As coaches we are often asked why it’s important to use a heart rate monitor when they join the Run Project. For athletes of all abilities this can be quite a scary prospect. We typically try to break down our rationale depending on the athletes running background.
Inexperienced athletes with a short history of endurance sport often have a deficient aerobic capacity and tend to get a fright when they realize how slowly they need to run to keep within an aerobic heart rate. Your aerobic system can be developed for many years and for the inexperienced athlete there is large room for improvement. Training your aerobic system is less stressful and inflammatory on your overall body and importantly provides the foundation for any good endurance athlete.
On the contrary, experienced athletes are often frustrated by having reached a plateau in their running after a few years of rapid improvement. The reason for this plateau is often that the athlete has spent too much time training anaerobically without the requisite aerobic base, aerobic buffering and periods of lower intensity, aerobic focused work. Without a solid aerobic base, the athlete tends to break down with injury which leads to inconsistency in their training. These athletes are too focused on so called ‘key workouts’ and not focused enough on consistency in training, which is one of the keys to long-term improvements in any endurance sport.
The bottom line is that as coaches we need our athletes to learn to calibrate what aerobic running ‘feels’ like. The notion of running completely to feel is a wonderful one but the reality is that most (not all) athletes have lost touch with their bodies and the ability to calibrate effort levels. The heart rate monitor is just one of the tools we can use to help our athletes on this journey.