  if have questions to contact their health care professional.

So do you use a heart monitor when you train?  And when did you realize you had over-trained?

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