Heart Rate Too High - Running Slowly, but Heart Rate Still 167-177bpm

I am training for a Half Ironman next year. I have been working out with a trainer and also have 7-9 workouts a week. Running is up to four miles one day and a mile after 16 mile bike another day.

Running has always been difficult for me, mainly due to my breathing. I just don't feel I have the endurance for it. Heart rate is always skyrocketing. I can get down to about 155 if I am running downhill after about 3 miles of running. I just never feel truly settled in.

My legs can handle it (slight calf soreness) but it's my breathing and mindset. My mental state goes downhill very fast. I've concentrated on breathing, foot placement, posture, with music, without music, with a friend, without, and my speed is generally 12-minute miles.

So, it's not as simple as just slowing down. I am struggling, because although I've been active for a few years, my running is still very basic, and I want to get better. Read Born to Run, now looking to forums and websites for help.

How can I reduce heart rate and increase stamina more quickly?

Answer by Dom:
Hi there,

Thanks for your questions about heart rate and running. Let's look at the positives here: you are training 7-9 times per week. You have the support of a trainer. You are working towards a half Ironman. Fantastic!

It sounds like a high heart rate during running has always been a problem and that it is not a function of overtraining. 7-9 workouts per week is pretty full on. I know half Ironman training can be demanding, but it is important to have a proper sequence of hard work and recovery in order to actually improve and not run yourself into the ground. So, based on the information provided I can't rule out that overtraining is not a factor in this.

Another thing I am not able to fully rule out is that this is temporary. I can't quite work out how new you are to the sport of running. It is not uncommon for people who are new to running, and to sports in general, to have elevated heart rates when starting to run. It can subside over a longer period of time as you get fitter, even if you continue to train as you do currently.

However, I think there is a better way forward to address your need to reduce heart rate and increase stamina.

There are multiple theories on how to do this, and it is tempting to focus on high intensity work as a quick fix to building fitness. You will find plenty of articles advocating just that. In my mind it is not the best approach.

I would highly recommend slowing down more and focus on building your base. The biggest barrier to slowing down and focusing on easy running will be yourself. It will need an attitude adjustment. You feel like you are not fast to begin with. Your mind is playing tricks on you during your run... telling you that you are not fast or fit enough... You feel frustrated and want to push harder.... But, I am asking you let that go.

Running is much more enjoyable when your heart rate is lower and you can breathe properly. And guess what, you'll be able to go much further as well. Which builds your stamina. Which lowers your heart rate. Which helps to make you faster.

I'd like to see you try a 13 minute mile pace instead of the current 12 minute mile pace. See if that lowers your heart rate. If not, try to go a bit slower yet again. I can even see the benefits of a run/walk approach for you in order to keep that heart rate low and allow yourself to cover more mileage. E.g. run half a mile, walk a minute (or two) and repeat that for 10 times for a 5 mile run total (+probably about a mile of walking).

Now, this is not the fast way to build fitness. I am worried you might just ignore it altogether. But try this approach for at least six weeks and see if it works for you. I am convinced it will set you up for a stronger body, stronger heart and much improved fitness for years and years to come.

Hope this helps.
Kind regards,

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