Okay, by now hopefully you’ve had a chance to get out and do some runs. Let’s talk about them.
There is a good chance you can’t run as fast as you thought you could without going over your magic number. You go out, you run very slowly, and your heart rate jumps too high. If this happens, you might tell yourself that you have a naturally high heart rate. Or that maybe it’s okay if you go five or ten beats above the number.
Don’t do it! The cold hard truth is that you’re just out of shape. Hear me out.
This summer I ran a 25:00 5k. I came in second place for my age group. 25:00 is not an amazing time, but it certainly isn’t bad. However, I was very much out of shape. When I started this program, I could not run and keep my heart rate under 140. If I walked fast I was at about 125. If I ran, it went up to 150.
I was running 20 miles a week, and I was out of shape. Also, I hated running.
Here is the thing, athletes have a wide range when it comes to their zones. They can run pretty fast and keep their heart rate in zone 1. Non-athletes have narrow zones. It’s like you and me really have two zones. Zone 1 when we’re walking, and then zone 5 when we start to jog. We need to expand the range of our zones, and we’ll do it by spending time in Zone 1. The good news (as we’ve already said), is that it’s easy to run in Zone 1. I’ll wager while you’re out on your runs, you come home and say, “Sheesh, I’m not even tired.”
If so, you’re doing it right. It’s frustrating, but you’re doing it right.
One more piece of bad news . . . progress will be slow. I had to run/walk for six weeks before I got to the point where I could run (incredibly slowly) without it shooting my heart up over 140. I’m still very slow, but nowhere near where I was. And now I can run for 12 miles straight, and still finish my run and feel good. The speed is coming, but it takes patience.
So, all of this to say that you SHOULDN’T go above the magic number heart rate. If you’re having a hard time staying under, it only means you’ll see that much more improvement over the next 3-6 months. But ONLY if you stick with it. Run/walk, or walk fast, whatever you have to do to keep from going over the number. It will take time, but in the end, it’s going to be worth it.
Next Up: How Far Should I Run?