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Why Is My Heart Rate Too Low?

by Mehike
(Estonia, Tallinn)

I run about 100-140km per week. I'm a 37y old man. In the previous week I was in a sports medicine centre to test my VO2max and more. My VO2max is 68 and max heart rate 185, aerobic threshold is 157, anaerobic treshold is 174.

Heart Rate Zones:

Zone 1: 179-183 - max zone
Zone 2: 165-179 - hard zone
Zone 3: 149-165 - moderate zone
Zone 4: 122-149 - recovery

Lactate was

speed: 8 10 12 14 15 16 (km/h)
lactate: 1,6 1,6 1,7 3,7 6,2 10,1
pulse: 123 135 146 158 174 180

All stuff is good or very good but in training I can't run so fast and my heart rate is too low. Yesterday I run 10km tempo in 14,3km/h (4:12min/km) and my average heart rate is 152 and I can't run more speedily.

In the previous week I did 3x1,5km, 3min pause in between, 3km tempo
1x 3:40min/km 1,5km, average heart rate was 159
2x 3:39min/km 1,5km, average heart rate was 165
3x 3:39min/km 1,5km, average heart rate was 166

And another training:
4x1600m, 60sec jog in between, about 5km tempo
1x 3:47min/km 1,6km, average heart rate 157
2x 3:52min/km 1,6km, average heart rate 161
3x 3:53min/km 1,6km, average heart rate 160
4x 3:55min/km 1,6km, average heart rate 160

And another:
3x3,2km, 90sec jog in between, 10km tempo
1x 4:03min/km, 3,2km, heart rate 162
2x 4:06min/km, 3,2km, heart rate 163
3x 4:07min/km, 3,2km, heart rate 164

1 month ago 14km average tempo 4:16min/km, average heart rate 158. right now 10km 4:12min/km tempo, heart rate average 152 but can't go faster to increase heart rate - this is smaller than my aerobic treshold, I don't understand this... -> my heart is very good/strong but my muscles don't allow more...

My trainings are 1 long run per week, and structure is 1 hard + 1 easy recovery day.

In my hard days I can't run more than Zone 3, not enough speed....!????

I do some strides at the end of my hard days (not my long run day)

Some training days I do 8x400 1500km/tempo + 60sec jog in between (about 3:22min/km) (average heart rates is 155, 159, 162, 164, 164, 165, 165, 166) or 8x200 800m/tempo + 60sec jog in between (about average 3:05min/km) (average heart rates is 152, 154, 156, 159, 161, 162, 161, 164) and tempos 10km. My long runs is 21-36km.

But I can't do training in my zone 2 or zone 1, not enough speed, what I can do for this?

Answer by Dominique:

Thanks for your running training question. This is one of the few times I almost feel unqualified to provide my opinion. You run more than I do and it looks like you are faster as well!

It is great you are providing so much information. Those lactate tests are really interesting, also for others who read this and who might not be familiar with them: it is very visible where your aerobic threshold is by seeing where the lactate really starts building up.

What I find interesting is that in the test you were able to raise your heart rate when you were pushed to do so on the treadmill, yet in your training you are not getting there.

How do you feel when you do these tough sessions? Do you feel like you are pushing yourself past your lactate threshold? You know, heart rate is a funny thing, so when doing your running I would rather (also) go by feel, rather than by heart rate.

If you feel like you do, could it be that your heart rate monitor is not registering correctly? Did you use the same heart rate monitor in the test as you normally do? Could you test with another heart rate monitor?

If you feel like you don't, you need to find ways to past yourself over your lactate threshold. Could you for example try treadmill sessions at a high speed?

Another aspect of your running you have not mentioned (maybe the only thing you are not measuring yet!), is what your stride rate is. On the treadmill you might have been pushed past what you are normally comfortable with. There are exercises you can do to work on your stride rate. I would definitely add strides as part of finishing off your easy days for a few months and see where that takes you.

I am not sure if I have answered your question, but I hope I have thrown up some questions which may lead to you getting an answer!

Best of luck.

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Feb 11, 2009
Answer and morw questions
by: Mehike

"How do you feel when you do these tough sessions? Do you feel like you are pushing yourself past your lactate threshold? You know, heart rate is a funny thing, so when doing your running I would rather (also) go by feel, rather than by heart rate."

I feel in my tought session that legs comming stiff and can't run faster (can't hold same speed) and some pant and I don't watch my heart rate - this I look later on Polar Protrainer 5 program or end of interval to. If I do intervals or tempo I only watch pace but run like my feeling is allow, I feel what I can't go more - legs is stiff but I know - I have more speed. It's some psyhological mayby?

In sport medicine centre, where I was in vo2max and lactate tests in treadmill, was another heart rate monitor and respiratory in my face, but I know, my Polar RS800sd is displaing true heart rate. In summer then I was sick 3weeks and I started again - then I see max 179heart rate in monitor to. In previous winter I was training in treadmill, but right now not possibility for this, I do my speed trainings indoor stadium and I do some strides to, but I do this my hard days (4x in warm up session and 6-8x in cool down session) and I think too quikcly - it's wrong? What is true speed for strades - like my 1,5km speed, my 800m speed or something else?

My polar monitor is registered every time my average stride rate (cadense) and I know - this is to small, cadense: 80-83 (stride rate 160-166). If I run fast, then cadense is more and stride lengt too. But month ago it average cadense was 77-81, small process is, but very small - my running form is better too and my heart rate is smaller too in hard trainings.

Must I recovery more? - i'ts not lactate in my legs but legs is too exhausted and I can do more, mayby?

I know all time in my competition day I can run faster than my training days...
I do one hard and one recovery day - in recovery days heart rate sub 130 and abaout 7-10km run - must it be sub 125 or smaller, sub 120 for me? or smaller distance?

in beginning I do some strades only in my recovery days slightly more than my race pace and do recovery run sub 125 heart rate, I think. If this is not help, then I must think something else. i'ts right way?

Mar 12, 2012
sprinters can not be long and fast runners
by: Tish

I dont know if you have already found an answer but interesting enough I've learnt something last week in my lecturer that could help you understand. Our body is built up in such way that it adapts itself to change. Without going into lots of details, in athletes we found 3 different types of people. Those who needs a large amount of energy for a short period of time (e.g. sprinters, weight lifters...), intermediate (boxers), and those who can use less energy but for a very long period of time (long runners).
According to your data, i think you are quite good in short fast runs.

If you are a long distance runner, your muscles rely on oxidative phosphorylation to produce atp (energy) to help you keep up with the run, your muscles are smaller and contract with less force in order to match with your aerobic condition.

If you're a sprinter (100meters sprinter for instance) you will use a very large amount of energy in a very short time. And that energy only uses glycolysis. Sprinters, 100m runners use a very large amount of force for a very short amount of time. With glycolysis your body produces atp as well but only up to a certain rate and for the amount of energy needed (different from oxidative phosphorylation), it won't be able to do it for a long time. For the amount of energy needed it can not use oxidative phosphorylation to maintain the demand.

Besides that as I said our body adapts itself with habits, so if you're muscles types are used to do speed run, it will be difficult for you to do a long run with a high speed. your muscles are used to a different types of contractions. I believe it is the reason why you can not be really speed for a long run.
I hope it helped. If more info need it, I will happy to say a bit more in details. ;)

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